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Unpacking Latin America

Unpacking Latin America is a monthly podcast hosted by Prof. Vicky Murillo on the exciting research produced by Columbia scholars about Latin American history, culture and politics, which helps our understanding of the contemporary challenges of the region. It is produced in English and selectively in Spanish.

Dec 9, 2019

Nara Milanich is a historian at Barnard College. Her work centers on the comparative histories of family, gender, childhood, reproduction, law, and social inequality.  She is the author of 3 books: Children of Fate: Childhood, Class, and the State in Chile, 1850-1930 (Duke University Press, 2009), The Chile Reader: History, Culture, Politics (Duke University Press, 2013), and most recently Paternity: The Elusive Quest for the Father (Harvard University Press, 2019). 


In this episode, Milanich talks about the shift from cultural to biological definitions of paternity thanks to DNA testing and how such testing could either be used to recover kids stolen by military dictatorships or to halt migration at the US-Mexico border. She also explains age-based violence suffered by migrant children in Central America. Family is a crucial lens to understand inequality, she says as she discusses how family law was used in nineteenth century Chile to preserve social hierarchies. Civil law forbade paternity searches, thereby creating kinless children who often ended being used as unpaid domestic labor. Milanich concludes speaking on the role of youth in contemporary Chilean protests and how this is tied to the impact of for-profit education, as part of the market-based model that is currently being questioned.