2014 Debates



To launch Latitudes, the Latin American Research Group Australia, we will run a series of talks and events in 2014 concerning Latin America, hosted by the School of Humanities and Languages at the University of New South Wales.

The 2014 Debates will feature academics, researchers and Latin American presenters based on Sydney and from other national and international centres via videoconference. Besides creating a linkage with academics and researchers, we aim to work and interact with other Latin American organizations and universities to discuss politics, culture, history, memory, and current events, in order to preserve oral histories, archives and documentation for present and future research. We believe that the Latin American non-academic community in Australia offers a valuable source of ideas, material and resources to enrich the field of Latin American studies and that the concept of “community” includes more than a fixed type of participants.

The 2014 Debates usually feature two or three individual presenters under one general subject, allowing more time than a regular conference time slot and the chance for questions, answers and debate. The events will run regularly on Fridays and will be held at room 310, Morven Brown building, UNSW Kensington Campus. The best way to access Morven Brown Building (C20 in UNSW campus map) by car is through Gate 8 on High Street. There is parking available on High Street, and also paid parking inside campus, right next to Gate 8 (see parking rates).


Fernando López & Pablo Leighton




Abstracts & audios


First 2014 Debate
Mass (media) battles: recent and historical examples in Argentina, Chile and Australia

Friday March 21, 2014, 4PM

Australian intelligence agencies agreements with foreign counterparts and its impact in journalism and justice 

By Florencia Melgar, independent researcher

In January 2014 the Supreme Court of Justice of Chile requested the extradition of former member of the DINA, Adriana Rivas, who has been living in Australia for 36 years. Rivas is accused of aggravated kidnapping in seven cases during Chile´s dictatorship. There is an international order to capture Rivas but the Australian government hasn´t commented yet on this matter. The extradition was requested after journalist Florencia Melgar broadcast an interview with Rivas where she describes how she escaped from Chile to Argentina in 2010 to fly back to Australia. Rivas is a living proof of former DINA and CNI agents now living in Australia.

Melgar investigated the mutual support between Chile´s and Australia´s secret services during Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship. The research proves the participation of the Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS) in Chile´s coup in 1973, supporting CIA operation to overthrow Salvador Allende. In 1974 Sydney Morning Herald journalist Hamish Mc Donald was investigating the case and a call from ASIS to the paper put an end to the investigation underway. After 40 years, Melgar wasn´t allowed to publish all of her research either. Even though she managed to identify the two Australian spies operating in Chile during 1973 -who are alive and one of them heads an organisation on Australian international affairs- their names have to be kept in secret.

In 2013 ASIS sent a letter to Melgar and strongly advised her to seek legal advice because she could be prosecuted for offences that could attract penalties of imprisonment. According to Australian legislation, the names of the spies cannot be published now or ever. This is a clear example of how the exemption of Australia´s intelligence agencies from the Freedom of Information Act has a strong impact in journalism and democracy, affecting how Australian history is told.



A brief history of the battles against dictatorial mass media in Chile during Pinochet’s most repressive years
By Pablo Leighton, independent researcher

video
Since the 2011 massive student movement, protesters in Chile have enacted critical actions over television channels. They have physically occupied some stations and heckled sacred ‘apolitical’ events, such as the hyper-mediatised Telethon charity campaign, associating them to the legacy of the civil-military dictatorship that ruled until 1990. The realization that centres of power are not always located in presidential palaces or parliaments is an uncommon but not new phenomenon in Chile. In 1986, the non-partisan Assembly of Civility organised one of the largest general strikes in the period while calling for a boycott of all commercial sponsors of television newscasts that propagandised the dictatorship. A genealogy of this dispute goes even earlier, in 1975, when the relatives of human rights victims comprehended that State violence and communication media were closely related. Various media ‘professionals’ that worked as collaborators or even as agents of DINA ―the 1973-77 Chilean secret police, officially labelled an illicit criminal organization (asociación ílícita) by tribunals― have been accused of and occasionally tried for being accomplices. This is a brief history of an open dispute of hegemony in Chile, specifically against the large cultural power of mass media, born in the most repressive years of the dictatorship and waged until today.



