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Response to Review of The Cry of the Renegade: Politics and Poetry in Interwar Chile

I would like to express my gratitude to Professor Gatica for a such a thoughtful review of my book. She not only describes well the subject matter and approach but also deftly highlights a number of the conceptual and theoretical issues (related to the local and the transnational; spatial and urban history; anarchism and the Left; the circulation of ideas; and policing) I sought to address. There is little I can add to such a thorough review and will limit myself to thanking Dr. Gatica in particular for emphasizing the links between past and present.

I came to the project that became The Cry of the Renegade through an interest in young peoples’ politics and anarchism. In part I wanted to rescue both university students and anarchists from the contemporary and historical condescension that too frequently casts them both as politically naïve, utopian, immature, or ephemeral. The assumption behind such assertions is not only that young people have no place speaking of politics or acting politically but that their demand to do so borders on arrogance and insolence. In the meantime, despite a powerful efflorescence of anarchist ideas and practices in the past two decades around the globe, anarchists continue to be caricatured as immature radicals; or bored bourgeois youth; or intolerant bombthrowers. Over the past four decades, at least in anglophone literature, students and anarchists have been rare subjects of study in Latin American historiography. When they do garner attention, it is usually in the heavily-fetishized context of 1968. By returning to the early 20th century, a longer tradition of student political subjectivity and protest, one frequently allied with forms of radical, worker politics, can be resurrected as can the existence of what I called in the book a 'capacious Left' in which anarchists, communists, syndicalists and socialists struggled in common.

The timing of the book has been opportune given the remarkable influence exercised by Chilean high school and university student insurgencies – closely linked with anarchist politics – of the past decade. Most in the student movement know something of the history of José Domingo Gómez Rojas, but little about his comrades Casimiro Barrios, Juan Gandulfo, and others. The history of the four-month long repression of alleged subversives is a reminder, as Dr. Gatica correctly notes, of the existence not only of a long tradition of student political engagement but also of illiberalism on the part of Chile’s ruling class, one that preceded the coup d’etat of 1973. I thank her again for her generous review.