The 2009/2010 school year has begun at NYU and there are many exciting things happening at CLACS this semester. Ada Ferrer, who was previously a CLACS affiliated faculty, is now the Director of the center for a three year term. Students have returned from summer research trips and there is a new incoming class of students who you can read about at, http://clacs.as.nyu.edu/object/clacs.people.gradstudents
Unique to this semester is the presence of James Dunkerley who is currently the Andrés Bello Chair in Latin American Cultures and Civilizations at the King Juan Carlos Center. Dunkerley will be giving a lecture on November 17 titled, “Andrés Bello and the Role of Scholarship in Nation-Building” and is teaching the course “Ideas and Power in Spanish America: 1512 to “Now.””
CLACS is also very excited to present the Fall 2009 Research Colloquium Series titled, “Cuba: History, Culture and Revolution.” The Series will host nine scholars from the United States, Spain and Cuba and the events will take place on Monday evenings from 5-7pm in the KJCC Auditorium following the graduate course of the same name, which is taught by Ada Ferrer. Details for the Research Colloquium Series can be found here, http://clacs.as.nyu.edu/object/clacs.events.colloquium
The other day I was walking by the library at UNAM (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México) and noticed a series of tall, skeletal-like trees next to me. They were “spent” magueys; once the plant reaches sexual maturity it sends up a flowering stalk about the height of a small tree and then withers. It made me think more concretely about the incredible time investment that people in the pulque industry made in these plants. It can take between eight and twenty-five years for one plant to reach maturity and, if you don’t “castrate” the plant in time, it’s impossible to harvest it for agua miel (the unfermented precursor of pulque).
Greetings from São Paulo.
Since I arrived here I’ve been researching and gathering material on police violence and prison rebellions as part of a larger project on the shortcomings of the Brazilian democratic regime as it exists since 1985. More specifically, I’m interested in exploring a legacy of torture and violence in the State security apparatuses inherited from the country’s military dictatorships, and the silence around this issue in Brazilian literary and cinematic production. Ultimately, I’d like to examine this symptomatic evasion in literature and film, and its subsequent displacement onto themes of gang and prison violence.
Initially, my plan had been to focus my research in the archives at NEV (Núcleo de Estudos da Violência), an institute connected to the University of São Paulo (USP). Yet as soon as I arrived and began talking to researchers and scholars, I found out about a special seminar on the thirty years of amnesty in Brazil, organized by Janaína Teles and Márcio Seligmann-Silva, which was going to discuss the amnesty law created immediately following Brazil’s last military dictatorship.
Cheers from Sao Paulo, again! Today is my last day here – and Friday was my last day at the Ouvidoria. Since I came to Brazil, I’ve been researching denunciations of police corruption at the Police Ombudsman. As it usually happens in every field work, I had some minor problems that, at the end, opened some other opportunities to develop my research.
I was supposed to collect around 800 cases at the Ouvidoria and I thought I would have time to do so. Yet, due some changes at the office – the nomination of a new Chief Ombudsman and consequently the beginning of some rearrangements there – I ended up “losing” one week because they didn’t have time enough to select/separate the cases I needed to copy. When they did so, I (re)started my work, but this time, instead of being alone in a room like in the first two weeks, I worked at the attendance room (where they receive, classify and refer all denunciations). In other words, the delay gave me the opportunity to observe a little more how the institution works – thus, even though my research isn’t about the institution itself, it definitely helps me contextualize and further understand the denunciations I’m working with. For instance, in a conversation with what one could define as the” non-official chief of the attendance”, he told me: “Ouvidoria is lap”, which means, it’s a place where people can talk and complain about any kind of police misconduct; where those who feel their rights have been violated will be heard with attention and respect – maybe it’s not for grant the fact that most of those who do this work are social assistants. Even if their work isn’t effective – in the sense that the denunciations should develop into fair investigations and, whenever the case, the punishment of those convicted – the very fact that citizens have this space where they have the freedom to talk, to expose their ideas and fight for their rights is in itself a major feature of what many thinkers call Democracy. Finally, maybe it’s not for granted as well the fact that many insane people (which are called “official nuts” because they’re always the same ones) constantly call and/or go to the Ouvidoria to denounce and complain about all sorts of conspiracies against them, which poses another interesting question: how one can really know what is hallucination and what is reality? Well, I guess this would be a beautiful theme for another study…
MA Candidate, CLACS