Information: Human right or market commodity? Lessons from the Argentine Media Law 
By Fernando López, independent researcher

video
On October 10, 2009 the Argentine Congress passed Law 26,522 of Audio-Visual Communication Services (Ley de Servicios de Comunicación Audiovisual), popularly known as Ley de Medios (Media Law).  Most media groups in Argentina accepted the legislation and immediately set out to comply with it.  However, supported by some the most conservative figures and groups of the anti-Kirchnerista camp, Grupo Clarín refused to comply with the legislation.  Arguing that the Media Law severely undermines freedom of speech in Argentina, the powerful economic group launched a virulent media campaign and judicial battle against it and, especially, the government of Cristina Kirchner. This presentation traces the origins of the law, it explores the roots of the power struggle between Grupo Clarín and the government of Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, and evaluates its outcomes.  The Argentine Ley de Medios is a valuable case study for those countries in Latin America embarking on a similar path of media reforms amid strong resistance of what can only be described as powerful media cartels. 



Second 2014 Debate
The crisis of political representation in Chile: the past, present and future of the national constitution


Friday April 4, 2014, 10AM

The genealogy of Jaime Guzmán’s subsidiary State
By Professor Renato Cristi, Department of Philosophy, Wilfrid Laurier University, Canada [videoconference].
                         
video video

Cristi’s article states that the idea of the state as a higher centralized organization, which ought not to arrogate to itself functions that may be performed by lower social bodies, was first introduced by Pope Leo XIII in 1891 and it was baptized “subsidiarity” many years later. An editorial published anonymously by the politician and intellectual of the right, Jaime Guzmán, in 1982 may contribute to clarify an issue that has been fiercely debated in Chile lately. How is it possible that, after thirty years, the higher education policies inspired by Guzmán and enacted by the military government are still in place? The five democratic governments since 1990 did not fundamentally alter the direction given by Guzmán and the military to the educational system. A subsidiary state is still allowed to preside over most of social areas in Chile.


Reform and constituent power in Chile
By Professor Miguel Vatter, School of Social Sciences, UNSW
                             
video video

Professor Vatter talks about the importance of constitution-making politics. This phenomenon coincides with the desire of citizens to take an active role in politics and with their scepticism with regard to the representativeness of political parties and parliaments. Constituent power is usually thought to be opposed to devices of representation: if the people are present, then no representatives are needed. However, this conception of constituent power may easily lead into populist forms of representation. In this talk, Vatter suggests that some new options to join constituent power with representation have opened thanks to recent work on non-traditional varieties of political representation. These ideas will be discussed in the context of the current constituent process in Chile.



Third 2014 Debate
The road to Peronism and Kirchnerism: A history of Argentina’s political economy

Friday May 2, 2014, 4PM


Argentina: The histories of a few roads not taken
By Dr James Levy, Senior Lecturer, UNSW School of Humanities and Languages

video
Dr Levy maintains that from the latter part of the 19th century until the 1930s, laissez-faire was the main route travelled by the Argentine State. Its surface appeared smooth and safe but in fact it rested upon an unstable base that periodically caused the surface to break up especially in bad weather. The feeder roads leading to the highway contributed to the highway's failure: fiscal policy, land distribution, social policy, and labor relations. Because the State never raised enough revenue to build a proper highway system, it neglected large sectors of population who needed better health and housing, it allowed too much land to be held by too few thus distorting the proper planning of the system, and it forced the labor movement into opposition to the highway when the movement could have been helpful in repairing the precarious road. Were there possible alternatives?


The Kirchner governments and classical peronism: convergence and disparity
By Dr Peter Ross, Senior Lecturer, UNSW School of Humanities and Languages

video
In 2002, Ricardo Sidicaro published his Los tres peronismos, an analysis of the differences of the three peronist periods of government (1946-1955/1973-1976/1989-1999). The clearest divergence amongst these is that between what Dr Ross calls the classical period of peronism (1946-1955) and the third period under Carlos Menem, when state interventionism was abandoned in the interests of privileging the private sector, particularly finance capital and multinational corporations. In this paper Dr Ross wants to consider the similarities and differences between the first period and, now, the fourth period of peronism, the governments of Néstor Kirchner and Cristina Fernández from 2003 to date. There are noted similarities with regard to the role of the state, developmentalist economic models, policies of social inclusion, an accent on national sovereignty, and a polarization of public opinion. That said, the current political and economic situation, both nationally and internationally, is not that of the post war period. This results in some differences, though not necessarily deviations from the classical period.

