Publication Date




Embargo Period


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PHD)


Modern Languages and Literatures (Arts and Sciences)

Date of Defense


First Committee Member

George Yúdice

Second Committee Member

Tracy Devine Guzmán

Third Committee Member

Christina Civantos

Fourth Committee Member

Eduardo Elena


This dissertation focuses on how popular music not only captures and records historical events, but also creates what Pierre Nora termed lieux de mémoire, or sites of memory. Music is a privileged art form because it reaches a wider audience and its lyrics manifest the changes occurring within its genres. My dissertation focuses on and analyzes song texts produced during the 90s from three musical genres: tango, rock chabón (from the hood) and cumbia villera (a derivative of cumbia, but from the shantytowns or villas). Framed against the historical context of the Menem years (1989-1999), the selection of songs that I study demonstrates that they are canciones con historia songs that document historical events as well as people’s stories. These lyrics serve as repositories of historical events, and social and economic changes that denounce the social disparities ensuing from neoliberal economic policies. The songs also describe the stories of individuals and provide a platform to help monumentalize what was happening at that moment and they also serve to shape collective memory. As James Wertsch reminds us, one of the functions of memory is to provide a usable past that can give us “an account of events and actors that can be harnessed for some purpose in the present” (31). In order to evaluate how these songs, foster individual and collective memory, I conducted ethnographic work in different provinces of Argentina during the summer of 2018. Through collaboration with various national entities – Universidad Nacional del Comahue, Observatorio de Derechos Humanos, and Bibliotecas Populares – I received support in my fieldwork and participant collaboration in Buenos Aires, Cordoba, Río Negro and Neuquén. Through ethnography, I was able to determine not only that the musical selections act as vehicles that enable remembering, and at times re-experiencing, but also which types of memories are triggered by musical production that either reinforces or reshapes collective memory. Moreover, I explain the role that technology and user-based content platforms, such as YouTube, have in the creation of niches that serve as virtual sites of memory. I analyze user-produced content that functions as sites of commemoration, tribute, and appropriation, and how user interactions reveal the ways in which commemoration can take place in online environments where memory constantly evolves as individuals and entities challenge, appropriate, and contest collective memory through individual discourses.


Argentine Music; Argentine History; Memory; Collective Memory; Virtual Sites of Memory

Available for download on Thursday, July 01, 2021