These fragments were written in 2018 before, in March of 2020, Covid-19 made apocalypse part of our collective imagination.
In October 2018 in Chile students protested the raise of the metro fair by refusing to pay, and this protest was followed by others. Police repression followed, then more protests and more repression, and finally the call to vote (2021) on a new constitution that limits the current neoliberal market economy, which doesn’t reinvest its profits in improving the living conditions of workers and, while increasing the cost of living, still doesn’t offer basic services.
I wrote these fragments in El Paso, Texas. My experience of the neoliberal model at the time was different from the Chilean one. The neoliberal university in the United States hires part-time (adjunct) university teachers who are paid per class taught. A part-time professor or adjunct professor needs to teach about seven classes per semester to make a salary equivalent to the lowest salary of a full-time professor at the same institution, who teaches three or fewer classes per semester, and has benefits such as health insurance and a contract. Adjuncts have no contract, thus there is no guarantee that you will continue teaching the classes that you teach. Adjuncts are disposable, a situation that makes complaining a risk. These professors constitute 40% (2011) of the neoliberal university academic body in the United States.
Since there is no contract, the adjunct professor must compete to generate conditions of stability. Being a good teacher, having a Ph.D, publishing books and articles, are not enough. The adjunct professor must, in addition to teaching, try to improve her conditions by doing service to the department, to the discipline, and to the community, by attending conferences and publishing. All of these activities are performed under much more precarious conditions than adjuncts’ full-time colleagues, and still these efforts might never be acknowledged. In these conditions, teaching and doing research--a noble and necessary job--can alienate their workers.
This was my context, and these fragments were written imagining a world that assisted--helped and attended to--the end of the world. “The end of the world, again?” you might think. Yes, and it hasn’t stopped happening, it expands beyond the time of resolution, teleology, conclusion, progress, and evolution, words that occupy no real space in our vocabulary anymore.
The less poor countries harden their borders with walls, with laws, with more police. They harden up the people that live at these borders. You hear them speak of immigrants as if they were the enemy, and from all places and to all borders immigrants keep on coming; they don’t own anything but they want to preserve their lives.
We can only write the world in metaphors, or with the assistance of symbols. I chose the fragment--bits of a mosPh.D.aic. Each piece belongs to a different dusty set of tableware. I don’t rule out that they might have been distorted by time, like when we tell a story somebody else told us, and they themselves had heard it from another. Insignificant fragments, but its ensemble is a machine that multiplies the parts and makes shards.
How to survive the end when we already know we have run out of time? The voices in these fragments are fearless regrets; I want to think that once we accept there is no time left and we have nothing to lose, then dignity will matter.
Riverside, Junio, 2021
Translated by Alaric Lopez and Paula Cucurella