James Levy & Peter Ross: Q&A

video




Fourth 2014 Debate
Venezuela after Chávez

Friday June 6, 2014, 4PM

President Maduro and the Post Chávez Era
By Dr Rodrigo AcuñaAssociate Lecturer in Spanish and Latin American Studies, Department of International Studies, Macquarie University

video video

Dr Rodrigo Acuña’s analysis is on the last three election results in Venezuela, specifically the last two presidential elections in late 2012 and early 2013, and the municipal elections in December 2013. After contextualising the outcomes of these elections, he distinguishes the patterns of continuity and change at a national and international level between the administration of Hugo Chávez and that of the current president Nicolas Maduro. Rodrigo’s presentation concludes with a discussion of the current economic situation in this oil state, and the government’s claims that an economic war is being carried out against it by sections of the business community and the opposition.

Reframing Venezuela: social movements, indigenous peoples and the Bolivarian state
By Dr Luis Angosto Ferrández, Lecturer, Department of Spanish and Latin American Studies, & Department of Anthropology, University of Sydney 

Luis discusses contemporary Venezuelan politics as reflected on state-indigenous peoples relations. The current enfranchisement of the indigenous population is unprecedented, and partly results from the formation of a state-sponsored indigenous movement. This movement prioritizes access to social services, economic development and political participation in state structures over certain goals of free determination. Other forms of collective action, with different priorities, evince the existence of diverging interests and goals among the indigenous population. Luis argues that these divergences are a reflection of the way in which the indigenous population partakes in the shaping of contemporary Venezuelan politics.



Fifth 2014 Debate 
Colombia – inside out 

Friday August 8, 2014, 4PM

Colombia: la democracia impostora en tiempo de farsantes [Colombia: the impostor democracy in times of phonies, videoconference in Spanish]
By Gabriel Andrés Arévalo, PhD candidate University of the Basque Country/Euskal Herriko Unibertsitatea.

video

[See high resolution video here]


Gabriel Andrés Arévalo argues that, over the 21st century, Colombia’s “democratic regime” has undergone changes as a technology of governance and power device. Different factors, such as the geopolitics of water, the management of natural resources and hydrocarbons, and the geographical implications of the cocaine business have marked a new phase in Colombia’s history. This new phase is deeply influenced by the dynamics of transnational capitalism, which goes hand on hand with the promotion of democracy and peace as prescribed by the OECD and the World Bank. This notion of democracy and peace has become a decisive element in a new phase of capital accumulation, which seeks to secure markets through the provision of raw materials by Latin American countries. Based on the very restricted principles of the free market around democratic freedom, multiculturalism and human rights, this particular grammar of democracy and peace has become a refined technology of power, which allows the normalization of rebel forces and social/territorial disciplinary control benefitting the expansion of transnational capitalism. As a result, we are confronted with an impostor democracy orchestrated by impostors. 


Reviewing transitional justice Concept in Colombia [videoconference]
By Mario Cortés Santander, constitutionalist lawyer and mediator of Universidad Libre de Bogotá & member of the Latin American Social Forum Sydney.

video video


Mario Cortés maintains that, traditionally, international peacebuilding interventions have followed a Western liberal paradigm in the form of UN peacekeeping and peacebuilding operations and transitional justice initiatives. According to Dustin (2013), while peacebuilding is a broader notion, peacebuilding and transitional justice are open-ended concepts with substantial overlap in that both seek long-term peace by rebuilding social trust and social capital and attempting to address problems of governance, accountability, and the need for institutional reform. For half a century, Colombians have suffered an internal armed conflict between the National Army and left and right wing armed groups. Over the years, there have been several peace talks and ceasefire periods, but none of them culminated in a final peace agreement. In 2012 the government initiated peace-talks with the FARC-EP, one of the key actors in the conflict. Almost two years after, the parties have reached partial agreements in key points in the agenda, opening the way to a potential peace agreement that could spell the end of an over half a century bloody conflict. Therefore the concept of transitional justice once again is part of discussion in order to prepare the country for a better understanding of the conflict reasons and the effects of its eventual ending.


