John Gibler discussed his book, I Couldn’t Even Imagine That They Would Kill Us: An Oral History of the Attacks Against the Students of Ayotzinapa (City Lights Open Media, 2017), with students in Jackson School of International Studies Professor Vanessa Freije‘s Fall 2023 course, Narcoculture: Propaganda and Publicity in the War on Drugs. Gibler’s book was the first (and still among the only) oral history accounts of the disappearances of the 43 students from Ayotzinapa, Mexico.
He began by speaking with students about the developments in the human rights abuse case (for which there still has been no justice) since 2014. He also spoke about how he developed and maintained a relationship with the surviving students and their families. The class spent the majority of his visit doing a Q & A with students, who were very eager to learn about his process for writing and to discuss the thorny ethical dilemmas at play when reporting on a case like this one. The class discussed the relationship between journalism and activism, as well as the practice of engaged journalism that borrows the Zapatistas’ idea of radical listening. Students were very impressed with Gibler’s frankness and with his commitment to this case after 9 years.
Gibler has also made himself available to students who have had more questions outside of class. One student asked if she could follow up with him by email and they have already been in touch to discuss her plans for graduate school and other writing projects. Having the opportunity to bring human rights experts to UW classes often results in important professional connections between a speaker and a student. Multiple students also expressed to me how much they learned from Gibler’s visit.
John Gibler’s visit to the University of Washington was supported by the UW Center for Human Rights’ Speaker Honoraria Fund, which funds classroom speakers with a front-line perspective on human rights efforts.