Sunday, 19 July 2009

El asilo contra la opresión

The recent break in blogging is due in large measure to the fact that I was involved in the XXI World Congress of Political Science here in Santiago. Over two thousand political scientists, including Sartori, Morlino, Schmitter, Whitehead, Karl and Stepan, showed up. Plus Lagos, Jospin and President Bachelet.

What struck me about the congress was the difference with Latin American Studies Association congresses. The panels were all full of people, the papers were actually decent, and the number and quality of plenary sessions was far superior to anything LASA does, and far superior to what I had expected. Of course there are duds, but overall, it confirms that LASA, at least as far as political science participation, is in serious trouble.

Another impressive memory will be of a reception at the Moneda, where Michelle Bachelet held her own against a large group of political scientists, discussing chilean politics and history, in English. Other aspects of that visit will be mentioned elsewhere, but for me, that was really something. (The canapés were good too).

Finally, the Moneda visit as well as the closing ceremonies, where outgoing IPSA president choked up as she quoted the final words of the Chilean national anthem:

Sweet fatherland, accept the vows
With which Chile swore at your altars:
Either you'll be the tomb of the free
Or the refuge against oppression

Both those things highlighted just how important recent Chilean history has been for many colleagues, how central it has been to their work, their outlook, and their lives. Even if they have not worked directly on Chile, there is something about what took place here that continues to haunt the political science community, and it seems like it will be a generation before that changes.

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