Perpetrator Studies Network


Revealing New Truths about Spain’s Violent Past: Perpetrators’ Confessions and Victim Exhumations

Authors: Paloma Aguilar & Leigh A. Payne

The foundation of a stable democracy in Spain was built on a settled account: an agreement that both sides were equally guilty of violence, a consensus to avoid contention, and a pact of oblivion as the pathway to peace and democracy. That foundation is beginning to crack as perpetrators’ confessions upset the silence and exhumations of mass graves unbury new truths. It has become possible, even if not completely socially acceptable, to speak openly about the past, to disclose the testimonies of the victims, and to ask for truth and justice. Contentious coexistence that put political participation, contestation, and expression in practice has begun to emerge. This book analyzes how this recent transformation has occurred. It recognizes that political processes are not always linear and inexorable. Thus, it remains to be seen how far contentious coexistence will go in Spain.

Paloma Aguilar is Associate Professor of Political Science at UNED, Madrid, Spain. She is the author of Memory and Amnesia: The Role of the Spanish Civil War in the Transition to Democracy (2001) and coeditor of The Politics of Memory: Transitional Justice in Democratizing Societies (2001). She was Tinker Professor at the University of Wisconsin and Visiting Professor at Princeton University.

Leigh A. Payne is Professor of Sociology and Latin America and Fellow of St Antony’s College, University of Oxford, UK. Her research has received support from the Arts and Humanities Research Council, British Academy, Social Science Research Council, and various foundations. She is the author of Unsettling Accounts: Neither Truth nor Reconciliation in Confessions of State Violence (2008).

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