I am moved everyday, emotionally and to action, by the emails I am receiving. I excerpt from an email that arrived yesterday. Thank you to this former student for reaching out, and making painfully clear what is at stake here.
Dear Professor Theidon,
You may not remember me, but I took Memory Politics with you in the Fall of 20XX. It was a formative class for me and midway through the course I declared my concentration in anthropology. I have been reading coverage of the university’s denial of your tenure. I write to say that to me, your actions serve as proof that your commitment to social justice is as real in your personal life as it is in your academic one, and that the compassion and care you showed to those in your ethnographic work does not remain in the field when you return to Cambridge.
For most of us who reach Harvard, it is the pinnacle of a life spent reading and learning, and we are supposed to be grateful and say nothing but thank you to the institution. But in my time at Harvard, I also had to learn to be a partner and a friend to women who faced their rapists in class and feared being kicked out for having mental health concerns. I ultimately lost two of these beautiful friends to suicide. I applaud your strong stance and your personal commitment to students in an academic environment where that support from a professor is rare.
My best wishes to you.
[Name withheld for privacy concerns]
Courage is contagious, and it appears more people on the Harvard campus are catching it. Excellent news.
By Charles Walker, UC Davis
THURSDAY, April 10, 2014
“Challenging Impunity in Domestic Courts: Human Rights Prosecutions in Latin America,” A Conversation with Professor Jo-Marie Burt, Co-Director of the Center for Global Studies, Director of Latin American Studies, and Associate Professor in the Department of Public and International Affairs at George Mason University, and Victoria Sanford, professor of anthropology and founding director of the Center for Human Rights and Peace Studies at Lehman College (CUNY), moderated by Irina Carlota Silber, Associate Professor, Anthropology, City College of New York (CUNY)
Division of Interdisciplinary Studies @ Center for Worker Education, CUNY
25 Broadway, 7th Floor New York, NY 10004
Contact: 212 925 6625, ext 0
Since the first truth commissions began to issue reports on atrocities committed in the Southern Cone during the dictatorships of the 1970s and 1980s, transitional justice has become a cornerstone to building democratic spaces for citizens and bringing pariah states back into the fold of international relations. While hailed by the international community as significant advancements toward reconciliation and justice, the lived experience of citizens in Latin America has been mixed. Some thirty years after the atrocities, including genocide in Guatemala, most intellectual authors and perpetrators of crimes against humanity live with impunity. Or do they? In this conversation, Professors Burt, Sanford and Silber discuss the successes and failures of transitional justice in Latin America. Drawing on their vast experience working on domestic and international human rights cases over the past two decades, they consider the successful prosecutions in Argentina, Chile, Peru, and Guatemala as well as the precedent setting international human rights cases in the Spanish national court. What is the role of the international community in securing justice for victims after dictatorship? Are truth commissions a path to reconciliation and justice? What role does prosecution play?
Dr. Jo-Marie Burt is Co-Director of the Center for Global Studies, Director of Latin American Studies, and Associate Professor in the Depatrment of Public and International Affairs at George Mason University. Dr. Burt has published widely on political violence, human rights, and transitional justice and historical memory in Latin America. She is author of Silencing Civil Society: Political Violence and the Authoritarian State in Peru (Palgrave, 2007) [published in Spanish as Violencia y Autoritarismo en el Perú: Bajo la sombra de Sendero y la dictadura de Fujimori (Instituto de Estudios Peruanos, 2009 and 2nd ed. 2011)], and is co-editor of Politics in the Andes: Identity, Conflict, Reform (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2004). In 2002-3, Dr. Burt was a researcher for the Peruvian Truth and Reconciliation Commission, a Fulbright Visiting Scholar at the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru in 2006, and in 2010 the “Alberto Flores Galindo” Visiting Professor again at Catholic University in Peru. She is currently conducting research on domestic human rights prosecutions in Latin America and directs the Human Rights Trials in Peru Project. As part of her research, she has been an international observer to the human rights trials of former heads of state Alberto Fujimori in Peru and Jose Efrain Rios Montt in Guatemala. Dr. Burt is a Senior Fellow at the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA). She holds a Ph.D. in political science from Columbia University.
Dr. Victoria Sanford is professor of anthropology at Lehman College where she is founding director of the Center for Human Rights and Peace Studies. She serves on the Doctoral Faculty at the City University of New York Graduate Center. She is a Research Associate at Columbia University’s Center for International Conflict Resolution and an Affiliated Scholar at Rutgers University’s Center for the Study of Genocide and Human Rights. She holds a doctorate in Anthropology from Stanford University where she studied International Human Rights Law at Stanford Law School and she holds a certificate in Human Rights Law from the Inter-American Institute of Human Rights in Costa Rica. She is the recipient of a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship, a Bunting Peace Fellowship at Harvard’s Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Studies, a United States Institute for Peace grant, a Fulbright Teaching/Research Award, and a Rockefeller Fellowship, among others. She is the author of Buried Secrets: Truth and Human Rights in Guatemala (2003),Violencia y Genocidio en Guatemala (2003), Guatemala: Del Genocidio al Feminicidio(2008), La Masacre de Panzos: Etnicidad, Tierra y Violencia en Guatemala (2009), and co-author of the Guatemalan Forensic Anthropology Foundation’s report to the Commission for Historical Clarification (the Guatemalan truth commission). In August of 2012, she served as an invited expert witness on the Guatemalan genocide before Judge Santiago Pedraz in the Spanish National Court’s international genocide case against the Guatemalan generals. She is currently writing This is How It Works ~ Violence & Traumatic Memory Across Generations.
Dr. Irina Carlota (Lotti) Silber is associate professor of anthropology at City College of New York. She is also currently a Faculty Fellow at the Center for Place, Culture, and Politics at the CUNY Graduate Center. Dr. Silber’s overarching work explores postwar processes in one of El Salvador’s former warzones and a region known for its peasant revolutionary participation. This longitudinal project is also a study of the Salvadoran diaspora.
Her work has been supported by various grants including a Rockefeller Fellowship, and has been published in journals such as Gender & History, Women’s Studies Quarterly, Anthropology & Humanism. She is the author of Everyday Revolutionaries: Gender, Violence, and Disillusionment in Postwar El Salvador(2011) which received the 2013 International Latino Book Award in the Best First Book, Nonfiction category. She is also the recipient of the First Prize in Poetry from the Society for Humanistic Anthropology, a section of the American Anthropological Association.
I applaud these young women and fully support their efforts to make Harvard a safer place for students and faculty alike.
I think we academics generally head off to give talks thinking we will travel long, give our lectures, and look forward to being back home. I certainly look forward to seeing my partner and our ridiculously cute canine companions. However, being at the University of Oregon feels as though I am on vacation. The university is embroiled in the aftermath of a campus sexual assault, and there are protests and sit-ins. I had the privilege of spending time with faculty members who are active in the protests, meeting with the university president and provost, standing up with their students to demand change. This is a stark contrast from Harvard where, to my knowledge, not a single tenured professor has said a word in support of our students and their Title IX Campaign. How is it possible that no one had anything to say about the searing “Harvard: You Win” letter? I still do not understand it. So spending time with my colleagues here has soothed my soul. I needed this trip. Thank you so much.