Late University Cultures: Aesthetic Education in Neoliberal Chile and Argentina. (In preparation).

Late University Cultures presents a new institutionalist account of the entanglement of literature, criticism, higher education, and politics in contemporary Chile and Argentina in order to ground our understanding of contemporary cultural production more broadly in the category of reproductive labor. It advances two main arguments, one historical and the other political. First, I argue that the consolidation of neoliberalism and new canons of social and cultural theory have made the university essential to the reproduction of the literary institution in the democratic era. This is reflected in contemporary fiction writing and the canonization of figures Ricardo Piglia, Diamela Eltit, and Pola Oloixarac. Second, I argue that the effects of neoliberalism on higher education in the Southern Cone have sharpened contradictions internal to academic labor allowing recent social movements—the MTDs in Argentina and the 2011 student movement in Chile—to suggest that study, understood as a form of unwaged, reproductive labor can be wielded for the institution of radical change.

More broadly, the book shows how contemporary shifts in the restricted field of cultural production in the Southern Cone reflect abstract forms of late capitalist domination—especially the compounded crises of social reproduction often figured as precarity, informality, or surplus populations—while also experimenting with or envisioning alternatives. In doing so, it outlines a reproductive labor theory of cultural value informed by aesthetic theory and cultural practices where we find some of the most developed discourses on value alternative to those of capitalist production and exchange.


“Inactual, desigual y combinado.” Escrituras Americanas, vol. 6, no. 1/2, April 2024, pp. 461-69. (Open access).

"El texto de Thayer huye de la categorización y rechaza la comunicación directa, haciendo de su estilo un baluarte de su política inoperativa. A pesar de reiterada asociación con la práctica posestructuralista de la écriture, la preocupación por la estética del discurso filosófico se remonta por lo menos a los Románticos, que la utilizaban de contrapeso a la mathesis universalis cartesiana y sus avatares en las ciencias naturales y sociales. Se podría aplicar a La crisis no moderna lo que Barthes dice sobre la literatura en un texto citado por Thayer: “En la medida en que pone en escena al lenguaje—en lugar de, simplemente, utilizarlo—” el discurso filosófico de Thayer “engrana el saber en la rueda de la reflexividad infinita: a través de la escritura, el saber reflexiona sin cesar sobre el saber según un discurso que ya no es epistemológico sino dramático (. . .) la escritura convierte al saber en una fiesta.”

Deus Ex Machina: Contemporary Argentina's Literature of Infrastructure.MLN, vol. 138, no. 2, March 2023, pp. 503-28. (Open access).

This article traces the growth of representations of literary infrastructure in Argentinean fiction during the neoliberal era (1976-present). As Argentina’s robust mid-century literary institution has declined, the concrete organizations that constitute its infrastructure—publishing houses, educational institutions, cultural bureaucracies—have become fodder for literary fiction. I argue that literature represents its own infrastructure when that infrastructure comes to present a problem. To make this claim I offer an institutionalist history of Argentinean letters grounded in the country’s turbulent political economy that culminates in a close reading of two works, César Aira’s El congreso de la literatura (1996) and Pola Oloixarac’s Mona (2018), that exemplify what I call Argentina’s literature of infrastructure.


Me veo a mi mismo leyendo : Ricardo Piglia’s Aesthetic Education in Los diarios de Emilio Renzi.Revista de Estudios Hispánicos,  vol. 56, no. 3, October 2022., 343-67. (Open access).

This article examines the relationship between Ricardo Piglia and the literary field as an act of aesthetic education that emerges from the encounter between his field-shaping poetics and its reflection among critics, what I call critical mimesis. I suggest that the disjunctive “I” that narrates the diaries, the misattribution of their authorship to Piglia’s longtime alter ego Emilio Renzi, the constant representation of acts of self-observation exemplify his field poetics. The architecture of the subject in the diaries is inseparable from its material, social, and institutional inscription, that is, the form of the subject is the community of readers and writers crystallized around the minor literary institutions of the autobiographical and autofictive genres. Material inscription not only reflects Piglia Renzi’s life to others; it transforms self-reflection into second-order observation by transforming the writer into a reader of his own life-become-text. Raised in this way to the second degree, Piglia’s poetics imparts a conspiratorial form to his metafictional oeuvre which I claim is the political lesson of our Piglian aesthetic education: a willingness to challenge the reality of reality and construct alternative ones in a community of co-conspirators convened by the author’s work.

