Interview with Bill Nichols

Transcribed by January J. Coleman-Jones and Jake Nevrla


Bill Nichols is one of the most influential historians and theorists of documentary film. He is widely cited in articles across the world. Some of his most important works are: Ideology and the image: social representation in the cinema and other media (Bloomington Indiana University Press, 1981), Representing Reality: Issues and Concepts in Documentary (Indiana University Press, 1991), Blurred Boundaries (Indiana University Press, 1994) and Introduction to Documentary (Indiana University Press, 2001). He teaches film at San Francisco State University. His enthusiasm for documentary film comes through even in casual conversations and especially during this interview in Tijuana, in the first week of BorDocs, the documentary film forum. 

A few minutes before the interview, Mr. Nichols had given a two-hour master class on the ethical challenges of documentary filmmakers. 

Bill Nichos, photo Itzel Martínez del Cañizo

Tomas Crowder-Tarraborreli (TCT): I was reading in your biography that you studied medicine and then chemistry. There is something in your bio that says, “but then I changed my mind.” Can you tell me when, if there is a when, you became interested in documentary film?

Bill Nichols (BN): It began when I was in medical school. I was at Stanford Univeristy back then. There was the medical study, but the program gave you some free time. Really, in medicine nothing is free time, but relatively speaking. It was in the 60’s and there were these European films coming out that were really fascinating: Bergman, Antonioni, Fellini, Godard, and Truffaut. So I saw some of that work and I thought this is not like anything I’ve ever seen before, from growing up watching Hollywood films. It really started my interest and then that percolated slowly for a few years. I decided that I didn’t want to be a doctor, but I wasn’t sure what I did want to be. So I went into the Peace Corps and taught in a school in Kenya for 2 years. I saw about six films in those two years, but I began trying my hand at screenplay writing. So that added to my interest because it didn’t lead to selling anything, but it gave me more of a sense of how films work and that led to going to UCLA and studying film there.

TCT: And in terms of documentary films?

BN: Documentary was similar to discovering the European film, in that it wasn’t Hollywood. I had no complaint with Hollywood, it’s just that it’s what I was used to, so European film was like, “oh my goodness.” And the documentaries in the 60’s, that were about political issues, about Vietnam, about the draft, about liberation struggles, about Cuba, where also like, “oh my God, I didn’t know film could do this,” because I’d never seen anything like it before. I was interested and involved in the politics of the 60’s and 70’s, so it seemed almost natural to begin thinking about documentary, partly because no one was.

TCT: Do you still feel that you are scientifically minded in your approach to your study of documentary film? Do you think that’s a side that you like to explore and talk about, or is it a side that has been left behind by your recent work?

BN: I think we’re always, in some sense, a product of our training; What our parents trained us to do or not to do, and likewise of education. I don’t have any interest in the scientific parts about film, like number of pixels or DI processes and how to develop film with this chemical. I’ve left that behind. But I think the way you think in scientific or medical terms – of formulating hypotheses, trying to be logical – not necessarily in how I write about something, which is like a documentary in that I may want to engage and move the reader so I use descriptive language and I’m not being factual, but that underneath it I think there is a training in thinking carefully and analytically that has helped me.

Photo Itzel Martínez del Cañizo


TCT: I think a lot of people are curious about your relationship to Latin American documentary film. Can you talk briefly about your relationship to this tradition, if you have one? Do you keep in touch with film directors? Have you seen something particularly moving, formally, that is in your mind when you think about this tradition?

BN: It’s true for fiction as well, that my interests don’t go first to geography so I don’t follow, as a principle, Romanian film or Korean fiction film or Bolivian documentary, but what gets my attention usually are particular works and sometimes retrospectives or filmmaker’s work that gets me more interested in that context. Like Iranian films, when I first saw an Iranian feature film it led me to write about that. Not just as about “here’s some new films,” but how films from one country migrate into the international film festival circuit and how did that happen and why did that happen with Iranian, but not with Bulgarian, or some other nation. I think with documentaries from Europe or Africa or South America or Canada or Asia, the place of origin hasn’t been as important to me as the work itself. And that there have been, as there are with the other regions, Latin American filmmakers that have been of considerable interest: Solanas and Getino some time ago. Patricio Guzmán, more recently, with his films on Chile. I think those, to me, have been very important and very impressive; Eduardo Coutinho in Brazil. I’m an admirer of the work I’ve seen of his. I think there are a number of filmmakers from different places and that is part of what I like about documentary is that I get to learn about places I haven’t been, or don’t know as much as I could, from the films and when they were made… It’s all the better.

