Fulbright Forward - A Diversity Podcast

Feminist Movements in Latin America and the Role of Literature - Dr. Guadalupe Maradei

February 01, 2021 FulbrightD&I Season 1 Episode 7
Fulbright Forward - A Diversity Podcast
Feminist Movements in Latin America and the Role of Literature - Dr. Guadalupe Maradei
Show Notes Transcript

“Ni una menos, ni una muerte más.” Not one woman less, not one more death. This phrase has functioned as one of the slogans both through social media and political discourse in the movement to fight gender-based violence, and to protect the lives of trans and cisgender women across Latin America. From its start in Argentina in 2015, ni una menos capture the ongoing struggle for gender equity and to change the gendered structures of power. In this episode of Fulbright Forward, Jeremy Gombin-Sperling, Fulbright Americas Diversity and Inclusion Liaison, speaks with Fulbright Argentina alumna, Dr. Guadalupe Maradei about recent feminist movements in Argentina and Latin America, and about how literature and literary criticism have contributed to the struggle for gender justice. 

Throughout the episode, Dr. Maradei references several events, artists, activists, and scholars involved in feminist movements. Please find a list of resources below:

Mariela Gouiric and her poem “Ley 26.485”: https://vimeo.com/110463794

“La Tesis” in Santiago, Chile: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aB7r6hdo3W4

Rita Laura Segato, “La escritura en el cuerpo de las mujeres asesinadas en Ciudad Juárez: territorio, soberanía, y crímenes de segundo estado: http://www.debatefeminista.pueg.unam.mx/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/articulos/037_05.pdf 

Feminist History of Literature Project in Argentina: https://www.eduvim.com.ar/blog/proyecto-historia-feminista-de-la-literatura-argentina 

Article on the Approved Abortion Law in Argentina: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/dec/30/argentina-legalises-abortion-in-landmark-moment-for-womens-rights 

Jeremy Gombin-Sperling  0:05  
Ni una menos, ni una muerte más. Not one woman less, not one more death. This phrase has functioned as one of the slogans both through social media and political discourse in the movement to fight gender based violence, and to protect the lives of trans and cisgender women across Latin America. From its start in Argentina in 2015, ni una menos captures the ongoing struggle for gender equity, and to change the gendered structures of power. It is one example of more recent manifestations in the deep and rich history of feminist movements throughout Latin America, movements that have revealed the power of grassroots organizing and collective action for social change. While this history is most notably captured through organize demonstration and protests, one of its most potent manifestations is through literature, and writing.

Welcome to another episode of Fulbright Forward, a diversity podcast. My name is Jeremy Gombin-Sperling, the Fulbright diversity and inclusion liaison for the Western Hemisphere programs. Today's episode is the first Fulbright Forward episode from the region where I work and features Dr. Guadalupe Maradei, a professor of literary theory, at Universidad de Buenos Aires in Buenos Aires, Argentina, whose work focuses on literary theory and criticism and studies of gender through literature. In addition to earning her doctorate from Universidad de Buenos Aires from the Department of Philosophy and letters, where she's also a researcher, instructor, Dr. Maradei has completed postgraduate work at Humboldt University in Berlin, Germany, and was a Fulbright scholar at New York University, where she completed project entitled literary criticism and gender perspective in the Argentinian culture: imports, translations and appropriation from Anglo Saxon theories. On today's episode, Dr. Maradei will share more about the recent events and shifts in the feminist movement in Latin America, and discuss the roles that literature and literary criticism have had in amplifying the rights and dignity of gender and sexual minorities.

Thank you so much for joining the podcast episode today. It's a real pleasure to have you.

Dr. Guadalupe Maradei  1:56  
Thank you so much for the introduction.

Jeremy Gombin-Sperling  1:59  
So to get things started, what we try to do in this podcast is we just want to hear more about who you are. So if you could just tell us more about your background, and in particular, the focus of your recent research and teaching.

