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  • “The book Weld has written, entitled Paper Cadavers: Archives of Dictatorship in Guatemala, is brilliant and engrossing, told with the passion the topic deserves…. A study of surveillance and secrecy and of the courageous few that expose that power, Paper Cadavers is a book for us all.” — Deborah T. Levenson, Revista: Harvard Review of Latin America

    "Weld’s chronicle of their efforts is extraordinary, less about an archive as a historical information source and far more about an archive as a subject, a history-maker in its own right." — Brian Bethune, Maclean's

    Reviews

  • “The book Weld has written, entitled Paper Cadavers: Archives of Dictatorship in Guatemala, is brilliant and engrossing, told with the passion the topic deserves…. A study of surveillance and secrecy and of the courageous few that expose that power, Paper Cadavers is a book for us all.” — Deborah T. Levenson, Revista: Harvard Review of Latin America

    "Weld’s chronicle of their efforts is extraordinary, less about an archive as a historical information source and far more about an archive as a subject, a history-maker in its own right." — Brian Bethune, Maclean's

  • "Kirsten Weld should have a theorem named after her. Call it Weld's Paradox: the more a state engages in surgical, almost microscopic surveillance of its citizens—which, one would think, would limit the amount of actual violence that is needed to maintain control—the more likely it is to perpetuate indiscriminate, scattershot mass terror. By following the team of archivists working through the more than 75,000,000 documents found in Guatemala's recently discovered police archives, Weld, in her methodologically innovative and brilliantly conceived Paper Cadavers, provides an unparalleled look into the paperwork of state repression and the forensics of justice. In so doing, Weld provides crucial historiographical grounding to much of the airy theorizing concerning the relationship of knowledge to power, or, better, ink to blood." — Greg Grandin, author of The Blood of Guatemala: A History of Race and Nation and coeditor of The Guatemala Reader: History, Culture, Politics

    "Kirsten Weld's book is a tremendous achievement, chronicling the improbable, stunning, and heroic recovery of a lost archive of repression in Guatemala while recounting the story of a society trying to save itself. If the police files are the cold, bureaucratic residue of the counterinsurgent state, Weld's tale glows with the lives, loss, hopes, and fierce political commitment of the archivist-activists who dared to defy their country’s history of terror and dream of justice. Brilliant." — Kate Doyle, director of the Guatemala Documentation Project, The National Security Archive

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  • Description

    In Paper Cadavers, an inside account of the astonishing discovery and rescue of Guatemala's secret police archives, Kirsten Weld probes the politics of memory, the wages of the Cold War, and the stakes of historical knowledge production. After Guatemala's bloody thirty-six years of civil war (1960–1996), silence and impunity reigned. That is, until 2005, when human rights investigators stumbled on the archives of the country's National Police, which, at 75 million pages, proved to be the largest trove of secret state records ever found in Latin America.

    The unearthing of the archives renewed fierce debates about history, memory, and justice. In Paper Cadavers, Weld explores Guatemala's struggles to manage this avalanche of evidence of past war crimes, providing a firsthand look at how postwar justice activists worked to reconfigure terror archives into implements of social change. Tracing the history of the police files as they were transformed from weapons of counterinsurgency into tools for post-conflict reckoning, Weld sheds light on the country's fraught transition from war to an uneasy peace, reflecting on how societies forget and remember political violence.

    About The Author(s)

    Kirsten Weld is Assistant Professor of History at Harvard University.