Violence: An International Journal

Love the world, love our loved ones: Personal and public experience of political disappearance in Chile


Paola Díaz


This article presents an empirical and theoretical analysis of the relationship between the experience of a loved one’s political disappearance at a personal level and as a public and political problem in Chile. It discusses two ways of generalizing disappearance into a problem that goes beyond those directly involved or affected. First, using the concepts of “public problem” and “montée en généralité” (generalization process), it analyzes the relationship between individual and collective action in order to describe how the families of the disappeared transform it into a public issue. This is referred to as “generic generalization” since it draws individual cases together into one general category of denunciation. Second, based on Wittgenstein’s metaphor of “family resemblances,” the article examines other ways of publicizing the disappearance in which the political aspect of the problem does not necessarily obliterate its personal nature for the families but juxtaposes the personal and the public. The article defines these as “sense generality.” The research upon which this theoretical article is based includes ethnographic interviews and analysis of the discourse found in historical documents.