History Speaks

A symposium titled “Memory, Oral History, and Documentary Filmmaking in Latin America” will be co-hosted by Swarthmore and the University of Pennsylvania today and tomorrow. Organized by Swarthmore history professor Diego Armus and history professor and director of the Latin American Studies Program at Penn, Ann Farnsworth-Alvear, the two-day event will feature Latin American scholars from as close as Pennsylvania and as far as Buenos Aires, Argentina.

The program will begin today at Swarthmore, where the documentary “La Palabra en el Bosque” will be screened and Jeff Gould, its producer, will hold a discussion. Tomorrow morning and afternoon, two events dealing with deportation and an Argentine working class community respectively will be held at Penn.

Armus, who is teaching a research seminar titled “Between Oral History and Memory,” paired up with Farnsworth-Alvear, who is teaching a graduate course on the subject, to create a symposium that could be used as teaching resources.

“Paper presenters are graduates working on their dissertations and scholars with a long trajectory in the field of Latin American oral history and memory,” Armus said. “ I used oral history when working on my previous books and I continue to do it in my current research on the history of smoking in Buenos Aires … My colleague Ann Farnsworth-Alvear at UPenn uses oral history in her work on modern Colombia.”

Gould has also practiced oral history for some time. Following his invitation to speak as a historian, he suggested showing and discussing his film, and therefore including documentary filmmaking into the symposium.

“There are not many academic historians who directly create, rather than advise, documentary films,” he said in an e-mail. “My experience hopefully provides a useful reference point for the workshop, particularly as regards film and the politics of memory.”

The film, which deals with human rights violations, social utopia and religiosity, is being screened at an appropriate time with the recent election of the Argentine Pope.

“Pope Francis is relevant to the film in particular because of his complex and contradictory relationship to Liberation Theology, on the one hand, and the human rights tragedy of Argentina during the late 1970s, on the other,” Gould said. “Certainly the politics of memory with relationship to the church and the military dictatorship is an important topic for the workshop.”

The screening will begin at 4 p.m. today in Science Center 101. Tomorrow at the University of Pennsylvania from 9:30–11:30 a.m., the film “The Beginning of My End” will be screened, followed by a talk about deportation in the United States. From 2–4 p.m., scholars will give a talk titled “Collecting and Preserving the Past in an Argentine Working Class Community: Luis Gurruciaga and the 1871 Museo de Berisso.” Both events at the Penn will be held in College Hall 208.

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