"I would like my students to become global citizens with political and ethical awareness."
Fernando Blanco was only seven years old when his home country of Chile was changed forever by the coup that displaced President Salvador Allende. That was when the South American democracy began a period of violence and uncertainty that would shape its people and history.
As a scholar, the professor of Spanish and Latin American cultures and film realized that he and many others have memories of that time period that are not reflected in the official stories. He says, "I have my own perspective of how the violent situation affected my intimacy, my private life and my family. So I was a privileged witness of how my family had to cope."
Blanco works in the areas of memory studies and sexuality studies, which fall under the umbrella of cultural studies. His interest is in how people retell their own stories as they connect to a traumatic event. He explains, "I look at how people are excluded from the national narrative, how people are excluded from the official version of a story, or how people who are traditionally conceived as the victim have some privileges over people who want to tell their own stories, but were not participating on the front lines of the event."
In his first book, Desmemoria y Perversión. Privatizar lo Público. Mediatizar lo Privado. Administrar lo Intimo (Santiago de Chile: Cuarto Propio, 2010), he looks at memory through the lens of visual artists who explore the voices of women as well as racial and sexual minorities. He says that the book also looks at the connection between memory and perversion and how a person can read history not just in a new light, but also recognizing that we live in different times. "Individuals now have been shaped in a different way," he says. "We are not the same people that we used to be." Currently, Blanco is examining the same types of narratives in Central America, particularly in relation to the perversion of power in Nicaragua.
His scholarship extends into the classroom, where he uses testimony, journals, literature and film to explore culture and history through narrative and perspective. He says, "My first connection with students is how they relate themselves to their own past. What's the value of the past?" In a society where students are always moving forward and there is positive reinforcement for that, he asks them to think about their family history, the most important events of their childhood and their parents' childhood. This starts them thinking about history, memory and culture, fields which he says are as important to explore as learning other languages.
"I would like my students to become global citizens with political and ethical awareness," he says. "My connection is to have ethical students in my classroom."
Posted October 10, 2013
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