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Mecila Work Week in São Paulo brings together researchers to discuss the next steps of the Center

Meeting at the headquarters of Mecila in São Paulo for a ‘Work Week’, which took place between March 18th and 22nd, the researchers of the Centre set the guidelines for the development of their future activities.

In addition to the resumption and evaluation of activities already carried out, such as the Workshop “Conviviality in Unequal Societies Workshop” held in La Plata, Argentina, in November 2018, the week served as a moment of organization and self-reflection about the structure of the Center, its objectives and how to reach them.

Divided into six distinct groups, researchers discussed aspects such as Mecila’s research program and the Center’s profile, how to better disseminate the productions of the Centre, articles publication policies, guidelines for the code of conduct, among other topics.

A session of a work group. From left to right Sérgio Costa, Astrid Ulloa, Maya Manzi, Peter Schulze, Christoph Müller
The five days of the event involved the planning of activities and the discussion of ongoing works from the researchers of the centre

Different Senses of Knowledge

The meeting also allowed moments of debate about ongoing research.  At the round table Knowledge for Conviviality the work was centered around the question of the variety of forms and practices of knowledge and how their production and circulation can be thought in the light of asymmetries of power.

The issue of climate change, generally debated from the viewpoint of natural sciences, was approached from a cultural perspective by Astrid Ulloa, from the Department of Geography of the National University of Colombia. The researcher pointed out how scientific discourse generally ignores forms of knowledge produced in non-academic spaces and by other subjects, especially indigenous women.

The academic context itself as an area of interaction and professional training was also taken as an object of investigation by Maya Manzi. Together with a group of geographers from various sociocultural contexts, the postdoctoral researcher of Mecila and her team seek to understand the balance between personal life and the work of geographers in formation, following their life trajectories. The first 10 years of research show how gender, geographic origin, and need to care for others, for example, affect the careers of these professionals.

From left to right researchers Laura Flamand and Alejandra Mailhe

The different currents of cultural pluralism in the United States was the theme brought by Daniel Cefaï of the School of High Studies in Social Sciences. In his studies, the researcher identified that at the beginning of the 20th century, the first expressions of American pluralism excluded non-whites and indigenous people. Only from the 1940s onward non-whites would be considered in the scope of pluralism with the dissemination of the melting pot metaphor and idea of cauldron of races and cultures.

In the last section, the idea of “excessive understanding” of the Indian anthropologist Arjun Appadurai was brought by Fernando Baldraia, one of Mecila’s postdoctoral researchers. Baldraia questioned the lack of reflection on the role of whiteness as an element of knowledge construction and how this can affect the environment of Mecila itself, opening a debate with the group on the limits to overcome bias in knowledge production.

Conviviality: Thinking Possibilities

Historians brought new theoretical challenges to the roundtable Convivial Hi(S)tories. Here, two questions guided the debates: what could be the place of conviviality researches in Latin American historiography, and how does the approach proposed by Mecila challenge historiographies based on national histories?

The idea of conviviality is able to cross national and geographical borders, advocated postdoctoral researcher Luciane Scarato. For her, the concept is capable of overcoming analytical ties and serve as a liberating element for Brazilian and Latin American historiography.

Reflecting on the potentials of the concept, Raquel Gil Montero of the National Council of Scientific and Technical Research (Conicet) notes that even in the colonial system conviviality  can be thought of as continuous negotiation, which brings it closer to notions such as history seen from below or history-less people. This perspective is mobilized by the researcher to appraise the context of the indigenous in the Andean colonization, arguing that the colonial system can be read not only by the lenses of coercion and violence, but also of the practices of negotiation

Starting from the tension between cohesion and conflict, Alejandre Mailhe, from the National University of La Plata (UNLP) brought the debate about the different constructions of the idea of mestizaje, what are their contexts of emergence and how they offer diverse spaces for conviviality.

A special event was also part of the center’s work week, the screening of the film Querência, by director Helvécio Martins Jr. Selected for the 2019 edition of Berlin International Film Festival, the work is the result of the director’s immersion in the hinterland of Minas Gerais and his acquaintance with the people of the region for more than two years.

Having as a guiding thread the story of the cowboy Marcelo, who seeks to rebuild his life as a narrator of rodeos after having his cattle robbed, Querência is a portrait of the ways of life and relations of this part of rural Brazil, making use of real life stories of non-professional actors to compose their narrative.