On a Transgenerational Experience

I’m near the end of 2 weeks tagging along with my colleague Gonzalo Bacigalupe in the transnational experience that he is providing his four doctoral students Ali, Kathryn, Akansha, and Marta. But for me – and for all of us I think – it is also a transgenerational experience.

Gonzalo lives in an ecological community on the edge of Santiago when he is staying in Chile. Adobe houses nestled among eucalypts, food co-op, community-governed infrastructure, friends drop in and a dinner gets made & eaten together… Now people in the community depend on working in the city—outside the gate, you can catch the bus 15 minutes to the metro—but it still feels very 1970s counterculture to me. And I find myself sharing more stories with the students of my 70s experience commune and counterculture than I have for many years.

This said, I don’t know what the counterculture was like in Chile after the military took control of the country in 1973. I have noticed Gonzalo doesn’t tell his students many stories of being in political opposition, subject to suppression. What is more common is for him to remark, sometimes with a metaphorical shake of the head, that this person was a fellow student of his and now, 40 years later, they are, or have been, ministers in the government or senior members in some organization or corporation.

The most important transgenerational experience, however, for me, has been in the other direction. The four students, all born after I got my PhD and first academic job, have confounded the endemic resignation and isolation of my generation of academics. Soon after we met, each of them expressed interest in learning more about my graduate program and what I did. Their assumption was that if I was there with Gonzalo—or if I was to be in their lives for 10 days—they could get to know me, could become a friend. And they form a multifaceted or -layered or -angled support circle for each other. Perhaps the academic and professional world will take them away on separate paths, but they won’t easily, I predict, let go of their disposition to support and learn from others.

And that lesson—starting premise = support and learn from others—has been a wonderful experience from across generations. Muchas gracias.