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Q&A faculty spotlight: Ana Del Sarto

April 1, 2024

Q&A faculty spotlight: Ana Del Sarto

Ana Del Sarto

Ana Del Sarto is an associate professor in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese. Professor Del Sarto's areas of specialization include Latin American cultural studies, literary, cultural and critical theories, ethnic and gender studies, identities and subject formations, comparative studies of Lusophone and Hispanic Latin America, globalization studies, and Southern Cone narrative.

Please list your educational history including degrees earned and universities attended. 

PhD, The Ohio State University, 1994-1999
Concentration: Modern Latin American Literatures and Cultures
Diversification: Colonial Latin American Literatures and Cultures
Minor: Literary and Cultural Theory 

MA in International Affairs, Ohio University, 1991-1998
Major: Latin American Studies
Minor: Political Sciences 

MA in Spanish, Ohio University, 1992-1994

Licenciatura in International Relations, Facultad de Ciencias, 1985-1990
Políticas y Relaciones Internacionales. Universidad Nacional de Rosario
(U.N.R.), Rosario, Argentina 

Please describe your current research/creative activity or area(s) of interest.

Currently I'm editing Irreverent Passions: Writing and Affects in the Southern Cone of Latin America, an interdisciplinary book manuscript, which engages and crosses the critical literary analysis of Southern Cone women's writings, feminisms and gender issues with affect theories and psychoanalysis from the framework of Latin American cultural studies. It examines affects and affectivity theoretically, critically, and creatively in several literary works (novels, poetry and essays), as well as some journalistic chronicles and activist/political essays. The primary corpus of study is constituted by the novels The Naked Woman (1950), and Only Elephants Find Mandragora (1986), written by Armonía Somers (Uruguay, 1914-1994); “The Prison Notebooks” (1977-78), Steps Under Water (1985), and “Daggers” by Alicia Kozameh (Argentina, 1952-); Custody of the Eyes (1994) by Diamela Eltit (Chile, 1949-); journalistic chronicles and political essays by Lohana Berkins (Argentina, 1965-2016) and Marlene Wayar (Argentina, 1968-); and, finally, the essay The Futile Journey (2018), the long prose poem Sandro's Girlfriend (2015/2021) and the novel Bad Girls (2021) by Camila Sosa Villada (Argentina, 1982-).

One of the central topics of the book is “bodies.” I am especially interested in what is produced through the encounter of bodies. Since I started reading literature, and particularly women's literary works, I was always attracted to find how bodies “speak.” Bodies speak in a multiplicity of languages, one of them is through writing, but also through pain and uneasiness, through joy and laughter. Following certain concepts from psychoanalysis, especially by Jacques Lacan, Heléne Cixous, Julia Kristeva and Bracha Ettinger, I've come to believe that when bodies speak, we listen to their unconscious, to the unconscious of that body (well… a text can be a body too… and I know that is difficult to imagine. Because texts don't have unconscious, do they? … Although there are scholars who believe so…). Hence, how do we read the unconscious? Do we read it between the lines? Is it even possible? What is the unconscious anyway?

This book was born out of my first monograph, Suspicion and Jouissance (enjoyment): a genealogy of cultural critique in Chile, in which I engaged in conversations with the works of Nelly Richard, a French-born cultural critic, who moved to Chile in the early 1970s and became a prominent Latin American feminist intellectual very early by the late 1970s/beginning of the 1980s. When I was a grad student, during the 1990s, “theory” was pervasive in all fields of the humanities and the social sciences. I read many poststructuralist theories, especially French Feminism, what was considered the Feminist trinity “Luce Irigaray, Julia Kristeva and Heléne Cixous,” but I also became familiar with Judith Butler's works –Gender Trouble and Bodies that Matter. Gender, as a concept or a category, was circulating widely in the US Academia. However, at that time, we did not have a specific language to speak publicly about gender violence. Many women's, gender, and sexuality studies departments and programs were emerging. Feminism, on the other hand, was left aside for a while. Mainstream media here claimed that “Feminism was dead.” However, during the “Me too” movement, it came back to the scene. These back-and-forth waves, tides, and movements only tell us that gender inequalities are still serious issues in our world today; as well as gender violence and feminicide are pervasive in Latin America. Thus, the importance to keep feminisms alive, vibrant, inclusive, and diverse.

What/who influenced you to select your area(s) of study and how has that impacted your career?

I came to the U.S. to pursue an MA in Latin American Studies, with a concentration in political sciences. The social sciences within U.S. academia were methodologically more quantitative and, thus, most of the classes in the program were very different from the ones I took during my undergraduate studies in Argentina. That MA program was very interdisciplinary and, as part of the main core requirements, I had to take a class in Latin American Literatures. That changed my career direction, from the quantitative and case-study methodologies of the social sciences to a more qualitative, ethnographic and discourse analysis of the humanities. During those years, the humanities in U.S. academia were experiencing many transformations; it was one of the main sources of critical thinking and their sub-fields embraced the kind of questions I was posing to myself. Much closer to poststructuralism, critical theory and cultural studies, my interests were mainly theoretical, related to the sociopolitical and cultural aspects of subject positionalities.

