The Value of Discussing Unresolved Conflict: What’s Going on in Venezuela?
Despite iced-over sidewalks and inclement weather the night of February 6th, Emerson Auditorium was packed with students ready to listen to a discussion on the escalating crisis in Venezuela. The panel, organized by the International Affairs Department, featured Dr. Gabriel Hetland, a visiting professor and scholar of participatory governance in Latin America from the University at Albany, and three Skidmore faculty members: Professor Paarlberg-Kvam from the Department of International Affairs, Professor Ocakli from the Department of Political Science and Professor Navea from the Department of Chemistry.
Professor Paarlberg-Kvam, who organized and provided opening remarks for the event, highlighted the value of analyzing crises while they are still happening rather than waiting and allowing for the creation of hegemonic narratives. This sentiment was echoed by the other three panelists over the course of the evening, primarily in a call for the critical consumption of media coverage on the issue. Criticism was also waged on the idea of United States intervention, military or otherwise, in response to rising tensions and in contrast with other proposed options, including the recent negotiation hosted in Uruguay.
The nature of provided perspectives on the crisis were, broadly speaking, divided into two categories: academic and personal. Dr. Hetland provided historical context for the crisis, Professor Paarlberg-Kvam offered an understanding of the regional implications of the crisis and Professor Ocakli explained the global implications and response, most directly discussing the prospects of US intervention.
In contrast, Professor Navea’s portion of the panel articulated his difficulty with navigating his own ties to the crisis while living in the United States and his decision to often avoid talking about it as a result. His words, in many ways, were the most needed. Bringing together academic discourse and personal narrative was a vital reminder to the audience that crisis abroad should not be viewed statically through one lens, namely a Northern lens, but understood for all its nuance and complexity.
Overall, this event is the beginning of a positive trend that will hopefully take hold in our community. It echoes the mission of a liberal arts education: to come together across disciplines and perspectives to critically analyze today’s pressing issues and acknowledge our positionality to them. The turnout and participation at the panel is a testament to the often forgotten importance of a multitude of voices needed for any worthwhile discussion.