Two Traumas One Aesthetic in Walsh's Operation Masacre and Kaufman's the Laramie Project (Moises Kaufman and Rodolfo Walsh) (Critical Essay) Two Traumas One Aesthetic in Walsh's Operation Masacre and Kaufman's the Laramie Project (Moises Kaufman and Rodolfo Walsh) (Critical Essay)

Two Traumas One Aesthetic in Walsh's Operation Masacre and Kaufman's the Laramie Project (Moises Kaufman and Rodolfo Walsh) (Critical Essay‪)‬

CLCWeb: Comparative Literature and Culture 2011, March, 13, 1

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Publisher Description

By examining Rodolfo Walsh's 1957 testimonio Operacion masacre and Moises Kaufman and the Tectonic Theater Project's 1998 play The Laramie Project, it becomes evident that these two texts, while distinct in terms of the traumas they seek to reconcile, share specific characteristics which mark them as prime exemplars of "posttraumatic culture." Posttraumatic culture is defined as a culture which is produced as a response to a trauma and whose stylistic features mirror symptoms found in posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). While Operacion masacre was written as a response to the politically motivated violence perpetrated by the Argentine military government after the overthrow of Juan Peron and describes the kidnapping and execution style murder of a group of men thought to be Peronist sympathizers, The Laramie Project dramatizes the reactions of the people of Laramie, Wyoming, to the brutal murder of Matthew Shepard, which was motivated by his sexual orientation. Despite the fact that Operacion masacre is a testimonial written in novel form and The Laramie Project is a play based on witness testimony, both projects fit the criteria for inclusion into posttraumatic culture. The events that are depicted in both of these texts have in common the dehumanization of the victims. In both cases the dehumanizing was, if not state sponsored, at least encouraged by the state. Giorgio Agamben traces dehumanization in Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life where he examines the contradiction in those who are included in the polis, like the suspected Peronists and Matthew Shepard, by way of their exception. Agamben's argument becomes important for the discussion of Operacion masacre, as it is the Argentine government that creates the circumstances under which the alleged Peron supporters can be murdered without fear of consequence. In the case of Matthew Shepard, purperators Henderson and McKinney are not granted permission overtly to kill Shepard in this bestial manner; instead, they operate using cues they have picked up from the state and society: "Gay bashing ... allows perpetrators to reaffirm their own masculinity, their own aggressive heterosexuality, in opposition to this nonconformist threat. As an activity, it is tailor-made for this construction of masculinity, since it allows the visible demonstration of the most salient features of manliness: aggression, domination, and heterosexuality.... Gay-bashing provides a resource through which young men can confirm not only what is natural, but what is culturally demanded of them in performance of their particular style of masculinity" (Perry 108). Henderson and McKinney view Shepard's sexual preference as a crime that sets him apart from society, yet he is human enough to be a danger to that society. The cues that the two use to "authorize" their behavior have a long legal and extra-legal history in the United States. For example, in the U.S., people of African descent are thought of, by too many, as less than human. In fact, the US constitution used fractions to count the slaves, creating a foundation for this way of thinking that has proven difficult to overcome. During wartime, governments would spend considerable money to dehumanize the enemy so that the soldiers would find it morally easier to kill them, and to garner public support for ongoing conflicts. Propaganda put out by Germany, the U.S., and Japan during World War II all depicted their enemies as less than human. In The Laramie Project, which includes some of the transcript from Aaron McKinney's confession to police, one can see how the othering of Matthew Shepard precipitated his death. Even during his confession, McKinney continues to label Shepard as less than human, but close enough to human to be considered a threat to McKinney's worldview. He is a "queer" or not human, but he is a "dude," the word dude implies both a human quality and a masculine one at that and therefore is a threat to McKinney's sense of both

GENRE
Professional & Technical
RELEASED
2011
March 1
LANGUAGE
EN
English
LENGTH
24
Pages
PUBLISHER
Purdue University Press
SELLER
The Gale Group, Inc., a Delaware corporation and an affiliate of Cengage Learning, Inc.
SIZE
98.5
KB

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