July 27, 2021

UCalgary Political Science interviews our own Dr. Pablo Policzer

Being a refugee from Chile’s military coup and dictatorship, building more collaborative governance in Chile’s extractive sector, what it takes to be a great supervisor …and how to roast a whole pig!
Policzer  - landscape photo

Dr. Pablo Policzer is an Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Calgary.


Your work is broadly on Latin American politics with a particular emphasis on Chilean politics and democratic governance. How did you become interested in these areas?

I was five years old when Salvador Allende was elected president of Chile in 1970. My parents supported him and the Marxist revolution he was trying to bring about, but those ideals were crushed in 1973 by a military coup and subsequent dictatorship. My father spent a year and a half as a political prisoner and after his release in 1975 we emigrated to Canada. I didn't hear about political science until I was an adult, but that early childhood experience with democracy, revolution, dictatorship, and exile made a big impact, which I’ve been trying to work out ever since.

Policzer standing in front of abandoned mining camp

Can you tell us about the research projects you’re currently working on?

In recent years I’ve been paying attention to the economic legacies of the dictatorship, especially neoliberalism, a policy framework first implemented in Chile. A key project I’m involved in focuses on building more collaborative governance in the extractive sector, especially the mining industry in the north of Chile. I’m working with colleagues and students from different disciplines here at the UCalgary, as well as with partners in the region. I’m on sabbatical this year, and I’ve obtained University Research Grants Committee seed funding to travel to Chile during this time to deepen those partnerships.


Over the years, you’ve supervised a large number of graduate and Honours students. What’s your supervisory philosophy?

Students at all levels come full of questions and ideas. I see my role as nurturing those by sparking students’ intellectual curiosity. I really like working with Honours and graduate students because they are making a key transition: from being primarily consumers of knowledge to learning how to be producers of it. A good supervisor has to be both a tough skeptical reader as well as an enthusiastic cheerleader, encouraging students as they make this difficult but vital cognitive leap.

Abandoned mining camp photo

This photo, taken by Dr. Policzer, is of the abandoned mining camp in the middle of the Atacama Desert, Chile, which was turned into a concentration camp for political prisoners in 1973–74. He is standing in front of the house where his father was imprisoned for six months, the Chilean equivalent of being sent to Siberia.


Finally, people might not know, but you are also an accomplished pig roaster. Any tips you’d like to pass on?

It’s about the journey, not the destination. Roasting a whole pig or lamb is a whole day affair. There is a delicious meal at the end, but getting there through a long cooking time is a wonderful opportunity to slow down and enjoy the time with family and friends.

[Editor’s note: You can check out Dr. Policzer’s detailed BBQ tips from Chile in this little blog post]


Thanks to Dr. Pablo Policzer for sharing with us!

Follow Dr. Pablo Policzer on Twitter at @policzer

To learn more, visit Dr. Policzer’s profile on the UCalgary website.