Newsletter, October 2019

Upcoming Events

Pre-Texts in Mexico

Prof. Doris Sommer met with Mario Chavez, Director of the National System of Normal Schools in Mexico, in Mexico City and they agreed to launch a nation-wide Pre-Texts training program. The program will start with an executive workshop during the week of Dec. 16th in Saltillo to train directors and capacity builders of Normal Schools. Conversations are also underway to collaborate with the national system of the Universidad Pedagógica in Mexico.

Pre-Texts at the Bok Center for Teaching and Learning

The Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning will offer a 3-session Pre-Texts workshop with Prof. Doris Sommer. The first session took place last Friday, Oct. 11th and the next two sessions will take place on Friday, Oct. 18th and 25th.

Pre-Texts is educational acupuncture. With a single prompt: “Use the text to make art,” we activate both cognitive and emotional dynamics. The pleasures of playing with a challenging text (literary, scientific, historical, political, etc.) drive literacy, innovation, and citizenship like gears of a holistic system for development. Culturally diverse colleagues multiply perspectives, contribute arts, and deepen interpretation. Diversity is therefore admired rather than resisted. With Pre-Texts, intellectual and socio-emotional learning go together. At these workshops, participants will get a taste of the Pre-Texts method, and think about how to use it in the Harvard classroom.

Read more about the workshop and register here.

LaTosha Brown will be speaking in the class Politics: The Greatest Art on Oct. 16th at 12pm in Sever Hall, Room 201. Ms. Brown is an award-winning organizer, philanthropic consultant, political strategist and jazz singer with over twenty years of experience working in the non-profit and philanthropy sectors on a wide variety of issues related to political empowerment, social justice, economic development, leadership development, wealth creation and civil rights. She is the co-founder of Black Voters Matter Fund, a power building southern based civic engagement organization that played an instrumental role in the 2017 Alabama U.S. Senate race. Ms. Brown is principal owner of TruthSpeaks Consulting, Inc., a philanthropy advisory consulting firm in Atlanta, GA. For more than 25 years, she has served as a consultant and advisor for individual donors, government, public foundations and private donors.

Read more about LaTosha Brown here.

Juma Assiago will be speaking in the class Politics: The Greatest Art on Oct. 23rd at 12pm inSever Hall, Room 201. Mr. Assiago is a social scientist and works as an Urban Safety Expert with UN HABITAT. He joined the Safer Cities Programme in 1999, assisting governments and other city stakeholders to build capacity at the city level to adequately address urban insecurity and to contribute to the establishment of a culture of prevention in developing countries.He has served in various UN inter-agency coordinating processes and technically supported various international youth crime prevention and governance processes. He is also involved in developing safety tools in urban contexts, particularly those targeted at social crime prevention. His main area of focus is on youth crime and delinquency in cities. Mr. Assiago is currently involved in developing the Global Network on Safer Cities, which among others is defining the key role of the police in urban development and developing a network structure taking into consideration the governance of safety and safety in public spaces.

Medicine with Words Series: When the Symbolic Becomes Really Real (redux)

On Monday, Nov. 1st, the Medicine with Words Seminar and Connectionists and Facilitators: Cultural Agents Coin Words will present a workshop on When the Symbolic Becomes Really Real (redux) with Sam Durant (Artist, CalArts) and Prof. Nick Smith (Philosophy, University of New Hampshire) at the Mahindra Humanities Center. Renowned artist Sam Durant returns to Harvard to continue the dialogue surrounding his work and his future projects, this time in dialogue with Prof. Nick Smith from UNH, the foremost specialist on the philosophical analysis of apologies.

Pre-Texts News

Pre-Texts at Public Libraries in Bogotá

Two successful Pre-Texts workshops were held at public libraries in September in Bogotá, Colombia. One was held on Sept. 2nd at the Tunal Library and the other on Sept. 9th at the Virgilio Barco Library.

Pre-Texts at LASPAU’s University Leadership & Governance Program 

On Monday, Sept. 23rd, Prof. Doris Sommer held a Pre-Texts workshop for a group of 27 university leaders from 23 universities in Costa Rica who were participating in LASPAU’s University Leadership and Governance Program. The program was sponsored by the government agency SINAES (Sistema Nacional de Educación Superior de Costa Rica). We had a wonderful time playing with the first chapter of Carl Sagan’s Cosmos .

Read more about LASPAU here.

