Three Latin American writers discuss the labyrinth of identity

©Photo: Eleanor - Unsplash

At an event jointly hosted by Casa Amèrica Catalunya and Diplocat

An online discussion entitled "The Labyrinth of Identity. Becoming Others" has been hosted today by Casa Amèrica Catalunya and Diplocat. The event was introduced by Marta Nin, the Director of Casa Amèrica Catalunya, who underscored the synergies between both institutions in organising activities together. In turn, Laura Foraster, Secretary General of Diplocat, welcomed the panellists and noted that Diplocat's task, as summarised in the tagline of its Strategic Plan ("International Dialogue: Connect. Project. Empower."), sets out the organisation's purpose as listening and being listened to in order to build bridges of dialogue between Catalan civil society and the rest of the world. She also added that today's conversation shows how "countries are not silos and globalisation has also taken place in the cultural realm".

The discussion was moderated by Dunia Gras, a lecturer at the University of Barcelona and a specialist in contemporary Latin American narrative. It featured Ariana Harwicz (Argentina), who currently lives in France and is considered one of the most avant-garde writers of her generation; Lina Meruane (Chile), a descendant of Palestinians and Italians and at present a lecturer at New York University, who has gained a reputation as one of the most influential Latin American writers; and Carlos Fonseca (Costa Rica), who grew up in Puerto Rico and now lives in London and is a lecturer at Cambridge University.

In her introduction, Gras talked about identity as something shifting rather than unchanging owing to circumstances such as living in another language or being a foreigner while maintaining a bond with your origins, and how this is reflected in the authors' books. She asked the panellists about how the current healthcare crisis is challenging global identity and once more bringing out an identity shaped by borders.

In his reply, Fonseca pointed out that this situation has shown "another side of some globalisation processes" and that people are now talking about national borders again. Meanwhile, Harwicz stressed that as a writer she shuns the global ideological premise of "writing as identity machines" and identifying the author with their work and the ideas depicted in it. "I do not write with a particular identity," she commented.

Finally, Meruane raised the purism imposed in literature and the habit of drawing a straight-line relationship between the author and their characters. All the panellists agreed that "identity is not something fixed, which is a good thing" as Lina Meruane put it, and that it is built by moving forward and not just from origins as Carlos Fonseca noted.