“It is very important to strengthen the networks and scientific societies in all scientific areas in Latin-America. These networks can support and help threatened or displaced colleagues whenever needed.”
Interview with Dr. Silvia Braslavsky, a chemist, who was a research leader until her retirement in the Max Planck Institute for Radiation Chemistry (today Max Planck Institute for Chemical Energy Conversion).
In this interview Dr. Braslavsky tells us how the exodus and exile of scientists in Latin-America, and in particular in Argentina, due to military coups, threats and shear instability, also in the context of violence and state repression, are not new phenomena in the region. Having left Argentina twice (in 1966 and again in 1975) she tells us that violence, persecution and contempt against the scientific and academic community in Argentina have often recurred, with deep negative consequences for the social and scientific development of the country and also personally for scientists and their families.
Silvia Braslavsky emigrated from Argentina to Chile in 1966, after the military intervention of the Universities. From 1966 to 1969 she was a post-doctoral fellow in the United States and in 1972 she returned to Argentina as a Professor for the newly created University of Rio Cuarto in the province of Cordoba. In 1975 she again left bound for the US with her two daughters, then continued towards to Canada and in October 1976 she was invited to join the Max Planck Institute for Radiation Chemistry in Mülheim an der Ruhr (Germany), where she has led a research group on biological photoreceptors until her retirement in 2007.
Exposure and persecution of professors in Brazil
Interview with Brazilian researchers and professors Pâmella Passos, Evelyn Morgan and Amanda Mendonça
The three researchers currently working on the research project “Educators are defenders” [“Los educadores son defensores”] tell us about the worrying impact of the conservative advance on Brazilian education and the growing attacks suffered by those that research and teach from a critical perspective. In addition, they point to the ever-increasing use of social networks as an instrument of exposure, persecution and harassment of educators. All of these alarming events lead to a process of weakening democracy, the restriction of academic freedom and deterioration in the quality of public education in Brazil.
Pâmella Passos is a professor at the Federal Institute of Education, Science and Technology of Rio de Janeiro (IFRJ). She carried out two postdoctoral research studies, one in the Education Post-Graduation Programme from Fluminense Federal University (2021). Prior to that, she undertook a postdoctoral research at the Social Anthropology Post-Graduation Programme /National Museum/Rio de Janeiro Federal University (2016). In addition, Pâmella holds a PhD in Social History from the Fluminense Federal University and a Master’s degree in History, focused on Political History from the Rio de Janeiro State University. She is deputy director of the Technology, Education and Culture Research Group (GPTEC) and is currently the coordinator of the research project “Educators are defenders,” a feasibility study for the establishment of a shelter programme for educators at risk in Brazil.
Evelyn Morgan is a professor at the Federal Institute of Education, Science and Technology of Rio de Janeiro (IFRJ). She holds a PhD in History and Cultural Heritage from the Contemporary Brazilian History Research and Documentation Centre (CPDOC/FGV) of the Getúlio Vargas Foundation. She is at present deputy coordinator of the research project “Educators are defenders.”
Amanda Mendonça holds a PhD in Social Politics from Fluminense Federal University and was awarded a post-doctoral fellowship from the Education Post-Graduation Programme at the Fluminense Federal University (2021). She also holds a master’s degree in Education from the Education Post-Graduation Programme – PPGE / UFRJ and is a specialist in gender and sexuality issues from the Rio de Janeiro State University (UERJ). She is a member of the Observatory of Securalism in Education – OLÉ and an associated researcher of the Technology, Education and Culture Research Group (GPTEC). She is at present a general research assistant in the research project “Educators are defenders.”
“Academics prefer to keep a low profile and avoid being identified as potential targets of attacks.”
Interview with Mexican researcher and historian Celia del Palacio
Historian Celia del Palacio, a specialist in studies of violence against the press in Mexico, is currently conducting research into dynamics of attacks and violence against academics, students and universities in Mexico. In this interview, Celia shares with us some of the partial findings of her research on a type of violence that is usually invisibilised, concealed and even normalised by society and, on many occasions, by the victims themselves.
Professor Celia del Palacio holds a PhD in history from the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), and is a member of the National System of Researchers and a researcher at Veracruzana University. She has authored a significant number of renowned books and articles on the history of the press in the regions of Mexico and violence against Mexican journalists in the past few years. At present, Celia is a fellow at the Maria Sibylla Merian Center for Advanced Latin American Studies (CALAS) in Guadalajara.
“It is sad that in Colombia we are more prepared for death than for life”
Interview with Professor Sara Fernández from the University of Antioquia, Colombia
Professor Sara Fernández, Secretary of the Board of Directors of the Association of Professors of the University of Antioquia, was forced to leave her country after being the victim of an attack against her life in her home in Medellín in March 2020. The Association of Professors of the University of Antioquia, of which Sara is a member, and other university organisations, colleagues and students of the University, had received threats some days before the attack. The attack suffered by Professor Fernández is not an isolated case in Antioquia. Quite on the contrary, it evidences a historic and cyclical pattern of violence against those who work at university and defend public education in Antioquia and in the country. The interview also describes the difficulties faced by universities to address this type of situations and provide appropriate support.
Sara Yaneth Fernández Moreno belongs to the second generation of professionals in her family. She is an academic, feminist and activist, and a defender of health and education as a basic, free-of-charge and universal human right, guaranteed by the state. Sara is a fighter for sexual and reproductive rights, sexual dissidence and a defender of a life free from violence for women.
Interview with political scientist and co-founder of the Network Academics under Threat, Francesca Lessa
The case of Francesca Lessa was one of the cases that prompted the first gathering where the network Academics under Threat was established in Barcelona in 2018. In that gathering, researchers from different countries and disciplines shared their too often silenced stories of harassment and threats because of their research and teaching work at university.
Francesca Lessa is an assistant lecturer in Latin American Studies and Development at the University of Oxford. In addition, she is the honorary president of the Luz Ibarburu Observatory in Uruguay. She holds a PhD in International Relations (London School of Economics and Political Science) and was a Marie Skłodowska-Curie research fellow from 2016 to 2020. She has authored the book “Memory and Transitional Justice in Argentina and Uruguay: Against Impunity” (2013) and co-edited the volumes “Amnesty in the Age of Human Rights Accountability: Comparative and International Perspectives” (with Leigh A. Payne, 2012), “The Memory of State Terrorism in the Southern Cone: Argentina, Chile, and Uruguay” (with Vincent Druliolle, 2011) and “Luchas contra la impunidad: Uruguay 1985-2011” (with Gabriela Fried, 2011).
“The risk of writing about violence and doing fieldwork and research in Colombia.”
Interview with Colombian anthropologist Lerber Dimas Vásquez.
Lerber Dimas Vásquez, a Colombian anthropologist and an expert on urban violence and organised crime in the Sierra Nevada region of Colombia, shares his experience of threats and intimidation that forced him to leave the country.
Lerber Dimas Vásquez is a member of the Oraloteca of the University of Magdalena and a member of the Research Group on Education, Human Rights and Humanised Teaching of Science and Technology of the Federal Institute of Triangulo Mineiro (IFTM), Minas Gerais. He is also part of the Scientific Committee of International Researchers of the publishing house Navegando (Brazil) and a professor of anthropology at the University of La Guajira.