With the support of a Fulbright fellowship, Dr. Eric Zolov’s plan was to spend the Fall 2019 semester teaching at the Pontificia Universidad Católica in Santiago, Chile. An associate professor in the College of Arts and Sciences Department of History, Zolov made the trip to South America with his family in late summer, preparing to teach his course, “Los Sesentas Globales” (The Global Sixties), which examines transnational connections that account for the synchrony of political and cultural protests that occurred across “developed” and “developing” nations in the period c. 1958-1973, and frames that discussion within the complexity of Cold War geopolitics. In addition to teaching, Zolov planned to conduct research at the National Library for a book project, Icons of Protest.
Then the unexpected happened. On October 18, 2019, protest broke out in Chile. On the surface, the protests were in response to a 30-peso bump in the Chilean subway fare. Yet the protests found fuel in latent and longstanding discontent with the whole of neoliberal policy. Within 24 hours, Sebastián Piñera, the president of Chile, declared a state of emergency. Since the uprisings began, the Chilean police and military have attempted to quell the unrest with tear gas, water cannons, and rubber bullets, but the protests are still ongoing.
Zolov and his family have had to adjust to the change in situation. “No one saw this coming. The media, colleagues and friends — everyone is trying to come to terms with what happened, what it means and where the country goes from here,” Zolov wrote in a letter to friends and colleagues that appeared in the Statesman. Classes were suspended after two violent incursions onto the campus of the Pontificia Universidad Católica cancelled classes temporality, though Zolov speculates the suspension might extend to the entire length of the semester. In the meantime, he and his wife, Terri Gordon-Zolov, have started to document the use of street art by the protest movement, writing about it in a recent post in The Nation. Their plan is to publish a book of photographs and text about the uprising.