Final Public Oral Exam: Gabrielle Girard

Modeling Democracy: The Global History of an Argentine Human Rights Experiment, 1983-2000
Tuesday, October 31, 2023, 10:00 am12:00 pm


Event Description


Jeremy Adelman, adviser
Corinna Zeltsman
Natasha Wheatley
Gabriela Nouzeilles


During the 1980s, Argentina transformed how new democracies around the world addressed the legacies of recent atrocity. Argentina pioneered the concept of the truth commission, which it paired with the world’s first major domestic human rights prosecution. This dissertation examines how these pathbreaking initiatives came together in newly democratic Argentina. It explores how they attracted the fascination of international human rights actors — who watched Argentina closely and built lessons from its experience. By tracking the circulation of the Argentine example in global human rights circles, this project illustrates how Argentina reshaped human rights activism during the 1980s and 1990s.

The first half of this dissertation analyzes Argentina’s initial efforts to grapple with its former military dictatorship, charting the course of both the National Commission on the Disappearance of Persons (CONADEP) and the country’s trial of its former juntas. As these measures unfolded through a process of improvisation and negotiation, they brought curious human rights activists, political leaders, and journalists to Buenos Aires from across the globe. Next, the second half of this project bridges these initiatives with their broader impacts on the global human rights movement. Drawing on research in the archives of organizations such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and the International Center for Transitional Justice, this project illustrates Argentina’s role in motivating the movement to begin debating how new governments should address the legacies of violence in their recent past.

This dissertation analyzes newly democratic Argentina’s human rights policies and the debates they fueled within the global human rights movement, demonstrating how Argentina’s experience drove activists to begin campaigning for trials and truth commissions—and for accountability, more broadly.

A copy of the dissertation will be available for review two weeks before the exam. Contact Lee Horinko for a copy of the dissertation and the Zoom meeting link and password.

All are welcome and encouraged to attend.

Lee Horinko Reed
Area of Interest
Political History
Public History
Social History
20th Century
Latin America and the Caribbean
Scholarly Series
Dissertation Defense