I’ve been in the Dominican Republic for two weeks now. The initial days were saturated by a political fever of sorts: debates, campaigns, arguments, rallies, and constant commentary surrounding the upcoming congressional and municipal elections. It seemed to be all that anyone was talking about, and in the town of Cabarete, where I am living, the race for mayor was the hottest topic. The two major candidates were a man from the nearby town of Islabón (Wilson Zapete) and another who now lives in a huge home in one of the poor barrios (Gabriel “Canoa” Mora). Zapete was known as the candidate for change, presented as a man of the people, while Canoa had been involved in politics for years and was described by some as being trujillista. Rumors swirled that Canoa was illiterate and corrupt, while others questioned Zapete’s character and political savvy. Multiple sources reported that representatives of Canoa were paying people 2,000 pesos (about $66 U.S.) to vote for him, as well as buying cédulas (the national identification card needed to vote) from people who were likely to vote for Zapete. These practices, according to many people, are not at all unusual in the poor neighborhoods come election time. In fact, they are expected; one woman explained to me how some people regard the voting process: “Si no me pagan, no voto”.
I’ve been in Santiago, Chile a couple of days now, and I am feeling
pretty good about things. I absolutely adore the lovely elderly couple
I am renting a room from, and that has been quite the serendipitous
blessing. They have invited me to share in their family meals, and I
have loved getting to know them and their grown children, who come to
the house for lunch. Part of living where they live (a distance from
the centro) means that I will be using public transportation
constantly, and while Santiago seems to do quite well in this regard
relative to many other cities, it is still a bit daunting. Today I
took a colectivo (a small group taxi type deal that runs on a set
route, like a bus) downtown, and walked through the Mercado Central
and down to La Moneda presidential palace (where Allende died.) From
there the adventure to get home began, as no one had heard of the
street where my house is, and beyond the name of the neighborhood, the
cross streets and the fact that there was a “shopping” down the street
with many hair salons in it, I didn’t have a whole lot to offer.
This semester the CLACS Speakers Series and the CLACS Interdisciplinary Regional Seminar were titled “Decolonization in the Andes: Contemporary Debates and Transformations”. The series was coordinated by Sinclair Thomson (History Department, NYU) and Carmen Medeiros (CLACS, NYU). The corresponding course was taught by Professor Medeiros. I had the wonderful opportunity of taking the course with Professor Medeiros, which covered both the history of the Andean countries, but more specifically looked at questions of the “Coloniality of Power” (term coined by Quijano) and the “Colonial Difference” (term coined by Mignolo). We read contemporary works on race and racism, issues of gender, as well as issues around development and education.
The speaker series featured some amazing presentations, many by local activists, intellectuals and scholars from the Andes. Here is the schedule of the events linked to the Seminar:
February 16, 2010- Luis Tapia (Development Studies Program, CIDES, Universidad Mayor de San Andrés, La Paz, Bolivia)
“El ciclo de democratización pluricultural en Bolivia”
March 29, 2010- Marisol de la Cadena (Anthropology Department, University of California-Davis)
“Indigenous politics: Beyond politics as usual”
April 5, 2010- Julieta Paredes (Activist, Writer, Co-founder of Mujeres Creando and Asamblea Feminista, La Paz, Bolivia)
“Hilando fino desde el feminismo comunitario”
April 12, 2010- Hernán Ibarra (History Department, FLACSO, Quito, Ecuador)
“Estado nación y crisis del discurso del mestizaje en Ecuador”
April 19, 2010- Bret Gustafson (Anthropology Department, Washington University in St. Louis)
“Epistemic rupture, affirmative action or ‘reverse racism’?: Decolonizing knowledge in Evo’s Bolivia”
April 26, 2010 –Rodrigo Montoya (Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos, Lima, Perú) and Mario Palacios (President, CONACAMI, Lima, Peru)
“Rebelión en los Andes y la Amazonía del Perú”
May 3, 2010- Daysi Zapata (Vicepresident, Asociación Interétnica de Desarrollo de la Selva Peruana-AIDESEP)
“La lucha de los pueblos indígenas de la Amazonía peruana”
The theme of the seminar, decolonization, is by no means a new concept, but in recent years it has been gaining traction in the Andes as a deliberate project by governments, especially that of Bolivia. This series attempted to propose the questions- what is decolonization? -and how are Andean countries using the concept and what kind of practices are they employing?
The events were filmed by CLACS and they should be up soon on NYU’s Youtube channel for anyone to watch. Anyone interested in the topics of the series and seminar should definitely check them out!
Rebecca Fisher, MA Candidate, CLACS
This past semester (Spring, 2010), professors Pamela Calla (CLACS visiting scholar and Anthropologist) and Carmen Medeiros (CLACS Faculty Fellow and Anthropologist) started a new CLACs sponsored Working Group titled, “Racisms in Comparative Perspective”. I had the great pleasure of being a part of this innovative new group, as scholars from around the NYC area, and from around the country, came together to start really thinking about how, in the efforts to combat racism around the world, we can theorize how racism on a larger scale.
On Friday May 7th, CLACS, the Steinhardt School of Education of NYU the NYS Haitian Bilingual and ESL Technical Assistance Center (HABETAC), and Facing History, Facing Ourselves collaborated to present a two day workshop on Haiti for 40 teachers from all over the metropolitan area. The workshop was organized to support teachers in their efforts to teach about Haiti and to help to further contextualize the devastatingly destructive earthquake that hit the island in January earlier this year. The conference was also intended to look to help teachers to better support Haitian students affected by the disaster and to encourage all students to become educated, active and involved in the relief efforts.
The first day included a lecture by NYU professor and Director of CLACS Ada Ferrer on the history and legacies of the Haitian Revolution. Michael Dash, Professor of French and Social and Cultural Analysis at NYU, followed with a presentation on the history of Haitian-American relations. The following day’s workshops focused on how best to meet the needs of Haitian students. Tanya Huelett, of the educational NGO Facing History Facing Ourselves, wrapped up the day’s activities with a talk titled “Choosing to Participate: Responsibility and Action in the Face of International Crisis.”
For those interested in materials and information about Haiti, please visit the CLACS Haiti: in Context webpage.
Students from the High School for Global Citizenship Visit CLACS
On March 5th, 2010 twenty students from the High School for Global Citizenship (HSGC) in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn visited the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies at NYU for a presentation entitled “Cuba Today: A Snapshot of Cuba after the Special Period.” The visit was organized as part of a collaboration between an HSGC economics course and CLACS’ K-12 Outreach Program.
In a comprehensive discussion of Cuba’s contemporary economy and society, with a particular focus on Cuba’s youth, students listened to Cuban hip hop and analyzed lyrics, considered questions of housing and migration, and discussed how Cuban society compares to New York and other parts of the Caribbean.
After the presentation and discussion, students ate lunch with CLACS faculty and students. Finally, as part of a college-readiness curriculum, HSGC students toured NYU’s campus.
Asst. Prof. and Faculty Fellow Carmen Medeiros with CLACS graduates
CLACS extends a warm congratulations to eight MA students, who have completed their degrees as of this May 2010:
Elizabeth Jean Kelley
Diana Van der Jagt
May you find success in your future plans and projects!