TCT: So you don’t think there is “something” that makes a national film tradition unique?

BN: Well, it’s just how I’ve looked at them and particularly more recent work, I think there are schools and traditions. [Alberto] Cavalcanti was very important in forming British and Brazilian film. I think when you look at the beginnings of documentary you can’t ignore the Soviet work of [Dziga] Vertov, the British work under [John] Grierson, the American work with [Pare] Lorentz and others before him and after, and the Canadian Film Board, and that they have certain qualities that are related to the place of origin and I think that’s often true. Mexican documentaries may differ from Chilean or Argentine in ways you could identify. It’s not something I feel is my strength in perusing that particular question. I hope there are people from or engaged with those particular nationals cinemas that would. I know for example Tom Waugh, in Canada follows Indian documentary and writes about it from time to time.

TCT: Can you tell me what your impressions of BorDocs are so far and your experience of being here at the border? Do you think festivals similar to this play an important role in places like a border region?

BN: Oh yes, festivals have grown. They are almost like weeds. In San Francisco, California there is some kind of festival every week. They are not all film, but they are probably 30 film festivals throughout the year, from gay and lesbian, to Native American, to international, to heaven only even knows…there are so many. I think they are a way of keeping a sense of curiosity and contemporaneousness about the medium. Given the way distribution works it is very hard to see the kind of films that get into festivals outside of the festival. The bad part is that there are a lot of films that never live apart from their life in the festival. The good part is if you get to the festivals you will see a range films that you probably would not to see on television and in theaters, at least not as quickly and as richly. I think with documentary, like animation and avant-garde, there are fewer festivals for those than for fiction film festivals and the audience is smaller and it is probably harder to get an audience. The one in Amsterdam, the International Documentary Film [Festival], is the exception probably because it has a big market and people come to trade and buy and sell. There are hundreds and hundreds of films there, sort of like the Cannes of documentary. But most festivals are more to the festive and celebrate the films and not be a market as such, though there is nothing wrong with that, it is just more work and effort to get started that way. So I think somewhere like Tijuana or up north in Mendocino, California, which is a little tiny coastal town, festivals are a way of bringing people together, they are a way of developing greater interest in documentary, they are a way of building a community and getting filmmakers and filmmakers together and people who share this interest together and from those things, those interactions, you never know what will happen and hopefully some good things will happen.

Photo Itzel Martínez del Cañizo

TCT: What do you think has happened with documentary film in the United States in the post-September 11th world? Have you seen a change in the tone, the methodological approaches, formal innovations, political views, or ethics?

BN: It’s a good question. I’ll think about that more, because often I need to pause and step back and think things like you just asked. They are not on the tip of my tongue. Some things that strike me are that there is an increased reliance on and creative use of animation. Not just in the US, like the Green Revolution I was mentioning, Waltz With Bashir and films from the US where it’s part, not as big a part, but a part of the film. For people who get public funding from the government or state of federal government there’s a greater degree of, you could call it either sensitivity or fear, that they may jeopardize their funding if they say or do anything that’s critical of the right wing, the Republicans, because the Republicans have gone after people. They tried to get someone fired at Public Broadcasting System. I think they did resign, in fact, because that person had said something about how hard it was to get the Republicans to fund Public Broadcasting and [the Republicans] didn’t think that was very respectful. There is a new documentary I’m consulting on where they were mentioning American film and it was mentioned how Pare Lorentz’s films in the 30’s lost their funding from the government. And I asked them as consultant, I said, “Wouldn’t it be useful to say who in the government didn’t want money spent on this kind of movie?” And they said, “We can’t do that because it was the Republicans at that time who opposed it and stopped it and that will jeopardize our funding.” I think they could have found a way to do it that would have made the Republicans happy, to say, “We don’t want to support these liberal causes with tax payer money,” and I don’t think that republicans now would object to a statement like that. And I’m sure someone said that back then, if they looked and did more research. And other could think about when governments support filmmaking. It’s a really big question, but my point is that there is an increased sensitivity to enflaming the right wing. Except for the people that want to do that, like Michael Moore and other political filmmakers who want to take on big issues. There are certainly films since 9/11 that have explored the consequences of that and the government’s responses with the Iraq war. Why We Fight, about the military in general. The financial crisis has led to others, some of which are really good. Going back to Enron:The Smartest Guys in the Room, but then The Inside Job, Client Nine: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer, which was partly about the financial business. And some of the other things that were pre-9/11 continue, maybe with a little less emphasis in the past, but things that relate to politics of identity, women’s films, gay and lesbian films, minority groups, Native American, the poor, disadvantaged, African Americans, films that address questions that are particular to those groups continues to come out and some are quite good.