Colombians in Sydney: Making sense of community through the lens of perceived discrimination and socio-political reasoning
By Liana Mercedes Torres, PhD candidate in Latin American Studies, University of Sydney.

video video

Liana Mercedes Torres discusses how Colombian migrants in Sydney reflect on the existence of a Colombian community in their current location. Interviews and focus groups with participants show how such a national definition is constructed within narratives of perceived discrimination and through the telling of the ambiguities of voicing and silencing their socio-political stance. Colombians identify themselves as both objects (i.e. receivers) and subjects (i.e. agents) of ‘otherisation’, which prompts them to engage or disengage their own position as members of the community. Likewise, reflecting on their political stance may lead them to exclude themselves from the Colombian migrant community. A number of narrative excerpts are used here to illustrate these multiple positionings. An introduction to the case study of two participants helps revisit the emerging individual and collective identities that intertwine in making sense of the community.



Sixth 2014 Debate

Latin American Migration to Sydney: The Chilean Case 

Friday August 22, 2014, 4PM

Self-Concepts of Identity in Sydney’s Chilean-born Residents
By Dr Fernanda Peñaloza & Dr Vek Lewis, Senior Lecturers in Latin American Studies, University of Sydney.

video video

The experience of Chilean-born residents in Australia has been often framed within the figure of the political exile. There are relatively few studies that have looked explicitly and in detail at how self-concepts of identity are used in the Australian context. In this article, we work towards an understanding of the way in which a self-conceptualisation process is shaped in this specific migration experience via the use of identity categories such as latino/a, chileno/a, australiano/a-chileno/a, latinoamericano/a. In other words, we explore these categorizations as imagined and articulated through and in the experiential realities of the Chilean migrants’ insertion in Sydney.




Seventh 2014 Debate
Memory and first-person testimonies of the Chilean dictatorship and El Salvador’s civil war

Friday September 5, 2014, 4PM

Two Latin American community activists in Australia speak as survivors and direct protagonists during the Chilean dictatorship (1973-90) and El Salvador’s civil war (1980-92). Both testimonies give a first-person account of the recent history of these countries.

In the first hour, Gerardo Díaz-Henríquez renders (in Spanish) an oral history on his role as former Secretary General of the National Federation of Salvadorean Workers (FENASTRAS) and member of the Farabundo Martí Front for the Liberation of El Salvador (FMLN). In 1989, a bomb placed by the civil-military regime that killed nine members of FENASTRAS originated as response the biggest guerrilla offensive in Latin America during the 1980s.

video video

In the second hour, Paula Sánchez, nurse, teacher, musician and active member of the Latin American Social Forum Sydney, speaks about his experience as member of the Communist Youth in Chile during the 1980s in the north of the country, his imprisonment by the secret police in 1987 and his exile to Australia.

video video



Eighth 2014 Debate
Latin American cultural and memory studies in Australia

Friday October 17, 2014, 4PM


Shopping for Identity in the Academic Market:Some Problems With Latin American Decolonial Theory
By Dr Jeff Browitt, Senior Lecturer in Latin American Studies at the School of International Studies, University of Technology Sydney.

video video


Dr Browitt argues that the proponents of Latin American decolonial discourse enter into performative contradiction when they utilize the tools of European critical theory to deconstruct the discourse of Eurocentric modernity, while trying to quarantine their own discursive and ideological constructions from review by that selfsame European critical theory. Blind to decolonial theory’s aporias, they think they can take a morally superior and transcendental epistemological position through their contact with indigenous and Afrodescendent worlds. This process of ideological appropriation merely inverts the simplistic binary opposites that the decolonial theorists claim they wish to avoid.



