Newsletter, May 2020

Pre-Texts News

New Website Coming Soon

We will be launching a new Pre-Texts website very soon. We invite our collaborators to send reports and/or photos of Pre-Texts activities to add to online information.

Launch Pre-Textos Remoto in Coahuila
Thirty teachers and librarians of Normal Schools in Coahuila, Mexico started weekly sessions with Tálata Rodríguez, Adriana Gutiérrez, and Doris Sommer in a virtual Pre-Textos. The text they used is the Panopticon chapter from Foucault’s Discipline and Punish, about the plague!

More Digital Pre-Texts
Hortencia Chávez Reyna in Mexico and Matheus Batalha in Brazil are also doing Pre-Texts virtually. Check out their great work here: MexicoBrazil

Cultural Agents News

For Voices: DRCLAS, Harvard University
By Doris Sommer


Who is an artist and an interpreter? Potentially all of us, to follow Friedrich Schiller who wrote Letters on the Aesthetic Education of Man in 1794. That was during another crisis, Terror in the French Revolution. Slyly, he asks in the second letter, whether art may be an untimely issue, as I just asked about our crisis. His answer is bold and compelling: Without art nothing changes; humanity will spiral into more violence, death, and despair. He appeals to us to make art – a surprise move, an unexpected creation that stops the enemy in his tracks – and he counts on our natural faculty to be creative.  We have a drive to play, a Spieltrieb in Schiller’s newly minted word.

Today, Cultural Agents at Harvard University (RLL and AAAS) takes this call to action to heart in response to COVID19. Given the isolation of schoolchildren worldwide, and the limitations of current on-line learning, we have developed a digital version of the Pre-Texts protocol.Digital Pre-Texts is now working with Mexico’s Secretaría de Educación Pública in Normal Schools, Chile’s Ministry of Culture in the network of public libraries, Paraguay’s Instituto de Desarrollo.

Cultural Agents has also responded with a novel approach to the alarming spike in domestic violence during the pandemic. Practically all current work in this area is directed at women, alternately called victims or survivors, when they do survive. Men have not been the target of attention, although their behavior is at issue. Cultural Agents will launch a program in Brazil, for starters, to engage men in activities that interrupt boredom and provide energetic alternatives to aggression. It is led by professional soccer players and called “Futebol Viral.”

Futebol Viral

“Futebol Viral” is an interactive platform designed to engage men and to mitigate the Covid19 spike in domestic violence. All the programs we have seen in this area are designed to protect women by enabling denunciations [very difficult in these circumstances] and getting them out of abusive households [also difficult]. Hardly anyone is addressing men who can change their behavior. Our soccer player friends know that change is possible, through pleasure and peace at home. With Brazil as a starting point, we will probably launch in other countries too.

See more here:,

Frente a nuevos desafíos, nuevas soluciones: Educación humanista hacia una sociedad de convivencia

El 8 de mayo en una sesión online de IAP Talks, la profesora Doris Sommer abordó la temática “Frente a nuevos desafíos, nuevas soluciones: Educación humanista  hacia una sociedad de convivencia”.

El International Academic Program (IAP) de la Universidad Autónoma de Madrid (UAM) en España, lleva a cabo programas y talleres en colaboración con el Centro David Rockefeller para Estudios Latinoamericanos (DRCLAS) en el campus de la Universidad de Harvard en los Estados Unidos con el patrocinio de la Fundación Asisa. El IAP-UAM organiza y apoya iniciativas docentes y de investigación creando un espacio común entre académicos, científicos y profesionales vinculados con universidades europeas, norteamericanas, de América Latina y del resto del mundo, teniendo como referencia a profesores de la Universidad de Harvard, MIT y ponentes de otras instituciones de prestigio mundial.

