On LASA Lima. Laura Lomas

Deconstruyendo el caracter elitista de LASA Lima, un llamado a los americanistas a recordar que hay una cosa que se llama ayni del conociento. Tomado del FB de Laura Lomas

On LASA in Lima.

Laura Lomas, Rutgers University

I want to ask leaders of LASA to seriously consider this question of how to make our academic meetings more meaningful by investing some resources into inviting local students and scholars to attend, as a key part of the preparation for the meeting. We might think of the wildly popular «ferias de libro» that take place throughout the region as a model to gauge the interest of the average Caribbean or Latin American student and scholar in the conversations taking place at LASA.

Taking advantage of the $10 pass for independent scholars and interested parties who have never been members of LASA, one scholar from Santa Cruz de Sukchabamba, a small provincial town of one thousand people attended the sessions of our Fifty-first Congress in Lima. He was struck by how few Peruvian students from all the universities in Lima attended the sessions. I replied that holding the conference at a university, rather than a hotel, had actually increased the size of the audience for most of the sessions I attended, as compared to recent LASA gatherings in New York and Puerto Rico.

This independent researcher and poet told me that the only literature to which he had access growing up in the Sierra de Cajamarca, in the north of Peru, were literary supplements from Lima such as El Unicornio, El Caballo Rojo, and two international magazines Sputnik, and China reconstruye. So when Julio Ramón Ribeyro was to visit Chiclayo in the 1990s, the coastal town to which his family had emigrated precisely so everyone could gain access to secondary education, it represented a major event for anyone vaguely interested in literature. Ribeyro’s organizers arranged for a contingent of eighty college students from the Instituto Pedagógico, in exchange for a small fee, might attend and receive a Certificate of Participation. This is a model that LASA might reproduce by sending out a community organizer to all the local academic institutions in order to invite students to attend our sessions. Furthermore, this single testimony suggests the dramatic lack of access to scholarly conversations in post-colonial Latin American and Caribbean cultures. In Peru alone, probably only 10% have access to higher education and of that 10% the vast majority do not have access the bibliography and conversations that occur at a LASA congress.

Several small Peruvian presses had complained on facebook about the financial barriers to participating in the book fair. It costs $1,500 for a table at the book fair. It is $220 to enroll in the congress as a presenter. Even the dramatically discounted $10 for the local participant could present a barrier to a Latin American or Caribbean student much less the average working person. The question of who exactly is our audience and who will be able to present at our meetings comes into view: do we want our scholarship to circulate and give voice only to the elite and the well-placed academics ensconced in institutions tied to powerful economies? Based on conversations at our sessions, I think most of us would appreciate more interlocutors and to hear from scholars seeking to decolonize knowledge and structures of access in Latin America and the Caribbean.

When I asked a recent graduate of the PUCP in Sociology about whether he had attended LASA, he said he did. Although the 33 soles he spent represents a reasonably large portion of the 850 soles that a waged worker earns each month in Peru, he felt it was worth it. He was able to have direct contact with Cuban intellectuals. In the special session on doing research on Cuba, this student noted the need to think about connections among scholars within Latin America and the Caribbean, and not necessarily just between the US and the Caribbean or Latin America.

Models for increasing participation might include: 1)continuing the policy of the “local” rate; 2) creating a student, worker or unwaged worker rate; 3) hiring local staff and students to assist with community outreach and commissioning someone in the LASA leadership to focus specifically on the question of networking locally in order to increase attendance and engagement. Finally, we might want to find ways to redistribute the LASA budget so that large lectures and events take place in a more popular and easily accessible venue than the exclusive luxury hotels in the wealthy neighborhood of San Isidro. At the «Gran Baile» in the future, I think LASA should ensure that the host country’s culture be more fully represented. How can we come to Peru and not dance a single huayno? The answer is the persistent structures of coloniality, the very structures that Latin American and Caribbean activists and intellectuals have been struggling for centuries to dismantle so that other, decolonial ways of knowing might circulate. If we really are committed to a «diálogo de saberes,» I hope LASA’s leadership might take seriously this recommendation.

2 comentarios en “On LASA Lima. Laura Lomas

  1. El texto trae a mi memoria el concepto del intelectual orgánico que definió con precisión Gramsci. Considero que la ideología es una práctica social que orienta de manera entrañable la vida de los individuos de una comunidad por lo cual no se suele tomar conciencia de que la poseemos y la reproducimos cotidianamente. Por ello me parece saludable que los intelectuales de un pueblo dado se preocupen de que su convocatoria intercultural aún no tenga eco y empiecen a plantear los posibles factores y causas para este problema a fin de solucionarlo. No obstante, me parece algo mecánico reducir la problemática a solo el aspecto económico. Cabría preguntarse cuán intercultural es la propia convocatoria y el proceso comunicativo de intercambio de ideas en este tipo de eventos.

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