Human rights, victimhood, and impunity: an anthropology of democracy in Argentina

Michael Humphrey, Estela Valverde

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Citations (Scopus)


This article explores human rights politics in the transition from dictatorship to democracy in Argentina. Its ethnographic focus is the phenomenon of families of victims associations, usually led by mothers, that first emerged to protest against mass disappearance under the military dictatorship. Democracy has also produced new families of victims associations protesting against different forms of state abuse and/or neglect. They represent one face of the widespread protest against a 'culture of impunity' experienced as ongoing insecurity and injustice. Private grief is made an emotional resource for collective action in the form of 'political mourning'. The media, street demonstrations, and litigation are used to try to make the state accountable. State management of this public suffering has sought to determine legitimate victimhood based on a paradigm of innocence. The political mourning of victims and survivors charts the social margins of citizenship in the reduced, not expanded, neo-liberal democratic state in Argentina.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)179-197
Number of pages19
JournalSocial Analysis
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2007


  • Collective action
  • Democracy
  • Disappearance
  • Human rights
  • Impunity
  • Political mourning
  • Suffering
  • Victims


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