Mapping LACIS Research

When I began my work as a Faculty Director this last fall, I was amazed by the quality of people that make up LACIS. The previous Faculty Director, Hernando Rojas, the Associate Director, Alberto Vargas, and the LACIS Academic Services and Programming Manager, Sarah Ripp, welcomed me, trained me and supported me during my first months here. I want to extend “big thanks” to them and to our graduate and undergraduate student staff; Janel Anderson, Laura Bunn, Claire Campbell, and Kierstin Conaway for the successful team work since September, and for their always friendly smiles!

I am very proud of being part of LACIS, arguably one of the oldest and best-known centers of its kind in the United States. We hold the U.S. Department of Education designation as a comprehensive National Resource Center (NRC) as well as Title VI support for program activities, and for Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS) fellowships. Our Nave Endowment, established in 1975, supports visiting scholars, artists and lecturers as well as student scholarships. The Tinker Endowment funds up to three visiting professors in Latin American, Caribbean and Iberian Studies annually. This Spring Semester we have welcomed Nuria Alkorta, Professor of Interpretation at the Real Escuela Superior de Arte Dramático de Madrid, Mauricio Ferreira Fontes, Professor in the Soil Science Department at the Universidade Federal de Viçosa, and Jorge Tovar, Associate Professor of Economics at Los Andres University in Bogota, Colombia.

In the Fall, I invited our affiliates to share their recent publications with us. Based on what we have received, below, I attempted to map some of the LACIS affiliates’ current (2019) research.

Please click on the names in blue to see the most recent faculty publications that have been shared with us.

I begin by welcoming our new affiliates: Almita Miranda’s research intersects in race, gender, political economy, immigration, in the U.S. and Mexico. Edna Ledesma works on Latinos in urban settings, and the U.S./Mexico border. Katherine Jensen’s research interests include race, political sociology, and forced migration in the Americas, with a focus on Brazil. Kathryn Kirchgasler investigates power relations within science education, health education, and teacher education, also with a focus on race in Puerto Rico. Diego Román researches intercultural bilingual (Quechua-Spanish) education programs in Ecuador. Mariaelena Huambachano’s work uses a Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) lens to examine the respective “good-living philosophies” of indigenous communities in the Andes.

Various other affiliates also work on themes connected to environment and indigeneity: Armando Muyulema researches bilingual intercultural education in Ecuadorian Quechua areas, and he is also an instructor of Quechua. Lisa Naughton writes about conservation topics in Ecuador and Peru. Adrian Treves studies human and wild animals’ interactions in the agricultural contexts of Latin America. Elizabeth Hennessy, recently tenured and granted a Vilas Associate Award (Congratulations!), has just published On the Backs of Tortoises Darwin, the Galapagos, and the Fate of an Evolutionary Eden (Yale University Press). This book has already received various enthusiastic reviews and has been selected as a Finalist for the 2020 PEN/E.O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award. Christa Olson writes about aesthetics and rhetoric of national identity, democracy and indigeneity in Ecuador. Kata Beilin, LACIS Faculty Director (myself), is writing a book about the significance of interspecies relations in the struggles about agriculture and development in Argentina, Mexico and Ecuador.

Political crises, with various environmental undertones, focusing on Argentina, Mexico, and Colombia constitute the context of research of Ksenija Bilbija, Glen Close, Beatriz Botero, Alexandra Huneeus, and Kate Vieira. Ksenija Bilbija is a world expert on the Cartonera publishers, an alternative editorial phenomenon that respond to economic, political and ecological exhaustion. For many years, Glen Close’s work focused on violence in crime and narco-fiction and film, and has now taken a turn to consider violence committed on animals. Beatriz Botero’s recent book analyzes gender violence in Latin American literature from a psychoanalytic perspective. Paola Hernandez reflects on theater and performance as political interventions in the context of human rights.

Violence and human rights are two important themes in the work of Alexandra Huneeus, the co-founder of the Human Rights Program on our campus. Kate Vieira writes about educational strategies to overcome the trauma of violence and migration in children in Colombia, and Diana Rodríguez-Gómez is similarly concerned with education for peace in Colombia and Ecuador.

