Even against the backdrop of nearly twenty years of seemingly unending crisis, recent news out of Venezuela are astounding: barren grocery stores; unobtainable medicine; resurgent diseases; exploding malnutrition; collapsing infrastructure; mass blackouts; plummeting oil production; millions fleeing – all underlain by an intractable political impasse fueling growing calls for armed intervention that would unquestionably result in even greater catastrophe. As the scale and gravity of the situation surpass even the direst predictions, another dangerous crisis is taking shape, less tangible and compelling but possibly more consequential. It is a crisis of memory and amnesia, one that threads together Venezuela’s past, present, and future turmoil. This crisis informs dangerously simplistic explanations of why Venezuela is where it is – for some, because of an historic dependence on oil; for others, because of the nefarious impact of socialist rule, each one eliding important contrary evidence and motivated more by short-term aims than by long-term solutions. But behind the fog of urgency and its attendant distortions lies nuance critical for a full and considered evaluation of Venezuela’s deeper-seated problems, problems that will continue to exist long after the present crisis abates. These problems extend well beyond any particular policy or program, and instead reach deep into the way that a country does and does not wrestle with its past in order to craft different futures, in the process inviting larger reflections about the role and the purpose of history in urgent times.
Sponsored by the Society of Fellows, the Anthropology Department, the Latin American, Latino, and Caribbean Studies Department.