Friday, December 4, 2020

hacer presencia/acto de presencia: make an appearance.

This is most certainly NOT to "make a presence" (as I saw here - one of a great collection of essays by anthropologists about the implementation of the Colombian peace accord four years in, all here). But what exactly is it? Acto de presencia is from legalese, where it means to formally appear in court, or appear in the court record. But this term is widely used outside of legal settings. I myself have often used it to refer to when I need to show up at a friend's event or party even just briefly, to show I care and to stay in good graces, but I plan to leave fairly quickly - or even if I stay it's not so much that I really want to be there but I go out of a sense of obligation and because my absence will be noted. In English we talk about that as making an appearance. In the article by Erin McFee that got me thinking about this term she tells a story of representatives of state agencies haciendo presencia at a 'reconciliation fair.' She connects these performances to ideas of historic absence of and now an attempt at presence by the Colombian state - so perhaps poetically the awkward translation of 'make a presence' helps her make her point, but in everyday English it sounds wrong - particularly because making an appearance is a common expression.

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