In an era of ostensibly decreasing state involvement in national economies, why do states continue to subsidize cultural production while cutting other social welfare spending? What is the insertion of cultural production into the imaginary of the neoliberal state? Prompted by the nearly simultaneous creation of the Mexican and Chilean ministries of culture in 2015, this article addresses this question in these two contexts. In doing so it recovers the link between cultural and educational policy to understand the importance of the neoliberal state’s discursive institution of culture as capital.  Latin American cultural policy has traditionally placed culture in service of education understood as progress toward Western models of civilization. In the twentieth century cultural and educational policy slowly divorced. A comparative history of Chilean and Mexican cultural bureaucracies  demonstrates that national culture has been “freed” from its utility for the education of citizens only to be doubly instrumentalized by the state on behalf of capital. Today,  the cultural policy of neoliberal states acculturates subjects to their status as precarious, flexible, self-managing, and self-valorizing workers, whether in the form of human capital or informal labor. Neoliberal cultural policy in Chile treats culture as a form of capital, presupposing and teaching the countability and accountability of ever-wider realms of life. In Mexico, the valorization of culture mirrors the increasingly direct valorization of informal economies, and the challenges of calculating either make both into vehicles for corruption, that is, a form of informal governance by a deregulatory neoliberal state. The two processes are complementary: the increasingly indirect valorization of self-valorizing labor allows for the increasingly direct valorization of spheres previously deemed marginally economic or noneconomic. Likewise, the calculability and accountability of culture in Chilean cultural policy and the incalculability of Mexico’s culture-of-favor cultural policy are but two sides of one coin issued by the same neoliberal state form. Both depend on the discursive institution (from above) of culture as cultural capital and labor as human capital reflected (from below) in the formation of Latin American subjects to contemporary capitalism.


Movement Rhythms, Motley Knowledges.The Pedagogies of Social Justice Movements in the Americas, special issue of LÁPIZ, no. 4, 2019: 7-20. (Open access). 

This article introduces a special issue of LÁPIZ, The Pedagogies of Social Justice Movements in the Americas which contains articles by Bruno Baronnet on the politico-pedagogical practices of the Zapatistas; Vanessa Andreotti on radical education as a practice of collective ontogenesis that subverts the abstract domination of colonial, capitalist modernity; and Lia Barabosa Pinheiro on the sentipensante (feeling-thinking) pedagogies of the Landless Rural Workers Movement (MST), Vía Campesina Internacional, and other struggles. I frame the intervention of the issue as an inquiry into the possibility of an equal encounter between  colonial, university knowledges and the knowledges authored by social movements in their movement, an intervention that problematizes the all too familiar temporal lag between events and our knowledge about them which often only betrays the possessive subject of “our knowledge” that jealously guards its class supremacy by policing the division between mental and manual labor, the head and the hand.  Through a reading of Raquel Gutiérrez Aguilar and the militant research of Argentinean theory collective Situaciones together with the education working group of the Solano Unemployed Workers Movement (MTD-Solano), I make the case for understanding  the articles in the issue as relations in the sense of stories that bind or else recountings of the beats of the uncanny rhythms of social movements and their knowledges. Calling on the work of Bolivian sociologist René Zavaleta Mercado and the Bolivian Aymara scholar-activist Silvia Rivera Cusicanqui, I suggest that the resulting counterpoint telegraphs the image of a motley (abigarrado in Spanish) or heathered (ch’ixi in Aymara) knowledge, one which combines without synthesizing these different modes and relations of knowledge production.

Surplus Rebellion, Human Capital, and the Ends of Study in Chile, 2011.A contracorriente, vol. 14, no. 2, 2017: 283-307. (Open access).

This article traces a dual representational crisis, at once mimetic and political, coursing through Chile’s 2011 movement and its post-Transition conjuncture. It aims to reconfigure the archive of 2011 in order to release its radical potential from the obfuscating solutions offered by the alliance of its dominant academic and journalistic reception and Chile’s elitist, liberal democracy, and to understand why in 2017—six years since 2011 and a decade since the outbreak of student unrest—Chilean people continue to defy the state. Through a close reading of an anonymous pamphlet defending the violent, masked protestors known as encapuchados, I argue that this figure affects a representational crisis. As the anonymity of the encapuchado confounds the regimes of identification on which the moral economy of liberal democracy rests, so the anonymous authorship of its defense confounds the political logics of textual representation. In order to account for the encapuchado as a part of a movement that is not one, I advocate for an expanded understanding of 2011 as both a student strike and a rebellion of surplus populations –like the encapuchado– rendered marginal to productive waged labor. A materialist analysis traces the historical transfiguration of the Chilean university student, first, into a student-investor in her own human capital and, then, into a student-debtor. Reading the student in terms of its future labor, I ask if reconceiving study, its basic activity, as a form of present, unwaged, reproductive labor performed in service of future, productive, waged labor might dislodge the discursive capture of human capital and the moralizing control of the debt relation. I develop this argument with a reading of interviews with secondary students who occupied and self-gestated their schools in the winter of 2011. Through this example, I suggest that a notion of work beyond production and reproduction for capital, what I call study-without-end, subtends the divisive figuration of the movement into peaceful, student protester and violent, masked rioter.


