Department Chair and Professor of Spanish, Gareth Williams, recently published the translation into Spanish of his book The Other Side of the Popular: Neoliberalism and Subalternity in Latin America. The translation, titled El Otra Lado de lo Popular, El Neoliberalismo y Subalternidad en America Latina, was published by Ediciones Macul in Santiago, Chile. 

1. Can you tell me what your book is about?

The book was written originally in the late 1990s and very beginning of the 21st century, and is about the end of one historical period in Latin America called the Cold War/national period, the beginning of another period that we now refer to as neoliberal globalization, the different kinds of social crises and forms of violence that accompanied this historical shift in the U.S., the countries of the Southern Cone, the Andes, and Central America, and its impact on the way we can think about culture, politics, and aesthetics now. The book ultimately explores the need to reimagine our relation to the political itself in the name of freedom, at a time when all previous imaginings of freedom had already been brought to their knees by the violence of neoliberal market/state forces. Now, of course, the situation is worse than when I wrote the book over twenty years ago.

2. What inspired you to write this book?

Inspiration never comes from a single place. For me it is always the result of different influences related to my own experience, or passage through life. Inspiration is another name for having to get something off your back, I feel. When I think about the inspiration for this book I think back to my fear of long-term unemployment as a teenager growing up in the north of England in the 1970s and 1980s, my musical tastes growing up, the utter boredom I felt throughout high school and the university, my experience of economic collapse and violence as a teenager, and also in Mexico and Guatemala when I was twenty, my desire to read literature, philosophy, and history of all kinds, the feeling of estrangement that comes from migrating to the U.S. at the age of twenty two, and the incredible intelligence of the loved ones and friends who inspired me to keep reading, thinking, talking, writing in both English and Spanish. For me, in the end inspiration is only about the people you can surround yourself with in life.

3. Who is your target audience for your book?

As I already mentioned, I wrote the book twenty years ago and I remember that when I was writing it I did so for bored graduate students and young scholars. I wanted the book to mark a generational break. I wanted to write in a conceptual and politically committed language that would allow young people to see that they could experiment and take chances with what they read, wrote, thought, and talked about. In other words, they didn’t have to reproduce the language and methodologies of their professors. The book broke with the way things were done in the Latin American humanities at that time in a way that few books have (or at least that is what I have been told), and I think the book is for young people who are basically ok with academic/intellectual heresy.

4. What do you hope people gain from reading your book?

An appreciation for the complexities underlying the simple word perhaps. If anyone reads the book, hopefully they’ll get what I mean.

5. Can you tell me about the translation process?

The translation to Spanish has been a clear case of “All hands on deck”, which I like because it encapsulates the spirit of the book too. I am bilingual and could have done the translation myself years ago, but I’ve never enjoyed translation work and the writing of the book itself left me exhausted, so for many years I didn’t want to live with it all over again. I was happy just to let it go and move forward to other projects. In the end, my colleague and friend Sergio Villalobos Ruminott put together a group of young scholars (Pedro Aguilera Mellado, Marlene Beiza Latorre, Matías Beverinotti, Pablo Domínguez Galbraith, Gerardo Muñoz, Jorge Quintana, and Sergio himself) to work collectively on the translation from English to Spanish.  Sergio oversaw the operation and translated parts of the book too.  Then I worked through their collective translation of the entire completed manuscript, offering whatever I could to the overall translating process, and finally Juan Leal Ugalde applied a final process of correction before sending it off to the Press. So, with one thing and another, the translation has been a long time in the making and I’m delighted it is now available to a non-English speaking public, twenty years after.