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Latin American universities in a time of crisis: Responses from the arts, humanities, and social sciences

Holmes, P. and Corbett, J (2021) 'Latin American universities in a time of crisis: Responses from the arts, humanities, and social sciences.', in Why Latin America matters. Edinburgh: University of Edinburgh: Centre for Contemporary Latin American Studies, pp. 64-79.


Drawing on the Brazilian context, we discuss the crisis facing Latin American Universities, where the Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences have been deemed ‘useless’ by populist politicians, who instead favour technicist, neoliberal approaches to education that will produce graduates capable of bolstering a struggling economy. And yet, these disciplines are central to addressing global issues and challenges, and crucial in universities in promoting internationalisation and intercultural collaboration among faculty and students. Paradoxically, covid-19 also offers opportunities for universities in Latin America to internationalise and share resources through the delivery of online programmes, and other virtual exchanges, networks, and collaborations. In this essay, we aim to show how education, embedded in the Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences, and drawing on virtual exchange, can address difference, diversity, marginalisation and exclusion to open up intercultural understanding and communication, especially where young people face conditions of conflict, forced migration, and occupation. Second, we highlight how these forms of education can facilitate intercultural understanding, thereby enhancing critical, participatory, and responsible citizenship in young people. We describe a project, grounded in critical intercultural pedagogy (Freire, 1970), which eschews discourses of competence and employability, and instead involves faculty-student collaboration and coproduction in the Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences to promote intercultural dialogue. The project included a multinational, multidisciplinary, multilingual researcher and student network in seven universities: three in Latin America as well as one in Palestine, one in the United Kingdom, and two in Turkey. We illustrate our approach through two case studies from the project: an intercultural language learning programme in Colombia, inspired by Boal’s (1979) Theatre of the Oppressed ; and a critical intercultural online exchange using flash fiction, poetry, and identity narratives. Our essay offers inspiration to researchers, teachers of languages and intercultural education, policymakers, and others interested in internationalisation in universities on the value of the Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences in promoting international cooperation and understanding within and beyond Latin America.

Item Type:Book chapter
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Date accepted:No date available
Date deposited:06 April 2022
Date of first online publication:30 November 2021
Date first made open access:06 April 2022

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