The Forbidden Discipline: The Impact of the Pinochet Dictatorship on Chilean Sociology and Sociologists

Tuesday, July 15, 2014: 11:30 AM
Room: Booth 49
Distributed Paper
Elisabeth SIMBÜRGER , Universidad Diego Portales, Santiago de Chile, Chile
Elisabeth SIMBÛRGER , Universidad de Valparaìso, Chile
In 1972, during the height of Allende’s presidency, Santiago de Chile hosted the Conference of the Latin American Sociological Association (ALAS). The conference would not return to Chile for 41 years, until September 2013.

At the time, Chile was the Latin American center of social scientific exchange and collaboration (Franco, 2007). Besides, Chile’s path towards socialism and its changing society attracted many sociologists from Latin America and overseas. This golden era of Chilean sociology immediately came to a halt with Pinochet’s coup d’etat on 11thSeptember 1973 and the seventeen years of dictatorship. As in other authoritarian regimes the dictatorship not only deeply altered and affected Chilean society (Fleck, 2007), but had major impacts on sociology and the humanities, resulting in the closure of sociology departments and the persecution of sociologists and sociology as leftist ideology, with many having to migrate to save their lives (Barrios and Brunner, 1988; Brunner, 1988; Garretón, 1997, 2005). At the same time, with the forceful implementation of neoliberalism in all areas of life under the guidance of the Chicago Boys, neoliberal economics became the queen of the social sciences, leaving little space for what seemed to be 'ideology' and thus altering the understanding of accepted knowledge in the social sciences.

This paper studies the fundamental transformations of Chilean sociology and sociologists’ lives during the Pinochet dictatorship (1973-1990). Based on qualitative interviews with Chilean sociologists who either experienced the dictatorship as students, academics or professionals, this paper explores three dimensions in which the dictatorship altered sociology and sociologists’ lives: 1) biographical ruptures and transformations, 2) institutional changes such as department closures and the subsequent impact on employment opportunities for sociologists, and 3) epistemological changes within sociology as a discipline, and changing epistemological orientations of sociologists.