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Doña María's Story: Life History, Memory, and Political Identity

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In this remarkable book historian Daniel James presents the gripping, poignant life-story of Doña María Roldán, a woman who lived and worked for six decades in the meatpacking community of Berisso, Argentina. A union activist and fervent supporter of Juan and Eva Perón, Doña María’s evocative testimony prompts James to analyze the promise and problematic nature of using or In this remarkable book historian Daniel James presents the gripping, poignant life-story of Doña María Roldán, a woman who lived and worked for six decades in the meatpacking community of Berisso, Argentina. A union activist and fervent supporter of Juan and Eva Perón, Doña María’s evocative testimony prompts James to analyze the promise and problematic nature of using oral sources for historical research. The book thus becomes both fascinating narrative and methodological inquiry. Doña María’s testimony is grounded in both the local context (based on the author’s thirteen years of historical and ethnographic research in Berisso) and a broader national narrative. In this way, it differs from the dominant genre of women’s testimonial literature, and much recent ethnographic work in Latin America, which have often neglected historical and communal contextualization in order to celebrate individual agency and self-construction. James examines in particular the ways that gender influences Doña María’s representation of her story. He is careful to acknowledge that oral history challenges the historian to sort through complicated sets of motivations and desires—the historian’s own wish to uncover “the truth” of an informant’s life and the interviewee’s hope to make sense of her or his past and encode it with myths of the self. This work is thus James’s effort to present his research and his relationship with Doña María with both theoretical sophistication and recognition of their mutual affection. While written by a historian, Doña María’s Story also engages with concerns drawn from such disciplines as anthropology, cultural studies, and literary criticism. It will be especially appreciated by those involved in oral, Latin American, and working-class history.


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In this remarkable book historian Daniel James presents the gripping, poignant life-story of Doña María Roldán, a woman who lived and worked for six decades in the meatpacking community of Berisso, Argentina. A union activist and fervent supporter of Juan and Eva Perón, Doña María’s evocative testimony prompts James to analyze the promise and problematic nature of using or In this remarkable book historian Daniel James presents the gripping, poignant life-story of Doña María Roldán, a woman who lived and worked for six decades in the meatpacking community of Berisso, Argentina. A union activist and fervent supporter of Juan and Eva Perón, Doña María’s evocative testimony prompts James to analyze the promise and problematic nature of using oral sources for historical research. The book thus becomes both fascinating narrative and methodological inquiry. Doña María’s testimony is grounded in both the local context (based on the author’s thirteen years of historical and ethnographic research in Berisso) and a broader national narrative. In this way, it differs from the dominant genre of women’s testimonial literature, and much recent ethnographic work in Latin America, which have often neglected historical and communal contextualization in order to celebrate individual agency and self-construction. James examines in particular the ways that gender influences Doña María’s representation of her story. He is careful to acknowledge that oral history challenges the historian to sort through complicated sets of motivations and desires—the historian’s own wish to uncover “the truth” of an informant’s life and the interviewee’s hope to make sense of her or his past and encode it with myths of the self. This work is thus James’s effort to present his research and his relationship with Doña María with both theoretical sophistication and recognition of their mutual affection. While written by a historian, Doña María’s Story also engages with concerns drawn from such disciplines as anthropology, cultural studies, and literary criticism. It will be especially appreciated by those involved in oral, Latin American, and working-class history.

30 review for Doña María's Story: Life History, Memory, and Political Identity

  1. 5 out of 5

    Julio César

    El libro de James es una forma novedosa, hasta vanguardista, de abordar un tópico tan transitado como el peronismo clásico. El hecho de que sea extranjero le da un plus, en mi opinión, pues no tiene esa carga casi genética de solemnidad que tienen los argentinos para estos temas tan importantes de nuestra historia. Aprendí mucho y en momentos hasta me emocioné. Sin embargo, tiene algunos dejos de moda posestructuralista en largos pasajes sobre el valor de la historia oral, la memoria, el género, El libro de James es una forma novedosa, hasta vanguardista, de abordar un tópico tan transitado como el peronismo clásico. El hecho de que sea extranjero le da un plus, en mi opinión, pues no tiene esa carga casi genética de solemnidad que tienen los argentinos para estos temas tan importantes de nuestra historia. Aprendí mucho y en momentos hasta me emocioné. Sin embargo, tiene algunos dejos de moda posestructuralista en largos pasajes sobre el valor de la historia oral, la memoria, el género, la textualidad y toda esa maraña que francamente me aburrieron.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Vicki

    Another book for school, written by my professor so I can't say anything bad about it. Actually, it was quite interesting - the story of a blue collar labor organizer in a meat packing suburb of Buenos Aires. Another book for school, written by my professor so I can't say anything bad about it. Actually, it was quite interesting - the story of a blue collar labor organizer in a meat packing suburb of Buenos Aires.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Tiffany

  4. 4 out of 5

    Kristen

  5. 4 out of 5

    Mike

  6. 4 out of 5

    Brittney Johnson

  7. 5 out of 5

    Hannah Verrinder

  8. 4 out of 5

    Erik Loomis

  9. 4 out of 5

    Meagan O'rourke

  10. 5 out of 5

    Kata

  11. 4 out of 5

    Allison

  12. 4 out of 5

    Vicky Low

  13. 5 out of 5

    David Krohn

  14. 4 out of 5

    Micah

  15. 5 out of 5

    Joaquín Bourgois

  16. 4 out of 5

    Jessica

  17. 4 out of 5

    Christine Rinaldi

  18. 4 out of 5

    Helen Kennedy

  19. 4 out of 5

    Eric

  20. 4 out of 5

    Timothy

  21. 4 out of 5

    Shauntel Martin

  22. 4 out of 5

    Sue

  23. 4 out of 5

    Melanie Gonzalez

  24. 5 out of 5

    Isabel

  25. 5 out of 5

    Matías Scaglione

  26. 5 out of 5

    Hannah Riordan

  27. 4 out of 5

    Dom Campbell

  28. 5 out of 5

    Anna

  29. 4 out of 5

    Therese Kennelly

  30. 5 out of 5

    Colin

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