TCT: What about for students who do not want to be filmmakers, who just take one of your courses because they saw a documentary film? What can they learn from that process of representing human beings as normal, regular people? Is there something that you think about when you’re teaching a course?

BN: I think on the one hand it’s an element of visual literacy. That people that haven’t had a course may not have thought as much about question like truth. Is what I see on the news true? How is it not true? Or in what way is it shaped? And then things that you become aware of when you’re looking at films in a course, like music. You mean they actually put music in that wasn’t there, is that okay? You start to think about those things more and become more aware and sensitive. That equips the student to look a little more critically at representations of the world, which can be other documentaries later after the course: news, reporting; claims by politicians, scientists, anybody that’s dealing with reality. Similarly, for students who do the documentary course, another thing it does is give them a sense of perspective. Most students come because they have seen a recent film that was impressive. It could be March of the Penguins or Chile, Obstinate Memory. But they don’t know what the history of this idea is and it’s often eye opening to see that a lot of experimentation was happening in the 20’s and 30’s and that there’s debates that go way back about how much do you actively alter what you film and set it up and stage it. Like Triumph of the Will, which appears to be just a document of what happened at a rally for the Nazi Party, until you realize that the filmmaker worked with the Nazi Party leaders to build the arena, to set up the tracking shots, to place the cameras, to the have the speeches given at times of day with good lighting, etc. So that the whole thing is actually closer to a modern political convention, at least in the US, where almost everything is planned and orchestrated, nothing is a surprise, because it’s all been done for the camera. And when you see where this kind of idea comes from you get an idea of a broader perspective of how you look at it.

TCT: You’ve written extensively about discursive categories, narrative exposition, poetics, especially in Ideology and the Image. In the so-called digital age do you think that in your work, that type of close analysis of the film and material, has changed because of the arrival of digital imaging and editing? Do you think that film seems to be loosing its materiality?

BN: Well in the sense that to use the word film is usually misleading now because almost all films are at least in some way digital, if not completely. But we often still call them film. We don’t call it “digits,” or something. But film is a loose term that doesn’t necessarily refer to strips of film anymore. What I think continues is that what makes for a good film is a good story, or a good poetic sense, or a good rhetorical perspective. And those qualities go back at least to the Greeks. They are millennia old. It’s like situational ethics. No one has a formula for how to make a good story that everyone can just take. Otherwise we’d all be Steven Spielberg’s or Errol Morris’s. So what we learn are some basic principles and concepts about what a story is and what makes it work. About what is good rhetoric or oration and what makes it work. How you move people to agree with your point of view. What makes for good poetics and work that has form and shape that people can appreciate. But then it’s up to the individual to do it, and the means by which they do it constantly change. What was available to the early filmmaker, and how they developed film and what stocks and what speeds the film had, were totally different from what it was in the 60s, which seem like a whole other world of possibilities. And jump up another fifty years to now and we have cell phone that make movies. I’ve seen one in Korea made on a cell phone and it’s quite impressive. So I think in looking at a film that’s been made by newer means, some of the close analysis can still pay off. Although it will be in relation to a new media and looking at how they create a rhythm, how they use editing, or how they use sound. That will still be true. But whether its frames that are cut together in the same way, that’s changing. And I think that the even more fundamental questions, that are like the ethical ones: how do you tell a story, how do you move people and persuade them, how do you create form, and how do you live ethically. They don’t change in terms of what basically works now probably worked five centuries ago. But nuance changes and particulars change and we want stories that resonate with issues that are real for us, that we feel are part of our experience. Questions about gender, for example. In a world where what it means to be a man or what it means to be a woman has become very complicated in the last thirty years, with transsexuality, with gay and lesbian rights and identities, bisexuality, etc. All those things make it much less obvious what that is. So films that deal with that, fiction or nonfiction, are probably going to speak to a question that is real for many people. Whereas how do you maintain a castle is interesting, but that’s a medieval question. How do you live as a peasant in relation to a lord in a castle? We have modern versions of it but those are the ones that will probably get more interest than the old fashioned ones. [Watch the video]

TCT: You don’t strike me as being a nostalgic person, but most people who love film are pretty nostalgic. Do you have any nostalgia for the experience of watching films in the theater from when you were a kid or a teenager?

