Forming Neoliberal Citizens: Children's Literature and Political Socialization in Pinochet’s Chile

Marian Schlotterbeck, University of California, Davis

Chile’s seventeen-year military dictatorship (1973-1990) is synonymous with human rights violations and neoliberal economics. In an effort to shore up public support, the military regime deployed children both figuratively and literally.This paper analyzes popular culture directed at school-age children as a site of political socialization. In addition to pressing the actual bodies of school children into ritualized enactments of patriotism, the regime actively sought to disseminate the archetype of the ideal child directly to children themselves through children’s magazines. The most important magazine was Icarito, the Sunday-insert in La Tercera de la Hora. Magazines like Icarito formed part of the quotidian material culture of children growing up in 1980s Chile. Through its wide circulation in households, incorporation into classroom activities, and public school libraries, Icarito provides a window onto the regime’s efforts to socialize children in neoliberal values. This paper analyzes the content of Icarito to shed light on how the regime sought to explain its economic and political transformations to children as its ideal constituents. Icarito visually and discursively offered its young readers examples of what it meant to attain the regime’s highest values of being good workers, good citizens, and good Chileans. Alongside this close reading of content, I am also attentive to the multiple silences within Icarito, particularly the erasure of values like solidarity associated with leftist political projects. Finally, by reading against the grain, children and children’s voices are often present at the margins of a wide array of historical sources, including in letters to the editor of children’s magazines, submission for literary and drawing competitions, and photographic visual registers. The paper ends with a reflection on how these child-produced sources frequently belied the military junta’s self-presentation as the protector of Chilean children—and by extension the Chilean family and nation.

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 Presented in Session 143. Childhood in the Aftermath of Conflict: Migration and the (Re)Formation of Children