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Tintin among the Incas

E. Jardin & C. Schoch

What can you do with a PhD in contemporary history on the relations between the role society and Peruvian state? A new chapter in the thesis (NCT), the grapevine… and Maud Lachenal becomes an editorial assistant.

Between the pleasures of shifting through archives, human contacts in Peru and pangs of loneliness, even desertion, unfortunately the graduate career of Maud Lachenal is no exception in the human sciences. And yet, Maud had a research grant to continue the work she started in the first year of her doctoral research on political violence in Peru and its impact on agrarian populations. "Without a grant, I would never have gone on with my thesis," she admits. Funding was one thing; thesis supervision in the true sense of the term would also have been valuable. In that regard, Maud had to do without, particularly in the writing phase, since her supervisor had sent back her drafts with the comment, "Tintin among the Incas? I've read that one before." Luckily Maud had support from other sources. She had developed contacts with researchers at the French Institute for Andean Studies in Lima. She is also a member of two associations on Latin America.

The NCT as a life buoy
In her fourth and last year, Maud's thesis supervisor, feeling that she was not cut out for research, suggested that she do an NCT, a process that aims to enhance the skills acquired as a graduate student. "The NCT was my life buoy. I managed to promote my skills, which until then were totally denigrated. I regained self-confidence. I met other grad students who didn't know what to do after their thesis, and that was a relief!"

With her doctorate in hand, Maud lurked in the corridors of the IHEAL (Institute for Advanced Studies on Latin America - Institut des hautes études de l’Amérique latine) telling anyone who would listen that she was looking for a job. A history professor who occasionally authored articles for the Encyclopaedia Universalis informed her that they were looking for an editorial assistant in history and geography. She applied and bingo! Maud started off with a short-term five-month contract, the first of a long series. Three years later, she gained more independence and now manages the whole chain of her editorial projects. And finally, she's about to sign a long-term contract in a department, three-quarters of which is made up of PhDs.

Key dates
2003: PhD in contemporary history of Latin America
2004: several short-term contracts with Encyclopaedia Universalis
2007: long-term contract with Encyclopaedia Universalis as editor