BN: Yes, some. I’m not nostalgic. I have colleagues who have fought, at every step, changes in technology. When we had video they said, “No, we have to use film.” When we were using digital video then they were saying, “No, we have to use video.” And then when it was online and streaming they said, “No, we have to use it on a DVD.” So I have colleagues that are always one or two or three or five steps behind the technology and I think that’s stupid. Students need to use what’s available, what’s the most efficient what is often the most inexpensive and each will have limitations and problems, but that’s life; it also has advantages. The web has huge advantages, as well as problems. Where I do get nostalgia – as I was saying earlier about how we live our training – I grew up going to movie theaters and I remember being about eleven and going around to where there were workers building houses and collecting empty beer bottles because I could get 5 cents for each bottle and if I got 10 bottles and 50 cents I could pay for a round trip train to the next town and a movie ticket. So I could go to Amnyville and see a movie and come home for 10 beer bottles. And it was in a theater and that was an adventure and something I worked to do and got some money for and took the train and went to the theater. So it is totally different from turning on the TV with a remote control, because you don’t even get up. To this day, when I go to a movie theater to see a movie, it’s like going to a play or a concert, there’s a little feeling of a thrill. I’m going to see people I’m going to be doing something with others, it’s going to be on the big screen and that’s going to be kind of exciting. And then in ten minutes I may be very disappointed and think about leaving (laughs), but I don’t get that little thrill when I go home and watch a DVD or television. I may find it a great movie but that’s another story, that’s where the nostalgia comes in for me.

TCT: Thank you, Mr. Nichols.

To listen to the complete interview go to:



LAP at LASA 2018

We look forward to seeing many of our editors and friends in Barcelona  at LASA.
LAP Booth – We will be at booth B-42 in the exhibit area. We will have brochures, flyers, and calls for papers.  It would be great if you want to distribute these in your sessions. Just stop by and pick up what you need.  We will also have sample copies of books from our series with Rowman and Littlefield. The exhibit hours will be: Thursday and Friday, May 24 and 25, from 9:30 am to 7:30 pm and Saturday, May 26, from 9:30 am to 4:00 pm. We would appreciate anyone who can help us staff the table for an hour or two.
Roman and Littlefield booth – B-40
Meeting of Editors and Friends of Latin American PerspectivesThursday, May 24, 9:00 – 10:30 am AC Hotel Barcelona Forum – Sala VallvidreraWe look forward to seeing you at our annual get-together to discuss LAP’s work during the past year and future plans. In the printed program, the session is listed in the Highlights section on p. xxi as an “outside activity” rather than as a session in the listings by day and time but it has been added to the day and time section of the app. We don’t think that it will be possible to provide refreshments, so we suggest having breakfast before the meeting or bringing it with you.
Featured Sessionon Publishing in Academic Journals with editors from LAS journals 002//Pre-Conference Workshop– Disseminating Your Research 1: Publishing in Academic JournalsTuesday, May 22, 2-4 pm Hotel Barcelona Princess, Sala Mediterráneo-P2 Presenter: Ron Chilcote
Book Presentations with Authors from the LAP book series:Short presentations and question/discussion session with book authors:Twentieth-Century Latin American Revolutions – Marc BeckerRethinking Latin American Social Movements – Marc Becker, Richard Stahler-Sholk and HarryVanden (eds.)Saturday, May 26,  3:45-4:15 pm   Along the exhibit area wall opposite Booth B-07
List of Sessions with LAP Editors and Book Authors

