Vol 37 (2017): Special issue: Generations and Memory: Continuity and Change

Talking about Legacies and Ruptures: Generational Narratives in Times of Youth Activism in Argentina and Chile

Raimundo Frei
United Nations Development Programme
Published March 31, 2017


This article explores how generational narratives have emerged in the process of democratization in two post-authoritarian countries. Recent youth activism in Argentina and Chile provides fertile ground for the exploration of different generational narratives circulating amongst those born in the aftermath of transitions to democracy. In both countries, youths’ generational sites are characterized by strong political mobilization and by dynamics of collectively remembering right-wing dictatorships (in Argentina, from 1976 to 1983; in Chile, from 1973 to 1989). The linkage of difficult pasts with cycles of youth mobilization particularly deserves attention. While youth activism in Argentina is narrated from an intergenerational standpoint, Chilean student protests have been framed around a generational breakpoint. The article aims to answer why these different narratives of legacy and rupture emerged in these two contexts.

Based on the literature about generations within memory studies and cultural sociology, a narrative approach for examining generational memories is proposed, and then applied to understand Argentinean and Chilean youths’ generational sites.