Presented by: Carlo Tognato, Associate Professor, Department of Sociology, National University of Colombia, Bogotá; Director, Nicanor Restrepo Santamaría Center for Civil Reconstruction, Bogotá
Abstract: Universities generate knowledge. In democratic societies, though, they also provide a space where young citizens may pilot civil practices, develop civic competences and dispositions, and be molded into forms of subjectivity congenial to democratic life. Where the democratic order is challenged by non-democratic conceptions of social life, universities may also be a site where different subjectivities are cultivated to accommodate the latter, and hence may become a terrain for very intense contention and competition among different formative institutions. Here, I will zoom into such processes by addressing a stinging controversy that broke out in 2016 on the Bogota campus of the National University of Colombia as well as in national media when the Dean of Human Sciences awarded a distinction to a former faculty member who had been fired and jailed for collaborating with the insurgency. Doing so will allow me to bring into evidence the destabilizing effects of polarization on the performance of civil discourse and more generally on the consolidation of civil life in Colombia.