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Spectres of Lost Futures: Hauntology and Juan Soto’s Parábola del retorno

Calendar Wednesday, 26 April 2023
Calendar 13:00-14:00

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A webinar with guest speaker, Dr Cherilyn Elston (University of Reading), as part of the Global Language-based Area Studies research theme at the School.

Colombian filmmaker Juan Soto has been read within recent scholarship as forming part of a significant new generation of filmmakers producing experimental works that counter dominant (extractive) representations of the country’s armed conflict. Building upon this scholarship, this paper examines Soto’s experimental engagement with memory and his family’s own relationship to political violence through his 2017 film Parábola del retorno (Parable of the Return), which explores the exile and disappearance of Soto’s uncle, Wilson Mario. The article contends, however, that the film’s critical engagement with the audiovisual archive must also be connected to a recent turn within Colombian cultural production in which modes of spectrality and haunting have sought to bring to the present the silences of Colombia’s history of violence in the context of recent peacebuilding and transitional justice processes.

Analysing how Soto’s film cinematographically enacts ideas of hauntology, the paper will show that Soto deploys the modes of spectrality not to reinforce dominant discourses of historical memory, or work through a violent past. Instead, it argues that Soto dialogues with recent scholarly work on spectrality that emphasises the emancipatory potential of the ghost as a means of critiquing official discourses of ‘post-conflict’ and teleological ideas of ‘transition’ in Colombia.

Cherilyn Elston is a Lecturer in Latin American Cultural Studies at the University of Reading. She researches Colombian history, literature and culture, with a particular focus on women’s writing, the feminist movement and the armed conflict. Her first monograph, Women’s Writing in Colombia: An Alternative History (Palgrave Macmillan, 2016), was awarded the 2018 Montserrat Ordóñez Prize by the Latin American Studies Association. Alongside her academic research she is also a published literary translator. She has previously worked in the fields of trade union and human rights advocacy and is currently working on a project exploring the cultural politics of memory, human rights and transitional justice in the context of recent peace processes in Colombia. She was a member of the UK and Ireland Hub, which supported the work of the Colombian Truth Commission in the UK and Ireland.

Event format & recording
The event will take place online as a Zoom webinar and will be recorded for publication after the event.

Simultaneous Translation
The event will be delivered in the medium of English. You are welcome to ask questions in the medium of Welsh during the Q&A session. If you intend to do this, please contact by Wednesday 12 April to request simultaneous translation. Please note that 10% or more of those planning to attend will need to request this provision in order for it to be sourced and will be subject to resource availability.

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