Remembering Miguel Teubal

by Cristóbal Kay
27 January 2021

I cannot recall exactly when I first met Miguel Teubal, but it was decades ago probably at a conference or workshop I came to know him better when the International Institute of Social Studies (ISS) invited him for a six month Visiting Research Fellowship in 1992. During his stay he published two working papers, one on food security and regimes of accumulation, and the other on the new agroindustrial world food regime.

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He was a pioneer of agroindustrial research in Latin America and one of its fiercest critics. At ISS his presentations to our seminars and workshops were always much appreciated by students and staff. I and much of the audience were struck when he spoke about food riots, hunger, poverty and misery in Argentina. After all Argentina had been one of the granaries of the world and at the time one of the richest countries in Latin America. But such is the nature and contradictions of the capitalist system as, Susan George, Amartya Sen and others have discussed: poverty and hunger amidst plenty.

Miguel was joined in The Hague for a time by his wife Norma Giarracca and their two sons who greatly enjoyed their stay, exploring cultural and academic activities. Norma became much influenced by the work of Norman Long and his Wageningen research group.

During his stay at ISS, Miguel invited me to one of the legendary TNI Fellows’ meeting. I vaguely had heard of TNI from its association with the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) in Washington, D.C. During the Allende years, IPS’ Richard Barnett travelled to Chile to learn more about the unique democratic transition to socialism. He visited and gave me one of his books. Orlando Letelier found refuge, after the military coup in Chile, at IPS in Washington. He was appointed TNI’s Director soon after, but within six months was murdered in Washington on the instructions of Pinochet.

I met Miguel and Norma a few times during the years mainly at the LASA International Congresses and every so often we exchanged e-mails.

Miguel was a modest, soft-spoken and gentle person with a subtle sense of humour. He was also a good listener, gave wise advice and made just the required amount of comments (not monologues) - so different from other Argentinians I had known. He and Norma were a team and formed a new generation of critical researchers and activists in Argentina. Both, in their particular ways, leave a major legacy through their teachings, writings and activism.