Escaping 1970s dictatorships, building a new life, and redefining politics

This project looks at the trajectories of exiles that came to the UK in the 1970s escaping the military dictatorships that governed Argentina, Chile and Uruguay in those years. The research focuses on analysing how the encounter with a new environment in the UK, with a flourishing network of civil society solidarity initiatives and supportive government actors, but also with the difficulties to adapting to a new culture, affected these exiles’ politics – including their practices, approaches and ideals.

Project aims

The aim of the project is to contribute to the increasing literature analysing the recent past of these Southern Cone countries. This literature has extensively focused on issues related to transitional justice or the disappeared. Yet, recently, a new body of research has started to look at the exile communities from comparative and systematic perspectives, moving beyond the more established approach based on personal memories and biographic accounts. This research seeks to contribute to this line of enquiry, offering insights from the UK as a host country, a case that has scarcely been studied before.

The research is based on personal interviews from both exiles and British people involved in helping them in those years, as well as archival research. The latter has proved essential to recuperate feelings and emotions related to the exile experience that are more difficult to recall from the interplay of memories and forgetfulness in interviews carried out now, more than 40 years after of the events.

Research team

This is a collaborative project that counted on the commitment and hard work of undergraduate students at Westminster in its first years. As the students finished their studies and a phase of analysis, writing, exploratory research and planning began, one alumni remained in the group and a researcher from Argentina joined in. Currently the research team consists of:

  • Romina Miorelli (University of Westminster)
  • Valentina Piersanti (University of London and Universitá di Pavia, University of Westminster)
  • Lara Manóvil (Univeristy of Buenos Aires)

Research activities

Several activities and outputs have been produced since the inception of this project in 2013 and these include:

  • Internal seminar presentation of the project chaired by Prof Francisco Panizza (London School of Economics and Political Science). 2013.
  • Roundtable at University of Westminster with talks by Alejandra Serpente (Institute of the Americas, UCL) and Marilyn Thomson (for World University Services – WUS). 2014.
  • Presentation of first findings at the Society of Latin American Studies (SLAS). 2014.
  • Projection of documentary “La Hora Chilena” by made by second generation Chileans living in Cambridge. 2015.
  • Journal article: Miorelli, R. Materialising exile in Solanas’ ‘Tangos: El Exilio de Gardel’. Modern Languages Open, 26. Special Issue "The Material Turn" in Migration Studies (2016).