Memories of Music in Political Detention in Chile under Pinochet

Katia Chornik

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Music was commonly present in political detention centres during General Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship (1973–1990), and has had important roles in post-dictatorship commemorations. However, music has received limited attention in cultural studies discussions of the Pinochet regime. This article examines a selection of memories of musical experiences of three former political prisoners, elicited through personal interviews. After contextualising the topic and discussing methodology, I present and discuss recollections of experiences in direct relation to torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. By looking closely at the relationships between the musical experiences, genres and pieces remembered by the interviewees, a number of commonalities have emerged. However, I argue that these testimonies should be viewed in their uniqueness and specificity, and that the findings of this article are not necessarily representative of the experiences lived by the tens of thousands who went through political detention under Pinochet. This article also considers some of the ethical issues around work on human rights violations, and calls for recognition of the importance of archival and documentary work in relation to social and communal memory.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)157-173
JournalJournal of Latin American Cultural Studies
Issue number2
Early online date27 Apr 2018
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • music; testimony; cultural memory; human rights; Chile; Pinochet; dictatorship


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