Wednesday, February 09, 2005

A Little More on Comparisons and Orientalism

Hi Class

At this moment our course is heavily into comparisons. I know I did not convice Rosemary when she asked me why it was so important for us to go over comparisons and classifications of different regimes in Latin America.

I think I said something like because is the way we advance science and I really believe so. Later I wrote, also answering a question by Rosemary, that up to certain extent comparisons are exercises of orientalism. I even provided a brief definition of orientalism.

In our Monday session and also on during Thursday's we will plunge again deep in the sea of comparison. The reason to do it is because I think that the best way to avoid the implicit orientalism that affects many comparisons is not by rejecting the very possibility of developing comparisons, but by improving the way comparisons are done.

Think, again of the example I used about Argentina and Chile military regimes. How both can be blamed with many similar problems and abuses, and yet there are aspects of the Chilean military regime (stability, economic performance, ability to prepare Chile for other processes) that are necessary to take into consideration if we want to achieve a better understanding of the forces behind both Military Juntas, their policies, their outcomes, and also their legacies to the civilian regimes.

Think, as an example, of the advantages that the Chilean civilians have had when dealing with their country's transition, as compared to the kind of general bankruptcy that the Argentinean military government left as legacy.

Now, I am not trying to dulcify Pinochet's memory. I think that there is no way to justify the collective assassination of God knows how may Chilean citizens with ties with Allende's government. That was brutal and there is no way to justify it. However, is clear that the differences in the outcomes are relevant at many levels. Those differences exist also when we deal with democratic regimes: think as an example of a possible comparison between Uruguay and Costa Rica, or with authoritarian regimes (a comparison between Mexico and Brazil from 1960 to 1988).

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