Interview with Gastón Gordillo – author of Landscapes of Devils and the forthcoming Rubble: The Afterlife of Destruction
April 18, 2014 1 Comment
Gastón Gordillo is a Professor of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia, and the author of several books including Landscapes of Devils: Tensions of Place and Memory in the Argentinean Chaco and the forthcoming Rubble: The Afterlife of Destruction. He also runs the wide-ranging blog Space and Politics.
Stuart Elden: Thanks for agreeing to do this interview Gastón. You’re a Professor of Anthropology, but your work blends political, historical and ethnographic work, with a strong interest in geographical questions and debates in philosophy and social theory. Could you say something about your academic background and how you came to be interested in these diverse issues?
Gastón Gordillo: Many thanks for the interview Stuart. It’s an honor to have the opportunity to talk about my work at Society and Space. Your question goes to the heart of what I’m trying to do with my research and writing, in terms of blending perspectives from different disciplines. My interest in critical theory and philosophy began when I was an anthropology undergraduate at the University of Buenos Aires in the second half of the 1980s. Argentina was then going through a “democratic spring,” right after the end of the military dictatorship, and the university was then an intellectually effervescent place, with many stimulating theoretical and political debates going on. Partly as a reaction against the asphyxiating political environment I grew up in as a teenager under the military regime, in which the public expression of left-wing ideas or concepts could get you in trouble or simply killed, as an undergrad I was quickly drawn to Marxist theory, which at the time was the dominant paradigm at the university. I had initially decided to study anthropology, like many others at that age, seduced by a romantic image of this discipline as the study of exotic cultures, influenced for instance by Carlos Castaneda’s best-selling books on shamanism. My discovery of Marxist theory and philosophy was a political awakening of sorts, and also gave me tools to better understand my earlier politicization during high-school, when many of my classmates and I were part of an underground student union at the end of the dictatorship. So while I studied anthropology as an undergraduate, my engagement with Marx, Althusser, Adorno, Horkheimer also made me think beyond anthropology. I also had excellent history professors who taught me to appreciate history, and its importance for anthropology.
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