Disappearing Acts

Spectacles of Gender and Nationalism in Argentina's "Dirty War"

Disappearing Acts

Book Pages: 328 Illustrations: 50 b&w photographs, 14 figures Published: February 1997

Author: Diana Taylor

Cultural Studies, Latin American Studies > Southern Cone

In Disappearing Acts, Diana Taylor looks at how national identity is shaped, gendered, and contested through spectacle and spectatorship. The specific identity in question is that of Argentina, and Taylor’s focus is directed toward the years 1976 to 1983 in which the Argentine armed forces were pitted against the Argentine people in that nation’s "Dirty War." Combining feminism, cultural studies, and performance theory, Taylor analyzes the political spectacles that comprised the war—concentration camps, torture, "disappearances"—as well as the rise of theatrical productions, demonstrations, and other performative practices that attempted to resist and subvert the Argentine military.
Taylor uses performance theory to explore how public spectacle both builds and dismantles a sense of national and gender identity. Here, nation is understood as a product of communal "imaginings" that are rehearsed, written, and staged—and spectacle is the desiring machine at work in those imaginings. Taylor argues that the founding scenario of Argentineness stages the struggle for national identity as a battle between men—fought on, over, and through the feminine body of the Motherland. She shows how the military’s representations of itself as the model of national authenticity established the parameters of the conflict in the 70s and 80s, feminized the enemy, and positioned the public—limiting its ability to respond. Those who challenged the dictatorship, from the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo to progressive theater practitioners, found themselves in what Taylor describes as "bad scripts." Describing the images, myths, performances, and explanatory narratives that have informed Argentina’s national drama, Disappearing Acts offers a telling analysis of the aesthetics of violence and the disappearance of civil society during Argentina’s spectacle of terror.


Disappearing Acts offers a new and useful vantage point to look at state oppression.” — MLN

Disappearing Acts will be of interest to all readers curious about the role of theatre and performance in shaping and controlling the social and the political. This is a book that speaks to informed specialists in various fields—Latin American studies, theatre and performance studies, and feminist studies—as well as readers new to the methodologies and bibliographies of these areas. Taylor’s impressive interdisciplinary capabilities combined with the rigor of her archival research makes Disappearing Acts an exemplary piece of scholarship.” — David Román, Theatre Journal

“Taylor’s study is an important interpretive contribution to understanding the ideological, psychological, and gender dynamics of the Argentinean military’s campaign of terror against fellow Argentineans from 1976 to 1983. . . . Taylor brings new and important perspectives to this pivotal yet still unresolved issue for modern Argentina.” — , British Bulletin of Publications

“The story of these remarkable women who dared to bear witness is well told in Diana Taylor’s Disappearing Acts. Coming from a background in feminist studies and theatrics, the author offers a unique view on the violence of this sordid period of Argentine history. . . . [A] gripping account of gender-related protests. . . .” — Julie Dasenbrock , Washington Report on the Hemisphere

Disappearing Acts is brilliant. Clearly written, passionate, informed, will-argued, interesting in the extreme, it is a model piece of scholarship.” — Richard Schechner, New York University

“Stunning, in every sense. Disappearing Acts is a compelling performance in words and in pictures of the seductions played by Argentina’s dictatorship.” — Doris Sommer, Harvard University


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Diana Taylor is Professor of Spanish and Comparative Literature at Dartmouth College. She is coeditor of Negotiating Performance, also published by Duke University Press.

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Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-1868-2 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-1877-4
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