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Chilean Constitutional Reform: Mother Nature, Mapuche Women, and Decolonial Perspectives

Photo of Elisa Loncon

Harvard Radcliffe Institute is pleased to welcome Elisa Loncón Antileo to deliver the Rama S. Mehta Lecture for 2022–2023. In 2021, Loncón was elected as one of the representatives of the Mapuche people to the Chilean Constitutional Convention, and was then named the Convention’s first president (July 2021–January 2022). The Convention was tasked with rewriting the dictatorship-era constitution, a process that began after mass protests across the nation in 2019 and a national vote in favor of replacing the old constitution in 2020. Although Chilean voters rejected the proposed revisions in September, the process of developing the recommendations—which directly addressed issues of gender parity in representation and environmental protections, among other changes—was instructive and will inform subsequent efforts toward reform.

In her talk, Loncon will discuss her experience—from personal, professional, and philosophical perspectives—leading the historic Chilean Constitutional Convention as an Indigenous woman, as well as lessons learned from her involvement. The roles of gender and indigeneity are inextricably linked in her analysis, and she will share her thoughts in the context of the Mapuche philosophy and knowledge paradigm, feminine spirits of the earth, and research methodologies shared by Indigenous peoples.


Born in the Mapuche community of Lefweluan in Chile, Elisa Loncón Antileo is a linguist and an Indigenous rights and languages activist. She holds a PhD in humanities from the University of Leiden and a second PhD in literature from the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile. Currently a professor in the Department of Education at the University of Santiago de Chile, Loncón researches the teaching of Mapudungun. She is also affiliated with the Center for Indigenous and Intercultural Studies of the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile. In 2021, Loncón was awarded the René Cassin Human Rights Award from the Basque Government to recognize her substantial contributions to the defense of human rights and was named one of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People and one of Financial Times’s 25 most influential women.


Emil’ Keme, 2022–2023 Harvard Radcliffe Institute fellow and professor, Department of English, Emory University 

The Rama S. Mehta Lecture at Harvard Radcliffe Institute was established by Catherine Atwater Galbraith, John Kenneth Galbraith, and the Mehta family, in memory of Rama S. Mehta. The purpose of this endowed lectureship is to welcome to Radcliffe a distinguished woman in public affairs, the sciences, or the arts who has a deep understanding of the challenges of women in “developing countries,” according to the terms of the gift. We are grateful to the Benazir Bhutto Leadership Program of ClassACT HR ’73 and members of the Harvard-Radcliffe Class of 1973 for their leadership support of this year’s lecture. This year’s Rama Mehta Lecture is presented in collaboration with the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies at Harvard.

Event Video

View video of 2023 Rama S. Mehta lecture by Elisa Loncon Antileo

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