Contact

Christine Metz Howard
KU News Service
785-864-8852

Professor finds intellectuals play important role in Mexico’s public sphere

Wed, 07/09/2014

LAWRENCE – Compared with the United States, the influence of intellectuals in Mexico’s social and political spheres has been extraordinary, although the danger of using that power has come with threats to position, freedom and life.

Stuart Day, an associate professor and chair of the Department of Spanish & Portuguese at the University of Kansas, co-edited a book that examines the important and changing roles that intellectuals have in the country’s public sphere. Through a collection of essays, the book “Mexican Public Intellectuals” highlights the sway public intellectuals have on the country’s elections, human rights, foreign policies and drug war.

“In Mexico, it’s redundant to say public intellectual. By definition, intellectuals are out in the public sharing ideas. Through books, magazine articles, television talk shows and newspaper columns, they are out there in the world,” Day said.

The book profiles artists, activists, professors, performers, politicians and writers who have influenced public spaces beyond the ivory towers of academia or the salons of the literary elite.

Often household names, frequent talk show guests and contributors to discourse occurring in print, online and in streets and plazas, these intellectuals are a central figure in Mexico’s sociopolitical life and taken seriously — so much so that several of the intellectuals profiled in the book have told stories of outright death threats and threats to career advancement or freedom.

As an example, Day points to the book’s essay on poet Javier Sicilia, which was written by Javier Barroso, a doctoral student at KU. After drug traffickers murdered his son, Sicilia went on to become the leader of a national peace movement, in which subsequently several members have been murdered or vanished.

“He left the comfort of the average intellectual to march in the streets to demand justice,” Day said.

The inspiration for the book came after Day wrote an article about playwright Sabina Berman and performance artist and social activist Jesusa Rodriguez. Both women took their work from the dramatic stage to the national one. Berman is a co-host of a television talk show and has interviewed everyone from presidents to the mothers of those kidnapped. Rodriguez worked with the campaign of presidential candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador.

“They didn’t fit the traditional role of public intellectuals, but they used their talents to have a sustained, positive effect on society,” Day said.

Day, with co-editor Debra Castillo, decided to edit a book that highlighted a combination of traditional and more marginal intellectuals to recognize the tremendous power these people have to change local and national decisions.

“It expands the idea of what a public intellectual is in Mexico. It’s more inclusive,” Day said. 



Matt Menzenski, a graduate student in Slavic languages & literatures, took this photo during President Obama’s speech at KU Thursday. Menzenski says he was struck by how relaxed the president was in his delivery. He missed a chance to hear former President Bill Clinton speak in his hometown in 2004, but finally got to see a sitting president this week at KU. “The opportunity to hear the president speak is just one of many great opportunities I've had at KU. So many interesting talks and events happen here all the time. I try to attend at least one a week-- it's never hard to find something interesting to go to.” Tags: University of Kansas College of Liberal Arts and Sciences KU School of Languages, Literatures & Cultures KU Dept of Slavic Languages - Friends & Alumni Barack Obama The White House #exploreKU #POTUSatKU

#KUfacts : There are 30+ tenant companies in the Bioscience & Technology Business Center at KU. http://t.co/PqeeY5r16W #growKS
Explore KU: The Bells of Mount Oread KU’s Campanile, a 120-foot-tall timepiece that tolls automatically on the hour and quarter-hour, not only sounded in the 2015 New Year at midnight with 12 mighty gongs, but also regularly rings up memories for many Jayhawks – the 277 faculty and students who gave their lives during World War II, the graduates who walk through its doors at commencement, and aspiring students who have strolled through the Lawrence campus. (See http://bit.ly/1xjjwJj). For nearly 60 years, KU’s 53-bell carillon has been tolling the sounds of peace and serenity across Mount Oread since it was installed in June 1955 inside the landmark World War II Memorial Campanile, which was dedicated in 1951. (See http://bit.ly/1BoL9jv) The carillon is also a four-octave musical instrument, which is played with a giant keyboard and foot pedals. University Carillonneur Elizabeth Egber-Berghout (http://bit.ly/14fiBPl), associate professor of carillon and organ, climbs 77 steps up a spiral staircase in the bell tower to perform recitals several times a month.


One of 34 U.S. public institutions in the prestigious Association of American Universities
26 prestigious Rhodes Scholars — more than all other Kansas colleges combined
Nearly $290 million in financial aid annually
46 nationally ranked graduate programs.
—U.S. News & World Report
Top 50 nationwide for size of library collection.
—ALA
23rd nationwide for service to veterans —"Best for Vets," Military Times