It is with great regret that we announce the cancellation of the ISARS conference titled “Relation, connections, cosmologies, shamanism and spirit possession under the ethnographic lens” (November 27th-30th).
It was a very difficult and painful decision. As an organizing committee, we have been very concerned with the events that have been occurring in Chile, specifically in Santiago, over the last three weeks. We have been keeping a close eye on the situation, and we have been putting off major decisions, until now. There have been large and peaceful protest marches that have persistently asked for improved living and working conditions in what is one of the most economically unequal countries in the developed world. However, there have also been more violent factions that have caused great damage to public and private properties. The metro, for instance, was one of these damaged infrastructures, from the first week. The police and the military were deployed almost straight away, and the president declared a state of emergency, as well as instating a curfew. You may also have heard of human rights abuses on the part of the armed forces in Chile. That people have been tortured, raped, shot, maimed, and disappeared. All of this is taken as true, and is evident through many videos on social media, and it is being investigated by the Human Rights Commission, and by observers from the United Nations. The violence on the state end has promoted more violence on the people´s end, inevitably. During the first week, everything was paralyzed in the city: public transports, shops and supermarkets closed, universities and businesses shut. We thought that things were getting calmer. This was evident in opening again of businesses and schools, and improved public transport, higher morale among the city folk. However, yesterday violence escalated again, and affected the Pontificia Universidad Católica directly. There were a couple of events. First, vandalism in Casa Central, the University´s central campus. Second, and more worryingly, student protesters outside and inside the gates of Campus San Joaquin, where the anthropology department is, were systematically fired on with water cannons and tear gas bombs by Special Forces. Some of the tear gas was shot into the university, in a clear violation of human rights and a clear invasion of private property. The Rector of the University has strongly condemned this unprovoked repressive violence.
What we though it was a safe place – Campus San Joaquin, where the conference should have been held – which is far away from the city center and a very large American-style campus, is now unpredictable. It has been safe, all the days of the unrest, until yesterday. But as in any conflict or crisis, especially between a repressive state and its reactive people, there is a measure that we cannot predict. Things can get hairy, very fast.
The Organizing Committee and our Chilean colleagues in particular, made all possible efforts to ensure a safe environment for the delegates but, after the incident at PUC, we had to make the sad and painful decision to cancel the conference as the situation is too uncertain and too unpredictable.
A shorter version of this declaration can be downloaded here in case you should need it to claim air tickets and accommodation fares.
The ISARS strongly supports the struggle of Chilean people for social equality and justice and strongly condemn all kinds of violation of social and human rights.
The ISARS 2019 Conference Scientific and Organizing Committee:
Diana Espirito Santo, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile
Anastasios Panagiotopoulos, CRIA-Universidade Nova de Lisboa
Diana Riboli, Panteio University
Eugenia Roussou, CRIA/ISCTE-IUL
Davide Torri, Heidelberg University
Location of the conference
Pontificia Universidad Católica de Santiago, Campus San Joaquín,
Address: Av. Vicuña MacKenna 4860, Macul, La Florida, Región Metropolitana, Chile