Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

Periodic Report Summary 1 - ARCHFACT (Building an archive of conflicting memories: A history of Carlos Casado's tannin factory in Paraguay (1889-2001))

Research summary and context:
The aim of the project is to narrate the history of the Casado S.A. tannin factory in Puerto Casado (Paraguay) from 1889 to 2000, from the point of view of the different social groups that were the protagonists of this history: the ex-workers, the Salesian missionaries, the Casado-Sastre family and the descendants of the Argentinean managers and technicians. The factory, that was sold in 2000 to the Reverend Moon’s Unification Church, is today the operational center of a new company, the Victoria Paraguay S.A., that is legally owned by the Reverend Sun Myung Moon’s descendants. At the same time, a group of local inhabitants is claiming part of the 500.000 hectares of land now in possession of the Moon Sect in order to develop their economic activities independently from the company.
In order to collect the history and to involve as much as possible the current inhabitants of Puerto Casado in the process, the project will incorporate the use of design tools as a key element of the research, and in particular: a web archive and an exhibition. Through the use of design tools, the debate on the value of factory as ‘industrial heritage’ or ‘common good’, and the role of indigenous people in contributing to the economic development of the country will be brought to public attention. Moreover, the reconstruction of a common history might foster a dialogue between the indigenous and the non-indigenous part of the population in Puerto Casado, a relationship that is today characterized by many tensions.

Description of the work and main results achieved in the first 24 months of the project:
From the end of August 2014 to the end of August 2016 I have been based at Parsons-The New School in New York. During this period, although in two separate moments and for a total of 7 months, I have gone to Paraguay to carry on my research fieldwork on Carlos Casado’s tannin factory. While in New York, on the other hand, I have attended courses and seminars and I have participated to research labs. In particular, I have acquired the abilities that would allow me to curate an exhibition at the end of the fieldwork period and to understand how to practice interdisciplinarity in a feasible but challenging way.

(A) Courses attended in the first term of the 2014/2015 academic year:
(1) Projects in multi sensorial spaces - Prof: Ernesto Klar - 30 hours.
(2) Curating in the public domain - Prof: Radhika Subramaniam - 45 hours.
(3) Theory of Urban Form - Prof: Brian McGrath - 45 hours
(4) Affective States: on the Politics and Histories of Sentiment - Prof: Ann Stoler - 45 hours.
While the first two courses have focused on what it means to curate and organize an exhibition or an artistic project in the contemporary world, the third course allowed me to have a better understanding of the role of maps as analytical tools in the study of urban and rural territories. The fourth course was more specific to the human sciences sector, but it intended to bridge history and social anthropology as independent disciplines, which is in part what my project is about.

(B) Courses attended in the second term of the 2014/2015 academic year:
(1) Web Design Basics - Prof: Onno Dejong - 45 hours
(2) Anthropology as history of the present - Prof: Ann Stoler - 45 hours
(3) Guatemala Despues - Prof. Nitin Sawhney.
The first course enabled me to acquire the basic knowledge on HTLM 5 and CSS in order to be able to code and design my own web page (I eventually acquired a host domain and created my own web-page with wordpress but I could personalize it by starting with a blank template), while the second was a continuation of a course I followed in the first semester (Affective States). without being too dependent from the format of internet platforms such as wordpress. The third one was an interdisciplinary lab aimed at organizing an exhibition in one of Parsons art galleries on the memory of violence in post-conflict Guatemala, which served as a preparation to the organization of my own exhibition. Finally, I participated as guest professor in two courses ("Design Ethnography" and "Urban Design Studio II"), in order to add to my experience in interdisciplinary collaborations between anthropology and design.

(C) From the 9th of June to 20th of August 2015, during the New School summer break, I have conducted the first part of my fieldwork in Paraguay, realizing the first 34 interviews and identifying the local partner for the implementation of the exhibition, which ended up being the Museo del Barro. In September 2015 I have organized two conferences with Prof. Taussig in Venice in collaboration with the Bevilacqua-LaMasa art foundation in order to start building a bridge between the artistic and the academic world in Venice.

(D) Courses attended in the first term of the 2015/2016 academic year:
(1) Currents - Prof: Lydia Matthews - 45 hours
(2) The art of fieldwork - Prof: Michael Taussig (at Columbia University) - 45 hours
While the first course was an overview of different ways of incorporating walking practices as part of an artistic project, something I wanted to do in Puerto Casado, the second one was a course aimed at re-thinking the ethnographic fieldwork as an art practice, which is part of what my project is about.

(E) From the 16th of January to the 4th of July 2016 I was mainly in Paraguay, where I concluded my last period of research fieldwork by realizing 40 more interviews and organized a research seminar in Asuncion and an artistic residency in Puerto Casado with seven participants from Paraguay (five artists, one graphic designer and 1 biologist) and two urban/communication designers from Parsons-The New School, coming from New York. Finally, from the 25th of July to the 7th of September I went back to Paraguay in order to organizeand carry onthe first exhibition in Puerto Casado (27th and 28th of August) where all the participants of the artistic residency presented their work-in-progress.

Main results achieved in the first 24 months of the project:
The researcher has been acquiring new skills in the following disciplines: curatorial practices, web-design and history. She has delivered four talks (2 in Venice, 1 in New York and 1 in Asuncion) and has implemented a web site and a facebook fan page about the project which is currently followed by 678 people, mainly from Paraguay. She has organized a seminar and an artistic residency in Puerto Casado about her topic of research in collaboration with the co-director of the Museo del Barro (Paraguay). She has written one article that has been accepted for publication. Finally, she has realized an exhibition in Puerto Casado in order to show the first results of the artistic residency.

Expected final results and their potential impact and use:
Following the results of the artistic residency and the collaboration with El Barro museum of Asuncion, four exhibitions will have been carried on by the end of the project (2 in Paraguay, 1 in New York, 1 in Venice). From a methodological point of view, the whole process is the result of an outstanding process of collaboration between an anthropologist, a museum curator, five artists, a biologist, a graphic designer and two urban/communication designers. The modalities of this collaboration will be an important source of analysis and they could provide an interesting case-study for other anthropology researchers that would like to follow this path. Similar experiences, like that of forensic architecture at Goldsmith University, are now considered a reference point for investigators working in interdisciplinary environments. All working teams made in this direction are nowadays consolidating experimental pathways that could inspire new practices for the future.
An exhibition catalogue and a book narrating the oral history of the one hundred years of history of the Carlos Casado company in Paraguay will be published, giving a substantial contribution to the creation of a corpus of knowledge about the Paraguayan Chaco which is still very scarce and incomplete. Two important international seminars - one in Venice and one in New York - will make the interdisciplinary research process visible to the academic community and they could provide an important point of reference for future researchers. This whole process will also be described in an article.
In Paraguay, the realization of an exhibition and a book on the history of Puerto Casado will allow the general public to uncover unspoken aspects of the history of the country and to foster the discussion on the actual socio-political situation of the country and the direction it could take in the future. In particular, I am referring to the exploitation of natural resources and land distribution. In Puerto Casado the recovery of this history is particularly important, given the fast pace that development is taking and the big changes that all the area is undergoing.

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Life Sciences
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