Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs
César Rodríguez Garavito

César Rodríguez Garavito was the Craig M. Cogut Visiting Professor of Latin American Studies at the Institute’s Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies during Fall 2012.

“Usually, what public intellectuals do is to live double lives. And I’ve come to the conclusion that this is unfeasible.”

César Rodríguez Garavito

On Being Both Academic and Activist

César Rodríguez Garavito

The half-hour film Sumak Kawsay: the Sarayaku Case opens with César Rodríguez Garavito boarding a single engine plane in Puyo, Ecuador. Rodríguez is slight, his polo shirt untucked. He carries a backpack over one shoulder. After flying over the Amazon jungle, the plane lands on a grass strip in the remote Sarayaku territory in Ecuador's southeast, where he greets a group of men in a clearing. The film cuts forward. Sitting on a stump under a canopy of woven grass, Rodríguez speaks into the camera.

"I'm here following a lead that started with a project in northern Colombia," he says, "where a dam was built 20 years ago which led to a case that is still before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights." The jungle is lush behind him; a child fidgets in a large wooden chair. "I heard of a case that is much further along, the Sarayaku case.… If the Court rules in favor of the community the case could create a fundamental precedent for indigenous rights in Latin America."

Rodríguez is a lawyer with a PhD in sociology and a professor of law at the University of the Andes in Bogota. But his professional niche is not easily defined. He is also an activist with journalistic intentions, a vocal advocate for indigenous rights, and an accomplished sociologist. He has written or edited 15 books, authors a weekly column in the Bogota daily El Espectador, and is a founding member of Dejusticia, the Center for Law, Justice, and Society. Bogota-based Dejusticia advocates for human rights and social justice through what the organization terms "action research." It is a method that, like Rodríguez himself, bridges the sharply defined institutions of the public sphere, integrating academic research, legal intervention, and public debate. ... Read the complete profile.