Memory as Persuasion
This chapter examines memory discourse as a form of persuasion at a national museum in Peru. From its beginnings, the Place of Memory, Tolerance, and Social Inclusion was presented as a museum that would avoid seeking a comprehensive, univocal account of the political violence Peru experienced during the 1980s and 1990s. Instead, the project’s representatives and supporters generally positioned the museum as a site for presenting and debating diverse memories of war. While such rhetoric responds to global trends in museology and transitional justice, I examine how an emphasis on memory might be understood within the specific context of post-conflict Peru. Drawing on analysis of three moments in the Place of Memory’s development (early debates about the institution’s purpose and goals, a consultation process involving representatives from various sectors, and the inauguration of the permanent exhibition), I point to how memory discourse became deployed as part of efforts to legitimize the initiative in a national climate where human rights-oriented memorialization projects often face opposition and are typically characterized by a lack of political and institutional support. I conclude by assessing how the museum’s narrative strategies position it as an educational institution, focusing on the progressive potential of elements of the exhibition that direct attention to the unfinished work of addressing Peru’s difficult past.