Archives of the Disappeared: Conceptualizing the Personal Collections of Families of Disappeared Persons
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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In the search for their loved ones, the families of the disappeared create, gather, and share records. The Colombian 2016 peace agreement opened spaces for memory practices that help promote a record-keeping culture at the grassroots among families. These personal collections are private spaces of struggle for memory, resistance, and justice. This article aims to make visible this documentation process undertaken by families, by giving these collections a name—archives of the disappeared—contextualizing their creation, purposes, and uses. By focusing on the case of Colombia, I follow a general chronology of a search for the disappeared to understand who the creators are, and trace the creation, accumulation, and uses of these archives based on existing literature, testimonies and interviews with family members, family organizations and NGOs. I argue that these archives are foundational to societies that have undergone human rights violations as they eventually form the basis of much of the NGO and transitional justice documentation, and provide counter narratives that offer an insight into the search process. The concept I propose, archives of the disappeared, is a starting concept to open up reflection and engagement regarding these archives, which although written about in the literature have yet to be conceptualized separately from NGO archives, transitional justice archives or human rights archives in general.