The Chosen One [Casa de memoria José Domingo Cañas 1367[
By Dr Marivic Wyndham, senior lecturer in Latin American Studies at the School of International Studies, UTS, and Professor Peter Read, Adjunct Professor at the History Department, Australian National University.

video video


This discussion addresses the work of Dr Laura Moya Díaz, member of the Chilean Communist Party, well respected psychiatrist and Marxist-Leninist ideologue who assumed responsibility for the memorialisation of one Santiago's most infamous centres of detention, torture and extermination – José Domingo Cañas 1367 - after the return to democracy.  To it, she brought a commitment to the people of shanty-towns with whom she had worked throughout the dictatorship, insistent demands for justice for the perpetrators and an understanding of the significance of the site itself. Throughout their study of many such centres, José Domingo Cañas provides a unique example of the influence of a single, complex individual in determining the content and interpretation of a 'House of Memory'. This presentation will conclude with a pictorial tour of the site to correlate the extent to which Moya's personality remains embedded in the site today.





Ninth 2014 Debate
Transiting from dictatorship: Chile and Brazil’s histories and memories

Friday November 7, 2014, 4PM

Interview on the trilogy of books - The Memory Box of Pinochet’s Chile
With Professor Steve J. Stern, Department of History, University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA. 

video
Professor Steve Stern has written, among others, the books Reckoning with Pinochet: The Memory Question in Democratic Chile, 1989-2006; Battling for Hearts and Minds: Memory Struggles in Pinochet's Chile, 1973-1988; Remembering Pinochet's Chile: On the Eve of London 1998, and Shining and Other Paths: War and Society in Peru, 1980-1995, all published by Duke University Press. These publications have received the Bolton-Johnson and Recent History and Memory Best Books prizes by the Latin American Studies Association (USA). Professor Stern is a member of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences. About his work, the online journal e-misférica has written: “Stern’s now-completed trilogy is a remarkably varied, multi-disciplinary, and well-researched study of the Chilean memory question and recent history in general [...] By virtue of its clear explanations and graceful prose, it is well-suited for any readers interested in Chile or general issues of human rights and memory studies. It lays the foundation for more work in cultural and literary studies, and will surely remain one of the most important works in the field for years to come.”


La gestión gubernamental de la memoria en el Chile Postdictadura [video with subtitles in English and paper in Spanish]
By Dr Iván Pincheira, post-doctoral fellow at the Sociology Department, Universidad de Chile.

video

video video

Dr Pincheira talks about how diverse governmental actors in post-dictatorial Chile promote specific ways to represent the events of the past within the population. Memory demonstrates to be a recurrent object of governmental management and a central aspect in the subjective process of interpretation and creation of meaning of recent history. He also argues how these politics of memory, which have a tendency to represent the past mixed with the emotion of fear, are assembled with other dispositifs that reproduce the constitutional and economic order established during the dictatorship. Dr Pincheira is a sociologist from the Universidad de Concepción, and he has a Master and a Doctorate in Latin American Studies from Universidad de Chile and Universidad de Santiago de Chile. He has published books and articles relating to social movements, youth, biopolitics, governmentality and the sociology of emotions.


Shaping transitional justice in Brazil: a history of the Amnesty Commission (1979-2014)
By Pedro Teixerense, PhD candidate at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro and research analyst at the Brazilian National Truth Commission.

video video

Pedro Teixerense argues that societies that have experienced systematic violations of human rights tend to adopt a certain model of transitional justice, reflecting the political culture prevalent in each society and as an expression of the disputes among political groups vying for the control of the transitional process. Brazilian society has used amnesties laws to deal with political conflicts more than any other Western political community over the past century, a usage that can make the concept of amnesty a synonym of forgetfulness. Specifically, Pedro discusses the adoption of the 1979 Amnesty law, its consequences and the history of the Amnesty Commission created within the constitutional arrangement of the transition from dictatorship to democracy. Besides his work on Brazil and a Master in History from the University of Brasilia, Pedro Teixerense has researched the Uruguayan transition.




More information: latitudesgroup@gmail.com.