Dr. Guadalupe Maradei  2:14  
Yes, in recent years, I have investigated the complex connection between cultural material, social practices, and historical change in the process of formation of literary value. One aspect of this research focused specifically on both the dictatorship Argentine literature histories, which resulted in a doctoral thesis entitled, post-dictatorship Argentine literary histories, periodization methods, interpretations over canon and critique controversies. There, the changes in the position of women writers in the Argentinian cultural canon, were examined. Moreover, it was analyzed in the ways in which contemporary critics established the formation of aesthetic canons as national cultures, cohesion mechanisms, and as a way of establishing difference through hierarchy of married sensibilities, and knowledge. My research as a Fulbright scholar in NYUintend to gather, describe, and analyze critical disourses that have been reading since the return of democracy to the present, Argentine literaturefrom a gender perspective. From this point, the project delved into the relationship between symbolic productions, ways of reading and cultural difference in the process of setting up a history of Argentine criticism. Focus was made on the import, translation, and appropriation of theoretical categories, especially from Anglo Saxon critiques such as Susan Sontag, Judith Butler, Donna Haraway, and Nancy Frasier.

Jeremy Gombin-Sperling  4:19  
That sounds like a really cool and just rewarding project. I appreciate you sharing that with us. So, in sort of us moving towards the main theme of this podcast episode, which is around feminist movements within Latin America, and specifically Argentina, I'd love if you could share just a little bit more on some of the developments within Argentina regarding legislation, policy that has really been pushed by the feminist movements themselves, and also just sort of like giving us a sense of what the climate looks like right now in Latin America.

Dr. Guadalupe Maradei  4:49  
Well, the new century in Argentina has been prolific in their production of a regulatory framework aimed at expanding the rights of women and sexual diversities. Milestones of this change have been the approval of several important laws. The law of comprehensive sexual education in 2006, the law of equal marriage in 2010, the law of gender identity in 2012, and the Law on Prevention and Eradication of Gender Violence in 2015. This regulatory framework has been accompanied by strong participation of the civil society in the claim and visibility of their demands. One of the most significant moments have been the consolidation at the national level of the #NiUnaMenos movement with a massive demonstration against gender violence on June 3, 2015 However, in recent years, we have seen a backlash against the series, the series of political achievements. In the public agenda, that is manifested through the return of hate speech enabled by a new neoconservative outpost in Latin America, for example, in Brazil, under the presidency of Jair Bolsonaro, in Bolivia, under the presidency of Jeanine Añez, in Argentina under the presidency of Mauricio Macri, or in Chile, under the presidency of Sebastian Piñera. This new scenario makes it essential to find new strategies to promote critical thinking.

Jeremy Gombin-Sperling  6:53  
Thank you for sharing that in both helping us understand how feminist movements in Argentina have worked to shape and push progressive policy in the country, and also for setting the context of this neoconservative shift within Latin America. And now I'm curious if you could share with us a bit more about some of the key examples of how feminist movements have taken shape in other parts of Latin America and how they've contributed to the conversation on feminism? 

Dr. Guadalupe Maradei  7:20  
Well, it was very impressive the woman of La Tesis in Chile, you know? That was a big, huge group of women who sing a song that denounced the rape, the rapes to women in Chile and the hypocrisy of society about these, these questions, these aspects of their, of their gender violence. La Tesis, La Tesis, and, and then they have another versions of this song in other countries. In, in, in Argentina, there was another version of the song of La Tesis. It was very, very important. Of course, in Mexico, it was the first time eh, when  justice begun to think that the concept of a femicide in Ciudad Juarez with the, with the murders of young, eh, young women. And their relationship with the narcos was the first time where the feminist movement and the society began to think the femicide as a problem as a social, political, and cultural problem. In Argentine, we have an anthropologist that's named Rita Segato that thinks a lot of things around femicide, and why Ciudad Juarez was the place where femicide take place, no? And the relationship with, with the women had a presence in in the laboral work. It's very interesting, the perspective of Rita Segato about femicide in Mexico. So in Mexico, there is too a very strong feminist movement. But unfortunately, the gender violence in America Latina, Latin America isn't eradicated. So in all the countries feminist movement has a lot of things to do.

Jeremy Gombin-Sperling  9:59  
I really appreciate your answer to because I think you also share also about how we think about how art plays into things, right? You mentioned about music as one example of how it's part of the movement. So I'd like to talk now more about your work. And so, more specifically, what has the role been of Latin American literature in feminism, and in amplifying the voices of people in this moment.

