A Haunted Transition
: Reckoning with Ghosts in Postdictatorship Chilean Film

  • Struan Gray

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    This thesis analyses documentary and fictional films in postdictatorship Chile that respond to, or invoke, the experience of haunting. The concept of haunting is often used to describe the legacies of violent conflict and state repression, however, in the Chilean context, it has rarely been submitted to critique or analysis. Drawing on the work of Avery Gordon (2008), Jacques Derrida (1994) and Berber Bevernage (2013), I read haunting as a “structure of feeling” (Williams 1977) that is both repressive and transformative. The films I analyse respond to and reckon with this structure of feeling, in the process creating new imaginaries of mourning, inheritance and justice. Haunting also serves as a theoretical lens through which to analyse the films that is distinct from the lenses of trauma, cultural memory and transitional justice. The concept of haunting makes a distinctive contribution to postdictatorship studies by illuminating the ways in which films depart from the dominant spatial and temporal imaginaries of the democratic transition, responding to the present past as a realm of enduring emancipatory possibility. While dominant formulations of transitional time are premised on overcoming the dark past, and ensuring that it does not return, the haunted temporalities of the films and theoretical texts I read problematise strict delineations between dictatorship and democracy and offer new ways of narrating the presence of the dead. I start by analysing representations of the Chilean presidential palace, an emblematic site at which narratives of past violence and Chilean exceptionalism intersect. Subsequently, I analyse films from the early transition (1990-2000) and the late transition (2000—), engaging with theories of empathic unsettlement (LaCapra 2001; Hite 2014) and the expanded field (Krauss 1979; Huyssen 2003; Andermann 2012a). I conclude in the Atacama Desert by reflecting on the representation of landscapes of haunting and disappearance in which traces from different histories of repression, resistance and social transformation are read alongside each other. These non-contemporaneous landscapes not only expose the long history of state repression in Chile, but point to truncated, unfinished and ongoing struggles around which emergent imaginaries of social transformation might be built.
    Date of AwardSept 2018
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • University of Brighton
    SupervisorGraham Dawson (Supervisor), Vicky Margree (Supervisor) & Thomas Carter (Supervisor)

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