OUR Featured Researcher: Eduardo Castro Muñoz ’23
Eduardo Castro Muñoz (he/him) is majoring in physics and Hispanic studies. He conducts research under the mentorships of Associate Professor of Hispanic Studies and Comparative Literature Patrick O'Connor and Associate Professor of Hispanic Studies Sergio Gutiérrez Negrón. His project is titled “La palabra como arma: heroísmo mapuche en La Araucana de Alonso de Ercilla y la obra de Leonel Lienlaf y Elicura Chihuailaf.”
Please describe your project:
This honors thesis started as an attempt to reconnect with the indigenous part of my identity. The original idea was to explore the depiction of the mapuche people in different literary traditions. The first part is centered in the epic novel La Araucana by the Spanish poet-soldier Alonso de Ercilla, the second part is about contemporary poetry by mapuche poets Elicura Chihuailaf and Leonel Lienlaf. Originally there was going to be a third chapter on the image of indigenous heroes in Chilean poetry, to fill in the gap of over five hundred years between Ercilla and the contemporary mapuche poets. I was surprised to notice the lack of poetry about the mapuche in the Chilean cannon. The few exceptions to this were poems about the heroes from the Arauco War that seemed more like a repetition of Ercilla's work.
A brief summary (the elevator speech) of your research project:
In this project I explore the systematic invisibilization of indigenous groups in Chilean poetry. I also compare the way that Alonso de Ercilla portrays mapuche warriors as heroes, not only for their physical strength but specifically for their ability to encourage their troops through speeches, to the images that contemporary mapuche poets use.
Why is your research important?
Most of western literature is a portrait of the ideas of dominant culture. Exploring how oppressed groups are depicted in different traditions and comparing to the way that they image themselves is a way to expose the invisibilization they have suffered and suffer.
What does the process of doing your research look like?
I spent an entire month looking for references in an archive in Temuco, Chile. I had weekly meetings with my advisors to discuss ideas about the main works to be compared in the project. And then many, many hours of writing.
In what ways have you showcased your research thus far?
I presented at the Oberlin College Research Symposium in April 2023.
What is your favorite aspect of the research process?
What I love the most about doing research in the humanities (and in science as well) is sharing ideas with others and building knowledge from that. Also enjoyed being able to compare works from two different traditions and see how they relate and differ with each other.
How has working with your mentor impacted the development of your research project?
Working with Patrick and Sergio was one of the best experiences I have had as an undergraduate student. Although my research in Hispanic Studies does not relate directly to my research in physics, being able to conduct research in the humanities showed me that I am capable of working and finishing long projects.
What advice would you give to a younger student wanting to get involved in research in your field?
Reach out to professors! They are not only a great resource for knowledge, but they can also provide reasoned points of view that are uncommon among students.