Dr. Guadalupe Maradei  10:27  
Eh, literature is a radar of experience. And many times, it aniticipates perceptions that people become aware later. For example, a set of texts written in the year around 2000 produce by writers such as Vera Giaconi, Mariela Gouiric, and Fernanda Laguna, not only put motherhood, marriage and family in the foreground, but also try to challenge traditional discursive strategies to narrate them. Among these new strategies, their appeal to a discourse of the body become significant. It narrate micro-transformations of the concepts of reproduction, work, eroticism, or disease. These texts are prior to the green tide of #NiUnaMenos and the rebirth of the struggles for desired motherhood and for the legal abortion right. Somehow, they managed to put into words a collective unrest that was latent, almost exploding.  

Jeremy Gombin-Sperling  11:53  
And can I ask, was there a particular text from these groups of texts or authors that have had a very large impact on you and your work?

Dr. Guadalupe Maradei  12:03  
Well, there is a poem of Mariela Gouiric, which title islaw  of violence of gender. It, it's very impressive. And it was, it was so very impressive how the social media took this poem as a manifest of the reclaim, no? An Argentine poet, Mariela Gouiric, write it in relation to personal experience, and a lot of young girls took it as their own, their own reclaim, their own words. That is very impressive in relation to the power of literature, the power of literature, Mariela Gouiric is the name of the poet. And the book of Mariela is entitled "Un método del mundo." A world method.

Jeremy Gombin-Sperling  13:15  
Thank you for sharing that I think it's so great to also be able to to have listeners learn more about potentially different authors and readers, they may not know about before this podcast and also for myself, too. So thank you for sharing that literature. So I'd like to also now talk more about the other major piece of your work, which is on literary criticism and how that plays into things. And I think, you know, one thing I'm very interested in as well is I think what's important about this podcast is to expand the number of perspectives we get on these different fields right, so that we are able to see globally how you know, how Latin America, how Argentina is talking about, for example, literary criticism as it relates to feminism. So yeah, if you could share more just about literary criticism, feminism, and your work.

Dr. Guadalupe Maradei  14:04  
Well, it's very interesting. For example, Griselda Pollock highlight that the canon of the history of Western art and literature is one of the most virulent and virilent. The cannon, considered as texts and objects of literature and art that academic and cultural institutions establish as the most representative and significant, is also a proposition about what should be studied as a model by the people who desire to become professional artists. Recently, different interventions have denounced the Western canon modes of selection and how these modes - which are ideological and political - try to go unnoticed through the presumably innocuous idea of "tradition." What is obscured there is the active process of exclusion operated by current makers of tradition. Furthermore, canonical literary criticism, for many years, has used the notion of literary quality. The criterion of literary quality, when considered from the androcentric perspective that still predominates in literary studies, throws the literary works of women into the space of productions without legitimation, below the required artistic level. In this mechanism operates the legitimation of a "selective tradition" that has exaggerated the figure of a few women writers as literary examples of their times but, at the same time, avoids what this hyperbolic construction hides.  

Jeremy Gombin-Sperling  16:11  
So thank you so much for sharing that answer. I know I appreciate also how you talk about how, right, there's this canon of Western literature has hidden, marginalized, pushed down the voice of women and many others. For you, how do you see current literary criticism helping to amplify the voices of women, and I know some of your work also talks about you know, other gender and sexual minorities. So just curious, how you see literary criticism helping to amplify the voices of those that have been pushed down by the traditional canon?

Dr. Guadalupe Maradei  16:51  
It, for example, right now, in Argentine, a lot of researchers of the Institute of Buenos Aires University are writing history of feminist history of Argentine literature. It's only a perspective, a feminist perspective of the literature. Is the first feminist history of literature in Argentine. So, that is a way of change the point of view around which texts are good or which texts are out of literature, you know? The notion of literary quality, have these connotations, you know? Some texts are in literature, but another text are out literature. And in the case of the literature of women, we have a lot of cases in which the personal experience is very important. And for a lot of, a lot of time, this perspective or this feature of the of the women literature was consider something that had a bad result, result related to a bad level of the of the literature. So if you change the criterion, if you change the point of view,through you you read the poems, the novels, there, the chronics, the letters, or all the texts of the writers, maybe you can, you can elaborate another series on another groups and other associations. I think that the feminists and the diversity, criticism, has these responsibilities: create another form of read, because the actual form of read has the problem that in a lot of cases, use several forms of the androcentric culture. I don't know if it's clear, but I think that the history, the feminist history of Argentine literary, literature is a very good example of the form of contribute  to change the ways of reading.