Tuesday, May 22
Workshop –Disseminating Your Research 1: Publishing in Academic Journals2-4 pm Hotel Barcelona Princess, Sala Mediterráneo-P2 Presenter: Ron Chilcote
Workshop – Publishing for Impact: How (and Where) to Write for Popular Readerships3:30-5:30     Sponsored by NACLA Hotel Barcelona Princess, 2nd Floor Forum
Wednesday, May 23
010 // Building Social Protection for Vulnerable Women and Girls9-10:30 am,  Panel Sala CCIB M215 M2Discussant: Cecilia MacDowell Santos
045 // Navigating the Terrain of Resource Extraction9-10:30 am,  Panel  Sala CCIB 116  P1Sponsor: Latin American Perspectives Organizer: Nicole W FabricantChair and Discussant: Linda C Farthing
097 // Media and Democratization in Latin America10:45am – 12:15pm,  Panel  Sala PRIN Mediterráneo P2Sponsor: Latin American PerspectivesOrganizer: Tomás F Crowder Taraborrelli
108 // Racionalidades Técnicas e Retóricas de Modernização: Faces e Contrafaces de Modelos Internacionais nas Dinâmicas de Ensino, Pesquisa e Trabalho 210:45am – 12:15 pm, Panel  Sala CCIB 131 P1Discussant: Clifford A Welch
173 // Mundos do Trabalho no Brasil Contemporâneo experiências, direitos e lutas12:30 – 2:00 pm, Panel Sala CCIB M217 M2.Chair: Clifford A Welch
260 // Brazilian Foreign Policy in Hard Times: Adjusting to Political and Economic Crisis4:00 – 5:30 pm,  LASA Section Presentation Sala CCIB 116 P1Discussant: Anthony W Pereira
378 // The Americas, the election of Donald Trump, and the return of the Right5:45 – 7:15pm, Roundtable Sala SB Sur América P1Presenter: Miguel R Tinker Salas
Thursday, May 24
Meeting of Editors and Friends of Latin American Perspectives9:00 – 10:30 am AC Hotel Barcelona Forum – Sala Vallvidrera
416 // Las relaciones entre Cuba y la Unión Europea en la era de Trump9:00 – 10:30 am, Workshop Sala CCIB 115 P1Presenter: Francisco Lopez Segrera
419 // Latin American Gentrifications. Part I: New approaches and lines of thought9:00 – 10:30am, Panel Sala CCIB M221 M2Organizar and Pressenter: Clara E Irazabal
483 // Latin American Gentrifications. Part II: New cases and impacts10:45am – 2:15pm, Panel Sala CCIB M221 M2Organizer: Clara E Irazabal
682 // Mujeres en Cuba. Agencias, debates y necesidades para una agenda feminista4:00 – 5:30 pm, Panel Sala HLT MR 5 P1.Discussant: Elizabeth Dore
698 // Varieties of Populism4:00 – 5:30pm, Panel Sala CCIB M220 M2Presenter: Francisco Lopez Segrera
Friday, May 25
863 // Los niveles de organización de los trabajadores rurales en América Latina en un mundo globalizado: problemas y perspectivas9:00 – 10:30am, LASA Section Presentation Sala CCIB 133 P1Presenter: Clifford A Welch
891 // The Rise of Panamanian Cinema9:00 -0:30am, LASA Section Presentation Sala CCIB 128 P1Presenter: Richard Potter
894 //  Understanding Brazil’s Political Crisis: A Multidimensional Approach9:00 – 10:30am, LASA Section Presentation Sala CCIB 116 P1Discussant: Anthony W Pereira
924 // Kalman Silvert Award: Gender, Land and Wealth: Looking Backwards, Moving Forward10:45 am – 12:15pm, Sala CCIB 111 P1Silvert Award Lecture: Carmen Diana Deere
997 // Más allá del barrio: relaciones y procesos de proximidad en la producción de lo urbano12:30-2:00pm, Roundtable Sala CCIB M2 12 M2Presenter: Clara E Irazabal
1038 // Cómo investigar en Cuba 2:15 -3:45pm, Workshop Sala CCIB 115 P1Presenter: Sheryl L Lutjens
1124 // Las brechas de género en el contexto laboral cubano.  Un análisis desde la política y las trayectorias laborales4:00 – 5:30 pm, Panel Sala AC Born P3.Chair: Sheryl L Lutjens
1137 // Reframing, Rethinking and Rewriting Central American Immigrant Lives in the U.S.: Multidisciplinary perspectives4:00 – 5:30 pm, PanelSala PRIN Princess 1 P2Discussant: Susanne L Jonas
1153 // Vidas Descartables: la Violencia contra las Mujeres Como Necropolítica de Género en América Latina4:00 – 5:30pm, Panel Sala PRIN Estrella de Mar P2Presenter: Cecilia MacDowell Santos
1178 // Economía política, sociedad y democracia ciudadana en Cuba y España5:45 – 7:15pm, Panel Sala CCIB 115 P1Presenter: Rafael Meinardo Hernández Rodríguez
1248 // Knowledge and Power in International Relations:  U.S. – Cuba Academic Relations in Their Historical and Political Context-7:30pm – 9:00pm, Workshop Sala SB Sur América P1Organizer: Sheryl L LutjensPresenter: Rafael Meinardo Hernández Rodríguez
Saturday, May 26
1313 // Imaginarios juveniles latinoamericanos y caribeños a cerca de la violencia contra las mujeres9:00 – 10:30 am, Panel Sala SB Europa P1Session Organizer: Sheryl L Lutjens
1334 // Procesos socioculturales y participación. Impactos de las desigualdades en la sociedad cubana actual 9:00 – 10:30am, Panel Sala PRIN Mediterráneo P2Presenter: Elizabeth Dore
1353 // Transnational Humans and Transnationalism in the Humanities: Crossing Boundaries in the Americas9:00 – 10:30am, Workshop Sala SB Norte América P1Presenter: Barry Carr
1357 //  The FBI in Latin America  (Duke University Press)10:30 – 1:00 am, Authors and Book Presentation CCIB Banquet Hall P2 Presenters: Marc Becker, Miguel R Tinker Salas, Barry Carr
1387 // La hora de los hornos (F. Solanas y O. Getino, 1968), cincuenta años después. Parte II10:45am – 2:15 pm, Panel Sala HLT MR 12 P2: Presenter: Kristi M Wilson
1454 // Latinos and the US Urban Crises. Part II 12:30 – 2:00pm, Panel Sala CCIB 134 P1Presenter: Susanne L Jonas
1527 // Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking in Latin America2:15 -:45pm, Panel  Sala CCIB 122 P1Sponsor: Latin American PerspectivesChair: Daniela Issa
1540 // The Crisis of the Magical State in Venezuela2:15 – 3:45pm, Panel Sala CCIB 114 P1Chair and Presenter: Daniel C Hellinger
1546 // Transnational Politics, Family, Networks, Race and Gender in an Era of Globalization2:15 – 3:45pm, Panel  Sala SB Asia P1Presenter: Susan Eckstein
1553 // Century Latin American Revolutions /  Rethinking Latin American Social Movements: Radical Action From Below3:45 – 4:15pm, Authors and Book Presentation CCIB Banquet Hall P2Latin American Perspectives in the Classroom Series by Rowman & LittlefieldPresenters: Marc Becker, Richard Stahler-Sholk, Harry Vanden
1583 // Modern Slavery and Trafficking in Latin America: Issues, Challenges and the Need for Research-4:00 – 5:30 pm, Roundtable Sala CCIB 120 P1Sponsor: Latin American Perspectives Session Organizer: Daniela Issa
1591 // Nuevas Fronteras en el Estudio de la Emigración Cubana y las Comunidades Cubanoamericanas-4:00 – 5:30pm, Workshop Sala CCIB 134 P1Presenter: Susan Eckstein
1619 // Contribución del sector agropecuario al desarrollo. Posibilidades para Cuba a partir del potencial de comercio 5:45  – 7:15pm, Panel Sala CCIB M213 M2Discussant: Carmen Diana Deere
1631 // Gender, Sexuality, Film and Media in Latin America: Challenging Representation and Global Structures5:45 – 7:15pm,  Workshop Sala PRIN Princess 2 P2Sponsor: Latin American Perspectives Organizer: Kristi M WilsonPresenters: Tomás F Crowder Taraborrelli
1670 // Trump y sus efectos para América Latina: Apuntes para el debate5:45 – 7:15pm,  Panel Sala SB Sur América P1Sponsor: Latin American Perspectives Presenter: Luis Armando Suárez Salazar
1684 //Elite and Popular Responses to the Left: transformation or return to neoliberal globalization? Part II7:30-9 pm, Pane Sala CCIB 131-P1Discussant: Harry VandenPresenter: Marc Becker
Other Events
LAP-related Books at the CLACSO Exhibit
We expect that the first volume of  Latin American Perspectives en Español y Portuguéswill be available at the CLACSO booth. It is titled Buscando alternativas políticas y económicas and includes 14 articles in three sections: Economía Política: Panorama Continental; Poder, El Estado, y Luchas Populares; and Medio Ambiente. The chapters are the original Spanish or Portuguese versions of articles published in LAP in 2015 and 2016, except for two which were translated from English to Spanish. It is also available on-line on the CLACSO web site.  We are currently working on Volume 2.

