Interviewed by: Izabela Zonato Villas Boas
Lucero Ibarra Rojas is Professor-Researcher at the Center for Research and Teaching in Economics (CIDE – México). She holds a PhD in Law & Society at the University of Milan (2015), a Master's in Sociology of Law at the Oñati International Institute for the Sociology of Law (2010), and a First Degree in Law at the Universidad Michoacana de San Nicolás de Hidalgo (2008). She is editor of Sortuz Oñati Journal of Emergent Socio-Legal Studies and founding member of the Latin American Network on Sociology of Law and the Collective Emancipations on Critical Studies of Law and the Humanities. She has developed and published research on intellectual property, cultural policy, women on the legal profession and feminist mobilization.
How did you get to where you are today?
I’m a professor-researcher in Mexico City. I think that I’ve been very luck, that’s important to say. One of the biggest lesson that I’ve learned is that you need to be prepared and you need to be good, but there is a lot of luck also involved. When I was in high school I had a very good professor in Social Economical Problems in Mexico and he recommended, based in a paper that I wrote, that I should study Sociology of Law, starting by Law and going on to Sociology, what would give me a better approach. Besides this, at the time in Mexico, there was not many people doing research in law, so financing and PhD were easier to get. So I did. I went to Law School, and as soon as I finished, I started to look for a master in sociology and Oñati came up on the search. Here I met a lot of people, I expanded what I knew about so many things. After finishing the master, I did a PhD in Law and Society in Milan, in the Renato Treves program. Finishing the PhD I think was the hardest part of my academic career, because you face a lot of uncertainty. I was again very lucky, because CIDE was looking for someone that fited in my profile, a social-legal researcher that did qualitative work, so I applied and I work there now and it is one of the best institutions in México to do socio-legal research.
What is the experience of giving classes where you have already taken classes?
Honestly, is like a dream come true, because Oñati was a big opportunity for me. It was the first place where, academically speaking, I felt very comfortable. It happened because of the connection between the institution, students, professors and the Oñati environment. So being the editor of Sortuz or coming to teach is particularly significant to me, more than if it was any other institution. Coming here I met the most brilliant and interesting people that I’ve ever met. The best researchers and the most talent students. When in that environment, having them also think that you can do this, that you are able to bring something to this academic environment, is one of the biggest satisfactions. It is also great to see how capable the students are. And also because this community has helped me grow a lot. Every time that I’m involved with something that has to do with Oñati, I learn a lot. The kind of academic environment of many of the Oñati graduates, former and visiting scholars is one that is not the predatory sort of academic environment which wants to bring people down. To me every environment related with Oñati is about ‘how to help others and to be better myself’. I’ve grown a lot thanks to the Institute.
Do you think that the fact of being in the other side of the table before helps you to understand the students?
I hope so, because this program is very particular, different of what you can get in other places, and I hope by the fact that I’ve done this before, and other professors have done this before, it helps to be more sensitive or more sensible about how people are living this experience; and help bringing understanding but also encouragement. Because we know this is not an easy program, but we also know that is very worthy. That you will look back 10 years from now and say “that was a good decision where I grew and learned a lot, that changed my life”. This Master helps, it makes you better as a scholar, but maybe also as a person.
What do you wish that you knew before starting as a professor/academic?
Perhaps, I think, I wish that I could met you guys before, know the students, their context and interest. That could be helpful also in the way that you think a course. You want to make your course into something that is interesting for the students, because I don’t believe in the notion that it’s my course and I decide what is interesting or what is important. To an extent I do those things, but to another extent I want the students to be interested, I want to deal to the kind of issues and problems that the students find important. So one thing that could be useful would be to know a bit more about them; but on the other hand, it is good to know you in the interaction. One good thing about being a former student is the fact that I knew that you are coming from different parts of the world, that language can be an issue. We need to consider that you have different perspectives.
What advice do you give to students who want to pursue an academic career like you?
The first thing is that you have to enjoy this process and this fantastic opportunity, and to think about what you want to be, the world is full of opportunities. Enjoy the space of curiosity and try to find what makes you passionately interested and that you want to pursue and you want to know more. I think that it is a very enjoyable thing, and sometimes we are so concerned with getting the paper, getting the project, that you don’t stop to say “well, I’ve learned so much and I’m having so many questions and this is awesome”.The second one is being more kind with yourself. Especially because of the pressure of academic life, we tend to be very hard and often punish ourselves when we fail.