A situated introduction from a new FI Fellow

Inverted Latin America by Joaquin Torres GarciaI took time to write this post for different reasons. The first one is that time has shredded in a weird way this year, going either faster or slower with no clear pattern, and work has expanded with virtuality.

The other reason is that I find it extremely hard to write, especially if I have to speak about me. What does it mean to introduce myself? In a classic way I could say that I am a PhD candidate in Geography at the Graduate Center, that I am interested in the restructuring of urban planning in the city of Rosario (Argentina) based on the shift to the extractivist soybean economy in the region, and that I specifically study the organized resistance of the inhabitants from their neighborhoods. It would be very reductive and would not exactly explain why I applied to the Futures Initiative.

It is important to mention that I applied partly because, as so many grad students at CUNY and in public universities across the USA and elsewhere, I had almost no funding and my conditions of life were threatened. It might be trivial to write about it, but I cannot separate this situation from a wider commitment towards public university and higher education, as well as with the question of the material and historical contexts in which students, instructors and administrative workers of the university are embedded. Our hope and imagination as workers, thinkers and learners are immensely constricted or widened by those conditions, and 2020 has proven once again how important it is to fight for decent and dignifying conditions for our communities.

This has been a constant concern since I had the great chance to receive my training at public universities in France and later in Argentina. The latter is where professors, colleagues and classmates helped me think critically about my European education, introduced me to Global South epistemologies, situated knowledge and decolonial thinking. These conceptual reflections oriented my research interests, the way I interact with students as well as the way I want to participate to transform higher education. My experience in Argentina showed me the role and responsibility of the university towards the community it belongs to and towards the territory it is rooted in. How can the institution become a mechanism of liberation and improvement of life rather than one of perpetuation of inequalities? My convictions regarding the need for a committed higher education were reinforced by my participation in the creation of the national public university of Rafaela (Argentina). The conception of the institution, its implementation and the first courses I had to teach raised so many challenges. How to create an institution that would actively contribute to the development of the region through the recognition of local knowledge, the co-construction of scientific innovations serving the community, and through inclusive pedagogy centering the needs of the students? How do we create a higher education that makes space for the multiple epistemologies existing in this world and recognizes otherness as the political basis to imagine alternative futures?

These questions are my compass as a student of the Grad Center, as an adjunct at Hunter College and as a new member of the Futures Initiative. I am thrilled to be part of this team, and I hope to learn more about pedagogy and collaborative methods to work within the academy while helping to articulate our work and commitment with challenges and debates from other regions. I hope to contribute to situating FI within a wider geography of higher education as a political project of liberation.

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