The European Movement for Solidarity with Chile after September 11, 1973

Political Emotions and Transnational Mobilization

Caroline Moine

Detail of the Chile-Mural in the central hall of the University of Bielefeld, created in 1976

Over the last few years, historians have shown an increasing interest in researching forms of international solidarity during the Cold War. Mobilization against the regime of Chilean military junta who seized power in the coup d’état of September 11, 1973, constitutes one important case study as a central element of European and global history of the 1970s. Historiography has identified how different medial presentations of this event triggered a broad range of emotions in people around the world. Images like the bombardment of the presidential palace in the middle of Chile’s capital city and the international live radio broadcast of democratically elected president Salvador Allende’s last speech occasioned far beyond Latin American anger and rage about the coup. 

The history of the September 11 coup and the international response to it have also become one of the pillars of the European left’s grand narratives, which reinforces a pathos that colors the remembrance of the Chilean activists. Historians thus have to take care to distance themselves from this mythological perspective in order to situate the history of international solidarity with Chile within the broader history of emotions and history of social movements. Only then can historians critically question the supposition that the reception of news out of Santiago was sufficient to set off a spontaneous, unifying wave of solidarity. In contrast to this simplified vision of mobilization, the project will probe forms of emotional expression and the strategies associated with them.

Historical research has generally placed the coup in Chile and its international aftereffects in the context of two broader historical developments: the 1968 movement and its successors, which created new types of political mobilization in the 1970s, and the longer history of human rights. The project thus explores not just the discursive strategies employed to give the struggle for human rights in Chile an emotional charge, but also the broader significance of media (like radio, posters, film, mural painting), medial practices (like concerts), cultures of collective emotions, and especially of religious character for the European mobilization of solidarity with Chile and the development of new transcontinental activist networks. 

The analysis of these broader trends will be enriched with the biographies of activists engaged in the European solidarity movement, thus uncovering a range of different forms of mobilization at the local, national, and international level. While the study focuses on the two Germanys, it will contextualize them within the larger international emotional history of the Cold War.

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