The Chilean Winter: Student Movements and Higher Education Reform in Chile



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In the winter of 2011 (May-August) higher education students throughout Chile mobilized to improve their neoliberalized education system that they perceive to be in crisis. Through a historical review of Chilean higher education reform and student political activism, and fieldwork conducted during the mobilizations, I examine the conflicting cultural repertoires of two groups of students – the leaders and base level students. The leaders embrace a pre-dictatorship cultural repertoire that draws on ideas of student political activism and the structure of higher education from before the dictatorship. Base level students on the other hand embrace a post-dictatorship cultural repertoire inherited from the residual fear from the dictatorship, and which is influenced by a neoliberal ideology of individual rights. This disconnect between the leaders and base level student cultural repertoires has created the need for a new cultural repertoire. Led by a group of students I refer to as the negotiators, there has been a development of a new popular aesthetic cultural repertoire uses the popular imaginary and culture, and is more performative and visual. Additionally, the new cultural repertoire has been able to incorporate the interests and comforts of all student groups, serving to unify and strengthen the whole movement, and consequently amplifying its ability to produce both profound political and cultural changes.



Chile, Student Movements, Higher Education, Education Reform, Cultural Repertoire