Every semester SURCLA presents regular seminars on topics of interest to students of Spanish and Latin American Studies, as well as a series of documentary screenings. See "Latest Events" for upcoming talks and screenings.

SURCLA seminar | New research: Liana Mercedes Torres, Steven Bunce, Inés Durán Matute

4 June, 2013
5.30 - 7.00pm

”The multiple voices of Colombians in Australia: Politics makes them talk even more”
Liana Mercedes Torres Casierra

Colombians in their country and abroad have been sold the idea that they hold a uniting and quite ‘exotic’ identity that is worth being even commercially branded to improve the country’s international image and therefore foreign investment (e.g. Marca País Colombia However, the so called Colombian identity cannot be completely grasped excluding the political tensions and the socio–economic divide that seem to fluctuate continuously and help create new individual and collective identities and re-create them along the course of events that are overnight sensations as local media either spreads them or hides them all about (e.g. peace talks with guerrilla groups as opposed to the coffee growers national strike).  The perception of Colombian ex-pats in Australia shows how they hold multiple identities that become transversal and are differently mobilised when such happenings come into question and debate.

In this talk, the presenter will share an overview of the theoretical framework and methodology of her research which investigates how Colombians in Australia construct and reflect on their identities and the extent to which such constructions are influenced by the socio-political events that marked the history of Colombia between 2002 and 2010 and continue being in evidence. Liana will also share some of her findings from the pilot sessions of data collection she has conducted so far.

Liana Mercedes Torres completed a Master in Applied Linguistics (TESOL) at Macquarie University in 2008. She taught English as a Second Language for overseas students in Sydney for almost five years. She is currently a PhD candidate in the Spanish and Latin American Studies Department at the University of Sydney. Her research aims at giving a more realistic voice to Colombians abroad, specifically in Sydney, and disseminate their views on and the fashion they construct their identities in different scenarios and through the recount of their lived experience as migrants in Australia.

“The Law of the Most Alive: Class and Stratification In Colombia”
Steven Bunce

A class-based social order is an enduring feature of Colombian life, but the emphasis on its violent consequences has eclipsed the underlying characteristics of the country's political culture and social composition. Colombia is an ostensibly hierarchical society with very ingrained imaginaries of social class. In the major cities, these are pronounced by a public policy of stratification that allots residents into a numerical category based on zone of residence. This policy has been accused of reproducing a highly unequal status quo, but it is generally regarded as a common-sense practice of urban planning.

This study is based on 18 months fieldwork in Bogota, a city with a very fragile and incipient civic culture, where masses of poor neighbourhoods orbit a remarkably closed locus of power and privilege.  Delving into major city corruption scandals, the curriculum of elite schools, the social networks of the best universities, and criminal and informal urban markets, among others, this research discusses the continuities and changes of power structures in Bogota in the context of global capitalism.

Opting for an ethnographic approach combined with social psychology, it maps the interpersonal domains of a sample of residents from every socioeconomic background. By concentrating on not only on 'the margins', but on 'the establishment' as well, a clearer picture emerges of how the diverse social capital and internecine concerns of different groups prop up a highly fragmented social fabric and city landscape.

Steven Bunce is a PhD candidate at the University of Sydney. He completed his Honours year with the Department of Spanish and Latin American Studies, before pursuing an internship at the UN High Commissioner for Refugees in Geneva. He resided in Bogota from 2011 to 2012, where he worked alongside various community foundations and NGOs while studying at the local Universidad Javeriana.

Mapping the political subjects constructing a path for “progress” in the Indigenous village of Mezcala (Mexico)
Inés Durán Matute

The main purpose of this paper is to present the progress of my PhD project, that aims to interrogate the policies and actions of the Mexican State (three levels: national, state, municipal) within the context of the experience of the comuneros of the indigenous community of Mezcala, who have been raising concerns about the plans of the state, and its migrants to the United States associated with the Club Mezcala in Los Angeles, that are forced to leave due to the economic, political and social conditions. In this way, the study explores the narratives of these two groups while it analyses neoliberal policies in Latin America, specifically in Mexico, and their impact. So far only the first part of the fieldwork is completed, and thus, this presentation is a first approximation to trace the institutional networks and the relations of power of different subjects negotiating with the Mexican state and institutions, the projects with a view to further enhancing “progress” in the community. By taking up participant observation, media collection and sixteen in-depth interviews, I recover the lived experience of these subjects in order to perceive how “development” is understood and what are the different paths designed that reproduce the same neoliberal models while they challenge them and construct alternative autonomic projects.

In brief, the objective is to identify where the group in question stands and how the current (and inherited) state-of-play constrains but also shapes their actions in order to map key trends in the global-regional-local interface of power and the purpose of negotiating spaces to reach the alleged “progress”.

Inés Durán Matute: Since 2011, I have been pursuing my postgraduate studies at the University of Sydney; my research project focuses on the experience, motivations, mechanisms and adaptations of the indigenous community of Mezcala in the context of the neoliberal globalization model of urban-industrial development.

I obtained a Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology with a Major in Spanish and Latin American Studies from the University of Guadalajara (Mexico). During my studies, I attended an academic exchange program at the University of Buenos Aires (Argentina) and another at the University of Alcalá de Henares (Spain). Regarding my research experience, I participated in a research project about Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children (CSEC) in Guadalajara and Puerto Vallarta (Mexico) sponsored by the International Labor Organization (ILO). In addition, I worked as a research assistant in the Department of Iberian and Latin American Studies (University of Guadalajara) and in the Research and Superior Studies Center of Social Anthropology (CIESAS-Occidente/Guadalajara).

Location: Old Teachers College Room 438

Contact:Vek Lewis

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