Daily Archives: November 10, 2011

Argentina’s Economic Crisis/ Death as a Side Effect (HUM415)

I updated the on-line documentaries page with two recent films about Argentina’s 2001 economic crisis. The events leading up to the crisis are fairly complicated, and they can be said to begin with the military coup of 1976. Under dictatorship (1976-1983) many new economic policies were put into place, including the borrowing of newly available petro-dollars, a development which would have long term effects. The dictatorship consciously modeled itself after the Chilean experiement, reversing ISI (import substitute industrialization) and initiating the sale of SOEs (state owned enterprises). Yet it took a neo-Peronist to unravel what the Peronist party had accomplished. By 1994, during the second term of Carlos Menem, fully 90% of the SOEs had gone onto the auction block.

When democracy returned to Argentina in 1983, a rising interest rates made Argentina’s foreign debt increasingly unmanageable. Managing that debt became an end in itself, and the resulting austerity measures visibly and meaningfully worsened social life for many Argentines. There was also the problems concerning monetary policy and the effect of the economic crises in Mexico (1995) and Southeast Asia (1997) . As I said, the history of these events is quite complex. In any case, by the time Ana Maria Shua wrote Death as a Side Effect income disparities had deepened and Argentina’s economy was edging closer to full collapse. By 2001 the nation had defaulted on its debts.

With DSE we confront another dystopian text. As with all dystopian fiction there is a pronounced satirical aspect to Shua’s work, one that functions to criticize contemporary society. Yet you’ll notice that DSE also focuses on human relationships, in particular the connection between the narrator, his absent lover, his father, etc. To what extent are these relationships symbolic? Can we read beyond the denotative level and discern a deeper connotative message at work?