Dear participants:

Welcome to "Corpolíticas / Body Politics in the Americas"—the Hemispheric Institute Encuentro co-hosted by Centro Cultural Recoleta in collaboration with the Instituto Torcuato Di Tella, the Teatro Empire, students and faculty from Universidad de Buenos Aires! As always, we expect that this Encuentro will offer rich opportunities for collective exchange. Buenos Aires, our host city, as well as Argentina as a whole have set the standard for performance and activism in the Americas, with powerful interventions ranging from the Madres de Plaza de Mayo, to H.I.J.O.S. (the organization made up of the children of the disappeared), to the social movements born out of the economic crisis of 2001. Argentina proves a wonderfully stimulating space for artists, scholars and activists to share their diverse experiences at the crossroads of performance and politics.

In Argentina, as in many other places, the most crucial moments in public life tend to go hand in hand with a notable social effervescence. People quite literally take to the streets to perform their political positions. Performed politics make themselves felt in human rights issues, as we noted above, but also in multiple other arenas. Collectives endeavor to form new and better links in neighborhoods, schools, jails, hospitals, etc. Putting your body on the line –“poner el cuerpo,” as they say in Argentina– is not just a saying but an attitude that describes how different subjects and social collectives make visible their capacity for agency in confronting problematic situations. So it seems important to us to focus our attention on bodies as signifiers and signifieds, as means and objects of signification that are always present, explicitly or implicitly, speaking about or being spoken about by the multiplicity of factors that constitute the diverse social realities we navigate.

Bodies, of course, do not just perform liberatory practices. Nowhere is that clearer than here in Argentina, which last year commemorated the 30th anniversary of the beginning of its cruelest military dictatorship (1976-83), which took the practice of state terrorism to unthinkable limits. Images of military tanks in city streets and the soldiers dominating public space are visible not only on the walls of our exhibits at Recoleta (curated by Julio Pantoja), but are everywhere present in the national imaginary. It is against those repressive embodied practices –with the nefarious disappearances and torture— that other forms of life affirming cultural performances take place.

In this framework, the four umbrella topics we identified to guide our work and reflection (Corpodinamias, Corpografías, Corpusterrorificus and Corpoéticas) suggest that we can explore a range of issues together, from the ways social movements stage their demands and constitute themselves as collectives by “putting their bodies on the line,” to the ways in which our bodies act as maps and as contested spaces for the wide array of politics that seek to inform them and constitute them in terms of race, class, gender and region; from the effects, marks and operations of the mechanisms that repress and pigeonhole them, to the ethics and aesthetics of emancipatory practices.

We hope this Encuentro serves to broaden and deepen the networks formed in previous Encuentros, and to open up new avenues for exchange. We thank you for participating and wish us all an intense, fruitful and inspiring time together!!!

Claudia Briones and Diana Taylor