Cultural resistance and human rights – inaugural lecture of Prof. Omar García
Posted on: 05 May 2022
Performance plays a key role in reflecting on social practices and in questioning the ethics of ideology
The role of the arts and humanities in addressing socio-political issues and human rights in Spain and Latin America was the focus of Professor Omar García’s inaugural lecture delivered earlier this week. The event was held to mark his appointment to the Chair of Spanish (1926) at the School of Languages, Literatures and Cultural Studies.
A Trinity tradition, an inaugural lecture represents the official recognition of an academic’s promotion to Professor. The lecture provides an opportunity for the new professor to showcase their achievements in research, innovation, engagement and teaching activities before an audience of members of the University community and the general public.
Professor García is a Hispanist, who studies both Latin America & Spain, an award-winning poet and a human rights activist. He joined Trinity in January 2020 from Queen Mary University of London.
In a lecture entitled ‘Performing Human Rights: Cultural Resistance and Civic Engagement through Enantiomorphic Encounters in Spain and Latin America’, Prof García critically examined the role of the arts and humanities in addressing socio-political issues and human rights in Spain and Latin America during periods of authoritarianism, dictatorship, censorship or conflict.
His analysis spanned the last century across Spain and Latin America, given a common history of cultural resistance. In the lecture he argued that performance, in particular, plays a key role in reflecting on social practices and in questioning the ethics of ideology, or lack thereof, when engaging with questions of difference and inequality.
By engaging with a representative selection of texts from Spain and Latin America, he explored how particular dialogues exploit genetic relationships with previous texts, including via archival materials that reveal dialogues with officially established censorship. This allows, he said, for the creation of non-superimposable mirror images of the society they critique.
These texts show how political duress also creates agency by eliciting civic engagement beyond positions of power and victimhood in order to forge a better collective future whilst acknowledging the past.
In the lecture he considered the Truth and Reconciliation Commissions or Pacts of Silence in relation to truth and justice in light of everyday grassroots experiences and actions under authoritarianism.
Via enantiomorphic, critical mirrors, or reflective semiotic mechanisms involving textuality and referentiality, the audience can arrive at a new understanding that empowers them to challenge the official discourses of the State and their own interpretants or mind images based on their readings, culture, knowledge, which affect and influence cultural interpretation.
Whilst many texts have decontextualized the selected settings, the historical character is maintained by the eruption of chronotopic elements which can be set in space and time, yet can also be transferred to similar realities in other countries, allowing for interconnections and the displacement of ultimate meanings.
About Omar García:
Omar has degrees in Sciences, Social Sciences, and Humanities from the University of Miami, where he started his teaching career, and was a clinical researcher before embarking on a career dedicated to literary and cultural production and cultural resistance at the intersection of history, law and politics. He also holds a PhD in Hispanic Studies from the University of London. Before joining Trinity College Dublin in January 2020, he had worked at Queen Mary University of London since 1992, where he held the personal Chair of Hispanic Studies and Comparative Poetics since 2010, contributing in the areas of Iberian and Latin American Studies, across genres; Comparative Literatures and Cultures (globally); and Hispanic Film; he had also been Reader in Poetics of Exile, Censorship and Cultural Resistance before that, and was Deputy Dean and Dean for Taught Programmes in the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences over a 5-year period.
Omar is a Professorial Fellow of Trinity College Dublin since 2021, current Head of the School of Languages, Literatures and Cultural Studies, and Director of the new Government of Ireland funded HCI Centre for Global Intercultural Communications. As a poet, he has received several international accolades, his most recent being the 2019 European Prize for Poetry. He has published some 13 books, and delivered over 60 seminars and academic conferences, participated in over 40 recitals and over 20 radio broadcasts across 17 countries and 4 continents.