Stories from adults stolen as babies during Argentina's last dictatorship (1976-1983): a narrative inquiry into identity restitution

Reeves, Egle (2019) Stories from adults stolen as babies during Argentina's last dictatorship (1976-1983): a narrative inquiry into identity restitution. DCPsych thesis, Middlesex University / Metanoia Institute.


This narrative inquiry explores the complex psychological, socio-political and relational processes involved in Identity Restitution as experienced by three individuals who, unaware they had been stolen as babies by the last Argentinean dictatorship, were found in subsequent decades as adults. Conversational interviews were carried out after researcher’s immersion in already available public stories. Interweaving subjective and communal dimensions of experience, their stories were then re-presented and new narratives re-created from these encounters. Using overarching themes identified and researcher’s reflexivity throughout, a multi-layered, situated narrative was developed, related not only to the topic studied, but also to the process of research. In this way, data collection and analytic processing were interlaced across the piece from beginning to end. Overall, Identity Restitution was found to function as a reparative process, allowing those previously victimised and appropriated to shift, with time and support, towards
positionings and identities (personal, ethical, political and communal) holding a growing sense of agency, responsibility and choice. Associated socio-political practices developed as antidotes to appropriation and victimization mainly by the relentless work of human rights organisations like Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo in the search for their grandchildren, were found to be powerfully enabling, supporting these individuals to re-develop their bonds with the world, with others and with themselves -and in this process, to construct a personal and collective voice in response to their (and their families’) ordeal. Throughout this piece, reflexivity is used widely, conveying the development of the researcher’s position within the research process, whilst enlightening and shaping the style of knowledge co-production. Exploring identity restitution via narrative inquiring was linked and paralleled to a take on psychotherapy and research that challenges the understanding of neutrality as passivity. Although implications for professional practice are left to resonate rather than being fully proposed, through the narratives produced there is an invitation to question standardised uncritical practice, particularly when working with victims of organised abuse. Following the grandchildren’s accounts around what have helped them (or not) to workthrough such complex ordeals, approaches to practice that are willing not just to listen but to respond from within (reaching also outwardly with the acknowledgement of contextual responsibility) were found to be vital. Therefore, a call to embrace less fixed or homogeneous approaches to treatment is endorsed; highlighting the importance of more receptive, creative, attuned and immanent ones -including in them multidisciplinary perspectives and activist, sociopolitical developments such as the struggle for Truth, Memory and Justice described throughout the piece.

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