Wednesday, May 23
CLACSO-Oxfam Colloquium
Elites y captura de la democracia en America Latina, el Caribe, y Europa9 am – 3pm  Centro de Cultura Contemporanea de Barcelona (CCCB), Carrer de Montalagre, 5, Barcelona – Sala Mirador  Mesa de aperturaPonencia magistralElites, democracia y desigualdadConceptos clave, metodología y casos de aplicaciónMesa de clausura y Palabras de cierreDownload full program:
CLACSO-sponsored Demonstration: To free Lula, for Brazilian democracy and in memory of Marielle Franco
Starting at 4 pm    Centro Internacional de Convenciones (CCIB) – entrada de las salas 111-112
Thursday, May 24
NACLA 50th Anniversary Events
Documentary Showcase: Treguain partnership with Pablo Navarette and Alborada FilmsScreenings 7:00 – 8:00 pm and 8:00 – 10:00 pm (second screening with Q&A)Nook Art Space, Nou de la Rambla 143, 08004, Poble Sec
Tregua explores the Colombian peace negotiations through the stories of women FARC guerrillas. These women have laid down their arms, left the Colombian jungle and are now  in Havana, Cuba negotiating a peace deal with the Colombian government, which they hope will not only bring an end to the world’s longest armed conflict, but will also guarantee women’s rights and social justice in Colombia. While the drama unfolds, Tregua also turns its lens on the journalists reporting on the peace talks, and on Havana’s inhabitants as they go about their everyday lives.
NACLA 50th Anniversary Reception   9:30-11:00 pm; Toast at 9:50 pmCenter Conventions Internacional Barcelona, First Floor Terrace, Room 127, Willy Brandt Square 11-14, 08019
Reception and toast celebrating 50 years in print featuring remarks by NACLA executive editor‚ Alejandro Velasco‚ as well as light snacks and refreshments. Arrive by 9:50PM for the toast!

