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May 10, 2001 Pierre Ostiguy wins Kellogg Fellowship




Pierre Ostiguy

Pierre Ostiguy is an expert in Latin American politics.

Photo by Andrew Dobrowolskyj


by Barbara Black

Political Science Professor Pierre Ostiguy has just won a highly prestigious fellowship—in fact, he’s the first Quebecer and only the second Canadian to do so.

Ostiguy, an expert in Latin American politics, has been awarded a fellowship at the Helen Kellogg Institute for International Studies, at Notre Dame University, near Chicago.

A PhD from the University of California, Berkeley, Ostiguy is a Montrealer born and bred, and has been teaching at Concordia for two and a half years. He did his undergraduate degree at McGill and his MA at the University of Toronto, where he won the Governor-General’s Gold Medal for being the outstanding graduate student of his year in the social sciences.

Spending a term at the Kellogg Institute would give him the opportunity to garner feedback on his research from leading scholars in his field, while turning his 1998 Berkeley dissertation into a book. As he says in his successful proposal, “My first year and a half as a faculty member has proven very intensive on the teaching front. I have prepared five new courses over [that] period.” (The course load for new professors has since been modified.)

Ostiguy’s field of interest is the intense politics of Argentina. The country’s political landscape is still dominated by the spirit of Juan Domingo Peron, president from 1946 to 1955 and in 1973-74. It is Ostiguy’s contention that for Argentine voters, class culture and identity, often expressed as Peronism and anti-Peronism, create a second political axis that rivals and intersects the traditional one of left and right.

Ostiguy calls the poles of this axis “high” and “low,” or even “cooked” and “raw.” High means refined, educated, concerned with formal rules; low means popular and pragmatic.

One of the paradoxes of Argentine politics is that Carlos Menem, a Peronist who was elected president in 1989, reversed the traditional Peronist policy (protectionist, pro-labour, interventionist) to neo-liberal (pro-free-market and privatization, favouring a reduced role for the state in the economy) without losing any of his popular appeal among the working class.

Ostiguy’s fascination with South America started early, through involvement in Amnesty International. In 1982, when he was only 18, he travelled to Ecuador with Canada World Youth, and stayed on afterwards to backpack through Peru and Bolivia. At 20, he became interested in the popular church movement and the civil wars of Central America, living with a Honduran peasant family, working in the fields and assisting Salvadoran refugees.

After his BA at McGill, he went to Argentina and Nicaragua for a year as a research assistant. When he did his Master’s at the University of Toronto, he got a SSHRC grant to return to Argentina.

“I was fascinated by the high quality of Argentine academic culture, which is very cosmopolitan and closer to that of Europe,” he said. In fact, Ostiguy wrote two academic books in Spanish that were published in Argentina. Altogether, he has lived in the country for seven years, doing extensive research for his doctoral dissertation, to the extent of riding through the poor districts of Greater Buenos Aires in the “Menemobil” during Menem’s re-election campaign of 1995.

“As Canada slowly discovers that it lies on this side of the Atlantic, with projects of pan-American integration,” Ostiguy remarked, “ the timing of my fellowship is quite relevant.”