Willy Thayer. The Non-Modern Crisis of the Modern University. Translated by Bret Leraul. Evanston: Northwestern Univeristy Press, 2025.

 Like the institution it addresses, Willy Thayer’s The Non-Modern Crisis of the Modern University is an untimely text—a threshold, a frame, a beginning that is at once an end. The untimeliness of its object is announced in its title: the mismatch between the university’s modern form and its non-modern crisis. This is not a post-modern crisis as Daniel Bell or Jean-François Lyotard, one of Thayer’s foremost interlocutors, famously asserted, for the “post-modern” implies a modern, historicist figuration of time as chronological succession of epochs and events. The untimeliness of the crisis of the university today is as much epistemological as it is historical—not post-modern but non-modern. For this reason, perhaps the text’s untimeliness is more accurately captured by Thayer’s more polysemic term inactualidad or inactuality—that is, at once historically out of date, temporally out of joint and virtual, unreal, or not yet actualized or instantiated

This second, more epistemological acceptation of untimeliness as inactuality is borne in the notion of crisis announced by the title and also throughout by the recurring question concerning critique. The word crisis entered vernacular European languages through the field of medicine which had conserved the term in Galen’s treatises that governed medical practice in Europe for almost 1500 years. Crisis in this medical sense is at once a physical state and the judgment about that physical state that decides whether a patient lives or dies. Crisis is the razor’s edge, the moment of suspension before the decision, before the event, the space of the virtual, the interregnum. 

We know that the term crisis and critique share an etymology, a metaphorology, a conceptual history going back at least to the Ancient Greek verb krino which signifies to separate, choose, judge, decide, dispute.  Critique is also the watchword of modern philosophy in the wake of Kant’s Copernican revolution and therefore a watchword of the modern university under its German aspect. The Non-Modern Crisis of the Modern University tells us that the crisis of modern crisis is also the non-modern crisis of modern critique, the non-modern crisis of modern categories that once demarcated the conditions of possibility of critique as the condition of possibility of knowledge in general. But without falling into gross contradiction, Thayer cannot “step back” like a Descartes or a Kant in order to gain the critical distance needed for a discursive accounting of the university and its knowledges. Thayer’s text cannot be a critique of this or any other university, just as it cannot be the history of its idea. Instead, Thayer’s text performs a crisis—with all the virtuality and artifice connoted by that term—but a crisis without a sovereign subject, a minor crisis, that like the text never comes to a decision, instead making deferral, delay, hesitation into the non-modern form of a critique that is also, seemingly, its only sense of a future. A perpetual present of unending crisis would seem the price for this untimely “critique.” 

(Excerpt from "Untimely, Uneven, Combined: Translator’s Introduction")


Thayer, Willy,  Silvia Schwarzböck, Andrés Menard, Elizabeth Collingwood-Selby, and Sergio Villalobos-Ruminott. “(Post)Humanities and the University: A Conversation.” Translated by Bret Leraul, World Humanities Report (Madison, WI: Consortium of Humanities Centers and Institutes (CHCI).

Quílez Esteve, Laia. “Documenting Inherited Memories: Homage, Redemption, and Affect in Entre el dictador y yo.” Translated by Bret Leraul, Studies in Documentary Film, vol. 13, no. 3.

Barbosa Pinheiro, Lia. “The Sentipensante and Revolutionary Pedagogies of Latin American Social Movements.” Translated by Bret Leraul, The Pedagogies of Social Justice Movements in the Americas, special issue of LÁPIZ, no. 4, 2019, pp. 23-40.

Palacio, Manuel and Juan Carlos Ibañez. “A New Model for Spanish Cinema. Authorship and Globalisation: The Films of Javier Rebollo.” Translated by Bret Leraul, Journal of Spanish Cultural Studies. vol. 16, no. 1, 2015. pp. 29-43.

Other Writing

Book Review

Review of Photopoetics at Tlatelolco: Afterimages of Mexico, 1968, by Samuel Steinberg. Iberoamericana (Vervuert), No. 65, 2017. pp. 311-321. 

Commissioned Essays

"Disciplinary Utopia." 2013. 

with Christine ‘Xine’ Yao. Montage Histories: Tompkins County through Photographs 1864-2014.  2014. 

If you are unable to access any of my writing, please send me an email.