Jeremy Gombin-Sperling  16:59  
For me that came through very clear. I mean, I think what I appreciated was when you talked about this idea of the criteria, because I think what I'm also hearing, which is something we see in other fields, too, is about who is determining the criteria, and it sounds like something in the experience in Argentina is trying to change the narrative which sounds like it comes from a very predominantly male, perhaps heterosexual, you know, perspective when it comes to literature and what that does when we're trying to evaluate quality, right, whose criteria determines the quality of the works we're looking at. So thank you for sharing that. So we only have a few more minutes left, and I'd like to talk a little bit now more about the impact of COVID-19. So I'm curious if you could elaborate a bit on how COVID-19 has impacted feminist movements, and in particular, any role that literature has played in sort of amplifying the experiences of people, especially of course, women and gender minorities during this particular moment?

Dr. Guadalupe Maradei  20:40  
Yes. Unfortunately, during the pandemic, the murders of women in Argentina increase significantly. One of the reasons is the obligation to be isolated in the domestic space, which for many women means being locked up with the aggressor. This women's movement has redoubled its efforts to make visible the situations of violence that anticipates a femicide. In response, the recently created Ministry of women, gender, and diversity has enabled different communication channels to ask for help, or denounce the different forms of gender violence against women, despite their isolation. The good news is that tthe bill on voluntary interruption of pregnancy is probably going to be approved in two weeks. In Argentina, abortion, that is a the abortion that is not the result of rape is punished by law. Therefore 1000s of women and girls perform clandestine abortions putting their physical and mental health at risk, and on many occasions, losing their lives. Despite COVID-19, the claim of the women's movement has been so strong, that Parliament has been forced to debate a new bill to make abortion legal. And this time after 30 years of struggle, there are good prospects.

Jeremy Gombin-Sperling  22:36  
Thank you for sharing that. It is powerful and important to see that this law is possibly coming to be approved within very, very soon. And just and to know that of course, this bill would not happen without the feminist movement and everyone that's pushing for this change within Argentina. We are coming to a close soon on this podcast. I guess the question I just would like to ask you is what would you like the audience to take away from this discussion?

Dr. Guadalupe Maradei  23:05  
Well, I would like the struggles for women's rights and the sexual diversity in Argentina and Latin America to be known by everyone, everywhere, especially by young people. I wish that these struggles, inspire them to live in freedom and pride their gender and their sexual orientation. And it should foster for struggles for equality of gender and the expansion of rights.

Jeremy Gombin-Sperling  23:36  
And finally, is there anything else you shared just about the power of literature, anything from your work as to say to people about how literature how writing, how critique, you know, can contribute to social change.

Dr. Guadalupe Maradei  23:51  
Eh, no. Congratulations to Fulbright Program. I think that initiative is is very important. And that is a contribution to the struggles to the visibility and the expansion of their rights.

Jeremy Gombin-Sperling  24:07  
Thank you so much.

Dr. Guadalupe Maradei  24:09  
Thank you very much.

Jeremy Gombin-Sperling  24:10  
And thank you so much for tuning in to this episode of Fullbright Forward. You can find links to the different events, artists, thinkers, writers and media that Dr. Maradei mentioned in the description for this podcast on our buzzsprout site. A quick update: The law on abortion that Dr. Maradei mentioned at the end of the podcast episode passed on December 30 2020 in Argentina, making Argentina the largest country in Latin America to allow this procedure. Anyone is able now to get an abortion within 14 weeks of pregnancy, and the government has begun to drop charges against those who are accused of having an abortion before the laws passing. And as this episode shows us, none of this would have been possible without the concerted and organized efforts of the feminist movements in Argentina to support and advance reproductive rights. With that said, we now come to the conclusion of this episode. Thank you again so much for tuning in, and until next time.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai