Cornell Professor Irina Troconis lectures on ghosts with Studies in Spanish class


Neeva Patel, Staff Writer

Cornell University’s Assistant Professor of Latin American Studies Dr. Irina Troconis visited the Studies in Spanish: Ficciones del Sur class to discuss memory studies and ghosts this Thursday. Students gathered in Gross Theater during D and E periods, while Troconis talked to the group over Zoom.

In the class taught by Dr. Osdany Morales, students are reading short stories by Latin American authors around the theme of “Fantasmas” — meaning ghosts. 

Prior to the talk, Troconis read the course syllabus and became familiar with the stories the class had read up until that point. Her research primarily on memory, politics, and performance in contemporary Latin America, Morales said. Her upcoming book, “The Necromantic State,” explores the afterlife of former Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez in contemporary Venezuela, he said. “Chávez had a strong presence and afterlife of sorts in the last few decades of Latin American history, so I am really looking forward to the book,” he said.

Morales studied with Troconis while completing his Ph.D. at New York University a few years ago. He considers himself very lucky to have shared many classes and discussions with her, he said. “When I was creating this course [Ficciones del Sur] and thought about the units, especially the one we just started called ‘Ghosts’, I think I had her in mind,” he said. Morales hopes the talk can act as a framework for students so they can better think about the short stories, photographs, and contemporary artworks they have been discussing in class.

At the talk, Troconis covered moments in history when humanity thought about ghosts in different ways. She emphasized that ghosts are not only a figment of imagination, but should also be considered as social or political figures. Ghosts transform not only what we see, but also bring attention to the blank spots and liminality of society, she said.

After the presentation, students asked Troconis about topics covered in her talk and her career in general. Elise Kang (11) was interested in the differences between various types of ghosts. “A lot of people associate the celebration of Dia de los Muertos with friendly ghosts, but we also talk about terror and see ghosts as something scary.” She appreciates the department for bringing in a speaker with such a niche area of expertise to enhance what they are studying in class, she said.