“Do You Know Who You Are?” Radical Existential Doubt and Scientific Certainty in the Search for the Kidnapped Children of the Disappeared in Argentina



Abstract During the Argentine military dictatorship (1976–83) up to 30,000 people disappeared. Included among them were an estimated 500 children who were handed over to families related (or with close ties) to security forces. The Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo formed to discover their fate. During the 1980s, the Grandmothers used newly available genetic technologies as a means of verifying the identities of potential grandchildren to reunite them with their biological families. In the 1990s, custody was no longer an issue because the children were legally adults. Forced to change their strategy, they embarked on public campaigns directing those with “doubts about their identity” to contact the organization. This article provides an ethnographic analysis of these public campaigns to advance theoretical perspectives on the nature of embodied truth and the transformation of individual concerns regarding personal identity to collective doubt regarding national identity and belonging. [identity, human rights, genetics, history, politics, memory]