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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Commemoration, Contestations and Collective Memory: A Linguistic Landscape Study of Buenos Aires, Argentina
by Abas, Suriati, Ph.D., Indiana University, 2019, 380; 22621842
Abstract (Summary)

This study examines the linguistic landscape of Buenos Aires, Argentina, amid the 40th commemoration of El did de la Memoria por la Verdad y la Justicia (The Day of Memory, Truth and Justice). By linguistic landscape (LL, hereafter), I am referring to images and/texts that are found in public spaces following, and during the March 24, 2016 commemoration. There are two parts to the study. First, it aims to understand how sign-viewers interpret the LL. Secondly, it attempts to investigate how sign-creators contribute to the LL. A qualitative methodology drawing from ethnographic methods was employed and the data include photographs taken at the historic sites of Plaza de Mayo and a public institution that has a tradition of protests, online photo elicitation interviews with sign-viewers, face-to-face interviews with sign-creators (volunteer artists and student activists), observational fieldnotes and documents shared by participants.

In the current study, I drew on Scollon & Scollon’s (2003) geosemiotics and Halbwach’s (1992) theory of collective memory. The findings reveal three key themes that recur within the LL: representations of desaparecidos (the disappeared), contentious issues and glocal concerns. Each of them represents the past as a continuity in the present. Although all the sign-viewers could identify with the signs, they drew on their own interpretive practices to make sense of the LL. The sign-creators however, contributed to the LL by reconstructing the LL. While the volunteer artists marked the public institution with murals, memory tiles, and a plaque to honor the disappeared, the student activists mounted human-sized silhouettes, a chronology of historical events, and put up a map depicting various places that used to function as clandestine centers.

By putting up permanent and temporary historical markers that referenced Argentina’s past, the sign-creators are additionally engaging in the act of reimagining the past. However, only those who had lived through the repulsive years under the military regime of 1976–1983 made personal connections with the signs that they created. For younger generations such as the militantes (student activists), their personal connections came in the form of remembering the past to ensure that history does not repeat itself. Conclusively, both sign-creators and sign-viewers play an important role in the construction of the LL of Buenos Aires.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Coronel-Molina, Serafin
Commitee: Smith, Walter Raymond, Lester, Jessica Nina, Levinson, Bradley
School: Indiana University
Department: School of Education
School Location: United States -- Indiana
Source: DAI-A 81/4(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Latin American Studies, Communication, Sociolinguistics
Keywords: Commemoration, Language in public spaces, Linguistic landscape, Literacy in public spaces, Meaning-making, Protest, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Publication Number: 22621842
ISBN: 9781687983640
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