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  • Writer's pictureCrime in Latin America

Is lethal violence invisible to the eyes of the offenders? Narratives from the Argentina and Chile

Homicide is among the most serious crimes and, consequently, it is punished with some of the longest prison sentences. The analysis of the narratives of perpetrators has shed some light on how offenders manage guilt, understand violence, and rationalize the event. This paper draws upon field data (narrative interviews and lifelines drawn by participants) from CRIMLA Project. By analyzing the life stories of an heterogeneous sample of homicide perpetrators in Argentina and Chile, this study shows that death and inflicted harm is downplayed in the reconstructions of most perpetrators, illustrating a tendency to invisibilize and ignore the victims themselves. Contrastingly, offenders justified and excused the harm caused to the victims’ relatives, evaluated the impact of their action on their own families and friends and, mainly, focused their stories on the self-provoked harm on their own lives as a consequence of being imprisoned. This narrative pattern reveals the ways in which these actors evaluate lethal violence, highlighting the impact on their social circle and downplay its effect on the victims. The outweigh of incarceration over violence is illustrated by the fact that in their lifelines prison is predominantly labeled as a turning-point, over the crime itself. This paper discusses how violence is rationalized, the possibility of redemption narratives, and the hegemonic stories which condition how killing is signified.

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