8º Conferencia Latinoamericana y Caribeña de Ciencias Sociales

November 19- 23, 2018, Buenos Aires, Argentina 
Medios, democratización y representaciones audiovisuales en América Latina: dos números especiales de la revistaLatin American Perspectives

Javier Campo, “Los medios y el poder político”

Tomás Crowder-Taraborrelli, “Ciudadanía y medios de comunicación”

Kristi Wilson, “Género, sexualidad y medios en América Latina: representaciones y estructuras desafiantes”

Este panel describe los resultados de una publicación muy reciente de la revista Latin American Perspectives sobreMedios y democratización (Mayo, 2018) y un número sobre Género, sexualidad y medios (por publicar, 2019). Este panel se centrará en las intersecciones críticas de los medios, la democratización y las luchas sociales en la experiencia política latinoamericana reciente y buscará analizar a los medios como instituciones político-económicas claves dentro de los cuales se libran las luchas políticas y sociales. Después de una breve descripción de las conclusiones más importante de los artículos que conforman la colección sobre Medios y democratización, Crowder-Taraborrelli analizará la complicada relación entre ciudadanía y medios en la segunda década del siglo XXI. Por su parte, Campo considerará el papel que juegan los diferentes tipos de medios (corporativos, estatales/públicos, de partido políticos, comunitarios, sociales, etc.) en las luchas actuales y cómo la reestructuración de medios modifican las relaciones de poder en todos los niveles.

Latinoamérica es una región de contradicciones en términos de género y sexualidad. A pesar que se ha legislado en favor de muchos derechos para las comunidades LGBTQ en toda la región, Latinoamérica es una de las regiones con más discriminación. El aborto sigue siendo ilegal en 7 países y los feminicidios no son solo constantes, sino también cada vez más visibles. A pesar de la desigualdad persistente, las mujeres y las comunidades LGBTQ han desempeñado un papel crucial y constante en el activismo latinoamericano y los movimientos de resistencia. El aumento de 1990 a 2014 de gobiernos liderados por mujeres es paralelo a un aumento en la representación de los medios de temas relacionados con el género y la sexualidad, y un aumento en la participación femenina en el cine y la producción de videos. Wilson, co-editora junto a Clara Garavelli de un número especial de LAP, explorará algunos de las preguntas centrales sobre el impacto de las transformaciones sociales y culturales de género y sexualidad en los medios, y en particular, en el cine. WIlson explorará temas relacionados con la representación, la economía política y el activismo social, incluyendo y considerando temas relacionados pero no limitados a: los gobiernos neoliberales de derecha en América Latina (con sus agendas heteronormativas hegemónicas) y su impacto en la representación de las mujeres, los homosexuales y las personas transgénero; las formas en que los gobiernos progresistas cambiaron las condiciones para la producción y distribución de medios para las mujeres y / o ampliaron el rango de representación de género

