Denisa Jashari is an assistant professor of Latin American history at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and was a fall 2020 visiting fellow.
My transition to the University of Notre Dame in August 2020 was among the easiest moves I have made. A short car ride from Bloomington, where I had just received my PhD in history at Indiana University, and an incredibly thoughtful orientation by Kellogg Institute staff meant that I could literally hit the ground running. My fellowship at Kellogg, though one semester in length, has been an invaluable resource that has helped me make progress on my research. I relished the tranquility of the Hesburgh Center, where I could spend hours examining hard-to-find manuscripts held at the Hesburgh Library. In fact, I had searched in vain for some of these texts while doing research in Chile, where they were first published. What a treasure and privilege to have encountered publications such as those by the Santiago-based Centro Ecuménico Diego de Medellín (Diego de Medellín Ecumenical Center) on the Notre Dame campus. Combining previous primary source research conducted in Chile with secondary material from the Notre Dame library resulted in a much more nuanced and historically grounded article draft.
Many institutions claim to value interdisciplinarity, but Kellogg delivers, especially during the work-in-progress seminars where I was able to broaden my intellectual horizons and engage in deep cross-disciplinary exchanges with economists, political scientists, anthropologists, and sociologists, among others. This diverse milieu exposed me to different bodies of scholarship and networks that I had not previously considered. Kellogg created a friendly but critical intellectual space, where all participants carefully engaged with the text at hand in the hope of moving it forward. I am deeply indebted to Tim Matovina from the theology department and Jaime Pensado from history for their careful and generous engagement with my work. Their feedback helped broaden the historiographical interventions and fine-tune the theoretical contributions. I was also fortunate to collaborate with historians and share a chapter of my manuscript with the Latin American History Working Group. They easily integrated me into their on-going activities and provided a supportive and warm environment.
The changed global landscape during the COVID-19 pandemic also meant that I could not travel to Chile during the summer of 2020 to continue research. For a historian whose primary work is in archives, the inability to travel became a significant barrier. Fortuitously, the collections held at the University Archives became my saving grace. Not only did I feel like a researcher again but finding a treasure trove of documents pertaining to Rev. Gerald Whelan, a Holy Cross Congregation priest with years of experience in Chile, provided the missing link to my ongoing project. Father Whelan’s trajectory forced me to think more seriously about the transnational connections that progressive Catholics fostered in defense of human rights during the Cold War in Latin America.
Lastly, I was fortunate to share an unprecedented experience with an incredibly supportive and positive group of fellows. Against all odds, we built a tightknit community through shared fire alarm evacuations, WhatsApp group messages, virtual hangouts, and socially distanced meals in the courtyard. Thank you Kellogg for a truly unforgettable semester!