Para más información:

Social (Distant) Practice with Doris Sommer, Pedro Reyes, and Tálata Rodríguez

On Saturday, April 18th, Doris Sommer, Pedro Reyes and Tálata Rodríguez met on Zoom to discuss how to adapt tools for creative learning during the times of social distancing. It was hosted by the Galeria Labor in Mexico City. Watch the video of the talk here:

Symbolic Reparations

Repairing Symbolic Reparations: Assessing the Effectiveness of Memorialization in the Inter- American System of Human Rights

The power of memorialization is widely recognized as a form of symbolic reparation aimed at overcoming deep social divisions in the aftermath of mass violence. Yet memorialization as a juridical tool of repair lacks systematic conceptual elaboration, and its potential remains underutilized. This often results in ineffective, even detrimental monuments, and in programmatic failures to integrate memorial practices into multilayered strategies for justice and social reconciliation. This article explores three case studies from the Inter-American Human Rights System in order to examine the strengths and shortcomings of existing approaches to memorialization.

This article was written by Robin Adele Greeley, Michael R. Orwicz, José Luis Falconi, Ana María Reyes, Fernando J. Rosenberg and Lisa J. Laplante and was published in The International Journal of Transitional Justice, Volume 14, Issue 1, March 2020. Read the article here.

Go Viral! – Cultural Agents Contests


A general principle we have learned from exemplary Cultural Agents, especially from Antanas Mockus, is that pleasure enables change. Without pleasure, nothing good happens. So our contributions to surviving the current lockdown include opportunities for sociability, art-making, and humor, as we have already seen in many initiatives online.

Here are our winners for digital Pre-Texts lessons:

Tálata Rodríguez, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Matheus Batalha, Aracaju, Brazil
Hortencia Chávez Reyna, Mexico City, Mexico
The winner of the Best Joke Contest is:

The American Medical Association has weighed in on Trump’s Corona strategy:

The Allergists were in favour of scratching it, but the Dermatologists advised not to make any rash moves.

The Gastroenterologists had sort of a gut feeling about it, but the Neurologists thought the Administration had a lot of nerve.

Meanwhile, Obstetricians felt certain everyone was labouring under a misconception, while the Ophthalmologists considered the idea shortsighted.

Pathologists yelled, “Over my dead body!” while the Pediatricians said, “Oh, grow up!” The Psychiatrists thought the whole idea was madness, while the Radiologists could see right through it.

Surgeons decided to wash their hands of the whole thing and the Internists claimed it would indeed be a bitter pill to swallow.

The Plastic Surgeons opined that this proposal would “put a whole new face on the matter.”

The Podiatrists thought it was a step forward, but the Urologists were pissed off at the whole idea.

Anesthesiologists thought the whole idea was a gas, and those lofty Cardiologists didn’t have the heart to say no.

In the end, the Proctologists won out, leaving the entire decision up to the assholes in Washington.

[Author, please identify yourself and claim the symbolic prize of thanks]

Featured News

Hello World

Hello World is a response to the lockdown by TransCultural Exchange. Rationale: The COVID-19 coronavirus seems to have brought a necessary slowdown, if not a downright halt to artistic and cultural gatherings, exchanges and cross-border productions.

Although we believe – and know from experience – that face-to-face interactions are the best way to experience artworks and encourage collaboration, for the moment we recognize that our usual approaches would be inappropriate. Therefore, we are proposing an alternative. Inspired by singers singing from the balconies in Italy, TransCultural Exchange is proposing a virtual, global art project with the aim of continuing to encourage international exchange among artists, showcasing works to new audiences and fostering dialog among peoples of different cultures – without anyone having to leave their homes.

Please join us in this simple, but powerful gesture of global solidarity during the COVID-19 pandemic, a greeting to/from our colleagues around the world. The project is open to both artists (of all disciplines) and any venue (museum, gallery, book store, radio station, café, cultural center, community organization – in essence, any place with a website) wishing to express support of Hello World’s mission.

For information on how to participate:

COVID-19 Resources


Caminos de Paz Cases for Culture Cultural Agents Opportunities Partners Pre-Texts Rennaisance Now
April 4, 2020
by Rodriguez