Sharnak, Debbie. Pennsylvania, 2023
Sharnak (history, Rowan Univ.) begins her book on Uruguay by asking what human rights are now and closes by observing that human rights discourse has become ubiquitous in the 21st century. Between those two comments, she takes readers through a penetrating and deeply researched examination of human rights, transnational social movements, and transitional justice as experienced during a military dictatorship in Uruguay that stretched from 1973 to 1985. Almost as an apology or justification, Sharnak quotes the historian Eric Zolov, who described Uruguay as lying at the periphery of the periphery of Latin America. But that understates both the significance of Uruguay as a case study of what human rights, social justice, and accountability mean and the importance of this study for examining these issues. Sharnak incorporates diverse voices, including women, Afro-Uruguayans, Jews, and members of the LGBTQ+ community into her discussion. As has become increasingly apparent in the current political environment, an expansion of civil rights does not necessarily proceed in a linear or progressive fashion. The lessons of this book on Uruguay’s slow drift from civilian administration to military authoritarianism and back remain relevant today.
Summing Up: Highly recommended. Undergraduates through faculty; general readers.
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