Pre-Texts in Barranquilla

As part of the project La paz se toma la palabra with Banco de la República in Colombia, a series of Pre-Texts workshops were held over 3 sessions on October 3rd, 4th and 5th in Barranquilla. The workshops were open to cultural mediators from Cartagena, Barranquilla, Montería, Santa Marta, Riohacha San Andrés, Sincelejo, Valledupar and Bogotá.

Read a report of the workshops here.

Pre-Texts at the Secretariat of Education in Mexico

Prof. Doris Sommer facilitated a mini Pre-Texts workshop for 60 Mexican education leaders at the Secretariat of Education in Mexico on October 7th. The workshop was hosted by Secretary Esteban Moctezuma. The text used was the first scene of Antigone, to accompany a nation-wide commitment to gender equity.

Cultural Agents News

Fundación Agentes Culturales at the Foz de Iguazú Book Festival

On Sept.13th, Fundación Agentes Culturales participated in a conversation with author Mia Couto at the 2nd Foz de Igauzú Book Festival in Foz de Iguazú, Paraná, Brazil.

Fundación Agentes Culturales in Prague

The Regional Director of Agentes Culturales in Colombia, Merly Guanumen Pacheco, participated in an academic event on Sept. 20th organized by the University of Massachusetts and the University of Economics in Prague. The main themes discussed were the current challenges to democracy, institutions and citizens.

OF – FENCE: ERRE at the Border

The artist Marcos Ramírez, known as ERRE, spoke to a packed audience on Oct. 9th at Winthrop House. ERRE, who lives and works between Tijuana and San Diego, has made the border a central part of his work for over two decades, examining its oft-forgotten history and shifting contours, as well as its current social, economic, and political implications.

In the 1990s, ERRE placed a two-headed Trojan Horse sculpture called “Toy-An-Horse” on the San Ysidro-Tijuana border crossing– a nod to mutual exchange and invasion. He also worked on a project titled “DeLIMITations” with artist David Taylor where they mapped and marked the boundary of the 1821 U.S.-Mexico border, when areas such as California, Arizona, Texas and even pieces of Kansas were still part of Mexican territory. The work was shown at the Museum of Contemporary Art in San Diego. Another of his installation projects is titled “Of Fence,” and was part of the group show “unDocumenta,” which takes the dynamism of the U.S.-Mexico border as a point of inspiration for works that explore issues of cultural, economic and political exchange. This project is now showing at MASS MoCA. Read more here.

Featured News

What Two Can Do: Bilingual Benefits through Pre-Texts
By Doris Sommer

Read the article “What Two Can Do: Bilingual Benefits through Pre-Texts” by Doris Sommer in ReVista, the Harvard Review of Latin America here.

Narratives for Change is a first-of-its-kind global conference on October 19th designed to spark conversation at the intersection of storytelling, entertainment/media, global health, and social change. Sponsored by the Harvard Global Health Institute, the event will incorporate live performances, workshops, and panel discussions geared toward leveraging the creative economy for social impact. Everyone — from artists to activists, global health experts to entertainment/media leaders, professors to college students — is welcome. Register today at

The Afro-Latin American Research Institute at Harvard University is the first research institution in the United States devoted to the history and culture of peoples of African descent in Latin America and the Caribbean. Over 95 percent of the Africans forcibly imported into the Americas went to Latin America and the Caribbean, two thirds of them to the Spanish and Portuguese colonies. Many Hispanics in the United States are also of African descent. Cultural forms and community practices associated with Africa are conspicuous across the region – indeed, the very existence of Latin America would be unthinkable without them.

During the last few decades, Afro-Latin Americans have created numerous civic, cultural, and community organizations to demand recognition, equality and resources, prompting legislative action and the implementation of compensatory policies. The Afro-Latin American Research Institute stimulates and sponsors scholarship on the Afro-Latin American experience and provides a forum where scholars, intellectuals, activists and policy makers engage in exchanges and debates.

Read ALARI’s most recent newsletter here.

Juan Enriquez: A Personal Plea for Humanity at the US-Mexico Border

In this powerful, personal talk, author and academic Juan Enriquez shares stories from inside the immigration crisis at the US-Mexico border, bringing this often-abstract debate back down to earth — and showing what you can do every day to create a sense of belonging for immigrants. “This isn’t about kids and borders,” he says. “It’s about us. This is about who we are, who we the people are, as a nation and as individuals.” Watch the TED Talk here.

Caminos de Paz Cases for Culture Cultural Agents Opportunities Partners Pre-Texts Rennaisance Now
October 4, 2019
by Rodriguez