To combat systemic racism through art, activism, the written and the spoken word: Canada and Argentina
We may find ourselves at the opposite extremes of our hemisphere —Canada and Argentina—, but we share the same struggles. At our festival in 2017, Blue Met featured a panel at the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal on violence against women in the 21st century in our continent, from #StolenSisters to #NiUnaMenos, enveloped by the haunting work of Mexican artist Teresa Margolles.
I told my friend Cecilia Szperling —the exquisite multifaceted Argentine writer, artist, and activist, and one of the leading voices in the Nosotras Proponemos Literatura collective, the permanent assembly of feminist workers in the cultural, literary and intellectual sector in Argentina— all about it, the first chance I got, as soon as I landed in Buenos Aires. I was also very eager to hear about her important work in this area. In 2018, Szperling and a collective of writers (spearheaded by novelist and screenwriter Claudia Piñeiro, widely acclaimed for her bestselling crime and mystery novels, and our last Premio Azul here at Blue Met) waved their green bandanas and marched to Congress to demand abortion be decriminalized. We lost, but we have not been beaten, writes Piñeiro, and thus a generation of women writer/activists —gathering at book fairs, literary festivals, the streets, everywhere—demanding change was born.
When Szperling learned that Montreal mayor Valérie Plante announced a plan to combat system racism —not only at the individual, but most importantly, at the cultural and institutional level— I put her in touch with borough councillor Josefina Blanco and UQÀM sociologist Victor Armony, Director of the Observatory of the Americas at the Université Québec à Montréal. I had no doubt they would join forces — and here we are!
Both Blanco and Armony are Montrealers hailing from Argentina; Armony is a leading expert in this area and Szperling is also now working at the INADI, the National Institute Against Discrimination, Xenophobia and Racism back home. Together, Armony and Szperling are sharing their experiences and expertise and co-curating a series of events at Blue Met beginning this Thursday, October 22, as the closing event of the Semaine Hispanophone de l’UQÀM.
“This is the beginning of a dialogue that —beyond different national contexts and different approaches— seeks to establish common points and mutual learning regarding discrimination, both from the institutional point of view, where it must be actively combated, and the cultural point of view, which provides a space for the expression of the experiences of its victims. We are obviously not able to give definitive answers or resolve problems. But by holding this mirror before Argentina and Canada, and reflecting on how experiences from another’s country resembles or contrasts our own, I believe that we are already taking steps in the right direction. I hope that this first conversation will continue and even allow us to formulate bridges for future collaborations,” says Armony.
Her work inspired and informed by Judith Butler’s ideas around autobiographical performativity, Szperling recruited Argentine human rights activist and legislator Viki Donda, who leads INADI, and filmmaker Lucrecia Martel, to join us in this conversation,
“We speak from this visibility that literature, art, storytelling, and cultural struggles affords us, while the political also casts light on what is normatized for the convenience of a conservative state of affairs. We seek to open up the possibility of social ascent and to form a network community,” says Szperling.
The roundtable discussion “Avances, obstáculos y ángulos muertos en la lucha contra las discriminaciones: ¿Qué podemos aprender y comprender al contrastar las experiencias actuales en Argentina y en Canadá?” took place on Thursday, October 22, 2021.
We also wish to thank the generous support of Consul General María Fabiana Loguzzo at the Consulado Argentino en Montreal.
Visionnez la table ronde / Watch the seminar