The Legacy of 1968 in Latin America: Making the Personal Political

Of the series “Cuerpo a cuerpo/El incendio y las vísperas”, Graciela Sacco – courtesy of the artist
Workshop (April 2018, date TBC) & Symposium (18th May 2018)

2018 marks the 20th anniversary of the incorporation of the Spanish & Latin American Studies section to the University of Leicester’s School of Modern Languages (now part of the School of Arts), and half a century since the events of May 1968 shook up the world, generating the establishment of interesting, if short-lived, synergies between different groups (industrial workers, students, academics, feminists). Underlying these partnerships was a shared understanding of the personal as political; a recognition that imagination and lived experience should play a role in shaping the political agenda, and that politics, in turn, had a direct and tangible impact on individuals’ everyday lives.

Exploring these socio-political shifts, as well as key cultural responses to them, these events will examine manifestations of the personal as political in various artistic productions from Latin America over the past 50 years. Papers will be presented by colleagues working on Latin American Studies in the Midlands and beyond, on a range of topics to include, though not limited to:

The cultural legacy of the 1968 events in Latin America
Gender, the body, and its interplay with political discourses
The personal versus the collective
First person accounts/autobiographies and their connections to socio-political contexts
Narratives exploring the somatic effects of political change
The embodied dimension of memory and memory politics


A key aim of this event is to facilitate articulations of the ways in which academia, and the critical thinking that resides at its heart, touch base with the subjective and the personal. Therefore, a workshop for undergraduate and postgraduate students will facilitate discussion of their own lived experiences of the personal as political, with a focus on the role of gender in contemporary daily life, and, crucially, on how their engagement with the field of Latin American Studies as academic discipline enables socially valuable understanding about our own and others’ lives. The workshop activities will involve the collaborative creation of artistic artifacts in text and image formats, drawing upon the actions of the student movements of the time. Invited speakers (TBC) will participate alongside the student attendees, providing an extremely valuable point of exchange between research and pedagogy.

The planned workshop – free for the students of the existing ‘Midlands Three Cities’ partnership between the universities of Leicester, Nottingham and Birmingham – is intended to enable us to make sure that this event also promotes Latin American studies to future generations of scholars, providing both undergraduate and postgraduate students with the opportunity to engage their own understanding of the connection between the political and the personal – so important in the current global climate –, by applying their disciplinary knowledge and critical skills, but also bringing their personal experiences to bear in a vibrant collective activity


Confirmed speakers: Prof. Michael Chanan (Roehampton University), Dr James Scorer (University of Manchester), Dr Enea Zaramella (University of Birmingham), Dr Philippa Page (Newcastle University), Dr Cecilia Sosa (Conicet-Argentina/Nottingham University), Dr Dunja Fehimovic (Newcastle University), Dr Mariano Paz (University of Limerick), Prof. Sarah Barrow (University of East Anglia)

A CFP is now open until 22nd December 2017. Please send abstracts (max. 250 words) and queries to:

Dr Clara Garavelli –

Dr Emma Staniland –

This event is sponsored by:

Media, Politics, and Democratization in Latin America

Media, Politics, and Democratization in Latin America
Edited by: Javier Campo and Tomás Crowder-Taraborrelli
Issue 220 | Volume 45 | Number 3 | May 2018
Table of Contents

This special issue of Latin American Perspectives investigates a matter that has undergone critical transformations in recent years. From the period of progressive governments to the current neoliberal restoration, the media went from being thought of as a public service to a private business. This issue features articles on Ecuador, Brazil, Bolivia, Chile, Mexico and Argentina and covers a broad disciplinary spectrum of studies: from the laws of communication put into practice or projected, to the deregulation of the most advanced legislations of Latin America, to communication rights, audiovisual analysis, memory studies and historiographies of the Latin American left.

The editors were committed to organizing a special issue about the favorable democratization of the media, but in the process, the media landscape was transformed into a reactionary onslaught of the monopolies of information and communication; a process that ended in the electoral victories of right-wing corporatists.





Alexander Scott, Outreach Coordinator for Latin American Perspectives, interviews special guest editors Javier Campo and Tomás Crowder-Taraborrelli on the subject of the May 2018 issue: “Media, Politics, and Democratization in Latin America.”
 CLICK HERE to listen to the podcast!
Podcast is also available in SPANISH!  Listen here. 
You can also listen to past podcasts by clicking here!
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