I started my PhD here at Ohio State in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese during the heyday of the “cultural turn.” Straddling between that the humanities and the social sciences, Latin American cultural studies — firmly rooted in the Latin American critical thinking traditions — allowed me to keep my interdisciplinary work in both areas, between theory and critical discourses in cultural studies and a more creative scholarly work on literary analysis and criticism. This fertile breeding of interdisciplinary work within cultural studies provided me with the great opportunity to work on the configuration of the Latin America cultural studies as a field.

What undergraduate classes do you teach? 

  • INTS 2100: “Introduction to Latin America”
  • SPAN/INST 5640: “Globalization and Latin America: Multidisciplinary Approaches”
  • SPAN 4560H: “Contemporary Cultures in Latin America”
  • SPAN 5660: Senior seminars on “Latin American Feminisms;” “Memory and Violence in Latin America.”

Why do you think a student should take these classes and why would they be of interest to students majoring in other disciplines?

In my classes we reflect on current cultural conditions of social life, not only from Latin American specific countries, but also their constant unequal relations — close or far depending on the governments in power — with the U.S. Capitalist globalization, mainly influenced by the “American” ways of life, relentlessly affect the region. Latin America has experienced colonialism since its inception; therefore, exploring coloniality of power, and the possibility of envisioning decolonizing strategies, is critical to understand the current processes.

The main questions in my classes usually revolve around the following kernels: What is Latin America? How are Latin American cultures being constituted? Who are Latin Americans? How can we reflect about them without patronizing their ways of lives? We delve in contemporary issues. However, to comprehend where these issues come from, we need to extend our reflections back to the historical developments which began in the 15th century and kept modifying the region until today. Modern and contemporary Latin America has always been perceived as a turbulent and violent sub-continent: what kind of social, political, economic, and cultural processes brought us to this contemporary maelstrom? How can we understand the different ways in which these processes are experienced?

What aspects of your teaching give you the most satisfaction?

I deeply enjoy being in the classroom; being able to generate an open space of enunciation, reflection, and debates; promoting the possibility of getting to know many different young people from around this country and helping each student to find out their own voices to be able to articulate what each of them think. That is what I appreciate the most, being able to meet these courageous and curious, young adults and independent individuals; being in touch with different modes of thinking and reflecting on current issues, especially those which cross generations. How different generations think through the matters of creative productions and cultural processes, how they are experiencing education in relation to society and work/labor issues today.

How can undergraduates connect with you for research opportunities?

Any student interested in pursuing research and/or writing a thesis on contemporary events related to Latin America or to Latin American cultures and literatures, feminisms and gender studies, memory, and violence, and psychoanalysis as analytical methodology, please send me a message by email (delsarto.1@osu.edu) or by phone (614-247-8109). If you'd like to reach me personally, stop by my office in 242 Hagerty Hall on Wednesdays or Fridays.

What book/movie would you recommend or what music do you enjoy? 

The last amazing movie I watched was Jonathan Glazer's The Zone of Interest (2023). Not showing direct scenes from inside the Nazi concentration camp at Auschwitz, it lets the spectators know about what was going on inside through some senses, such as smoke, smells, noises, etc. Beyond its historical setting, the movie invite us to reflect on our current world, and particularly about the hypocritical disdain for others in which individualism engulf us all in an incredibly subtle way. It was incredible subtle. The film portrays the complicity of those who dream their daily life out of their “enemies’ misfortunes” in such an ordinary way that it just deeply shocks anyone who's watching it.

There are plenty of books I enjoy reading, usually written by women. Following similar journeys as Anais Nin, Marguerite Duras, Sylvia Plath, and Alejandra Pizarnik, I would recommend Armonía Somers (Uruguay) and Aurora Venturini (Argentina). Her works are as wonderful as any of those great women writers. The Naked Woman/La mujer desnuda and Solo los elefantes encuentran mandragora (1986) from Somers, and Cousins/Las primas (2006) and Las amigas (2021) by Venturini.

I always try to read other book on diverse topics, which is how I get to relax and learn beyond my fields of research. At this time, I'm reading Kick the Latch (2022) by Kathryn Scanlan, a very short novel narrated in vignettes. As Lydia Davis wrote in the back cover “Scanlan has performed a magical act of empathic ventriloquy.” I wanted to see how such a biographic novel is narrated in English. I had read many micro-stories in Spanish, but never one in English, and I am enjoying it a lot … learning a new vocabulary on racehorses through the fictionalized portrait of a very strong woman, Sonia, who since an early age wanted to be a jockey and was fascinated by horses.

What is the most interesting place you have visited? 

The southern landscapes of Argentina and Chile as well as the northern ones of Western U.S. and Canada. Experiencing nature, observing the different colors, shapes, sounds and silences of mountains, forests and lakes and the panoply of feelings they offer to us.

What is the best advice you have received? 

Find a mentor who promotes your independence, your own critical thinking.

What advice would you give to undergraduate students? 

Be curious, promote your different interests … and don't hesitate to ask for help when you need it.

Feel free to stop by my office hours. I love to talk about... 

Any topics related to Latin American cultures and literatures, especially contemporary issues related to globalization, the current worldwide far-right turn, and women's issues, gender violence, and feminisms.

Tell us an interesting fact about yourself.

I practice yoga almost every day, it has helped me a lot to keep my mental balance, and I love dancing: I go to Zumba to enjoy different rhythms and have fun, to smile and laugh a lot.

Learn more about Professor Del Sarto’s research, email, and office location on her department webpage.

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