Violent Silence - Guatemalan narratives of suffering

Jonathan Reinhardt

Studenteropgave: Speciale


In this thesis, Violent Silence – Guatemalan narratives of suffering, I focus upon two reports carried out by the Guatemalan Commission for Historical Clarification (CEH) and the Recovery of Historical Memory project (REMHI) or what is more commonly known as truth commissions. In the main argument of the thesis, I question how the two truth commissions can be understood as actors in the space of post-conflict state formation in Guatemala. However, before embarking into such a discussion I have chosen to introduce an analytical framework in which I provide perspectives on the work of truth commissions, as well as discussions on notions related to the subject. In addition to this framework I present an introduction to the conflict in Guatemala. By doing so, I hope to have provided for an understanding of truth commissions and the context in which such bodies operates. With these chapters serving as a point of departure, I present an analysis in which I try to illustrate and discuss how these commissions are able to produce a set of narratives, as well as recommendations and conclusions that actively oppose the violence of the past and the regime behind it. What I am suggesting is that these two commissions can be thought to be dealing not only with the past but just as much with the present. Furthermore, given the nature of the two truth commissions, one of the most important questions of the thesis, and the analysis, concerns the very character of the set of narratives produced by the two commissions – what is it that the testimonies are recounting and how are they actually transformed into a set of narratives? In this regard, the analysis focus upon the notion of silence – questioning: If not silence can be thought to have an additional characteristic – a kind of violent trait? By posing this question, I focus upon the complicated relationship between violence and silence – and in doing so I ask: If not the two truth commissions are dealing with a violence that is as much a part of the present as it is of the past? Consequently, I end up arguing that it is especially through their narration, and the character of these narratives, that I find it is possible to think of the CEH and the REMHI as actors in a space of post-conflict state formation that not only tries to shed light on the past but are actually opposing a persisting syndrome of the conflict in Guatemala.

UddannelserInternationale Udviklingsstudier, (Bachelor/kandidatuddannelse) KandidatHistorie, (Bachelor/kandidatuddannelse) Kandidat
Udgivelsesdato30 jun. 2009
VejledereHans-Åke Persson


  • Guatemala: Never again!
  • Violence
  • CEH
  • Peace and Conflict studies
  • Memory of silence
  • Genocide
  • Post-conflict
  • Silence
  • Cold War
  • Truth commissions
  • Conflict
  • Guatemala
  • Massacre