Various LACIS affiliates’ work focuses on Brazil. The work of Holly Gibbs, on soy moratorium contributes to the preservation of the rain forest. Falina Enríquez writes about music and musicians in Recife. Our IRIS Faculty Director, Lesley Bartlett, and Kathryn Moeller work on a comparative analysis of educational practices in Latin America, with a special focus on Brazil. Kathryn Sanchez, who published a book on performance and stardom (Creating Carmen Miranda: Race, Camp, and Transnational Stardom, Vanderbilt University Press, 2016), today writes about films depicting the Amazon. Karen Strier works on Brazilian mammals, and other endangered species. Katherine Jensen examines disparate approaches to knowledge and the body in the asylum-screening process in Brazil. Sarah Wells, last fall a fellow at UW’s Institute for Research in the Humanities, specializes in Brazilian cinema. Her book, Media Laboratories, Late Modernist Authorship in South America won the Best Book (Humanities category) from the Southern Cone Section of the Latin American Studies Association.

The Caribbean is another area of research strongly represented by LACIS affiliates. Victor Goldgel-Carballo is the author of an award-winning book Cuando lo nuevo conquistó las America’s granted Premio Iberoamericano by Latin American Studies Association, and Premio Ezequiel Martínez Estrada by Casa de las Américas. Goldgel-Carballo’s current research dwells on race relationships in nineteenth and twentieth century Cuba. Guillermina De Ferrari, currently a Senior Fellow with the Institute of Research in the Humanities, analyzes the tension between overdetermination by historical, political and ecological forces, and the demand for ethics in the contemporary Caribbean. Pablo Gómez works on the development of novel ideas about risk, labor, and disease that appeared in Atlantic slave markets during the seventeenth century. Brenda Plummer recently authored an article about how financialization affected the Caribbean. Cherene Sherrard works on Caribbean novels.

From the Caribbean, we move to Mexico and Central America. Jessica Hurley specializes in Maya studies with a focus on women, and she is also an instructor of Yucatec Maya. Grant Armstrong focus on the morphology, syntax, and semantics of Spanish, and also of Yucatec Maya. Claudia Calderón works on agroecology in the Mayan communities of Guatemala. Brad Barham specializes in Agricultural Economics, in Mexico and other Latin American countries.

Sarah Clayton explores the ways in which the growth and decline of pre-colonial cities and states in Mexico transformed surrounding landscapes and communities. Alfonso Morales, who was recently awarded a Vilas Distinguished Achievement Professor Award, focuses on food security, and climate change in Mexico. Michel Wattiaux works on sustainability of small holder farms in Mexico. Jorge Osorio conducts research on viral diseases and zoonotic pathogens in Mexico and Colombia. Sarah McKinnon is writing a book on the discursive representations of Mexico in the US rhetoric. LACIS Associate Director Alberto Vargas’ research interests are in sustainability and in the interplay of environment and development in Latin America, particularly in Mexico.

Historical, economic, political and discursive analysis, as well as the analysis of the media are among the strongest research areas among LACIS affiliates. Hernando Rojas offers a cutting-edge analysis of the relationship between media and political disposition and action. Patrick Iber focuses on the social sciences discourses on poverty. He also publishes articles on current events and history in The New York Times, The New Republic and Dissent. Rajiv Rao’s linguistic research focuses on the meaning of intonation in different Latin American dialects. Ellen Sapega writes about Portuguese historical memories in Second World War Documentaries. Maria Muniagurria works on trade, economic growth and family dynamics in Argentina.

Spanish Golden Age is a historically strong area in UW-Madison’s Department of Spanish and Portuguese. Steven Hutchinson, currently a Senior Fellow at the Institute for Research in the Humanities, and known for his work on Cervantes, is now writing on slavery, religious conversion, martyrdom, and migration in frontier zones of the early modern Mediterranean world. Mercedes Alcalá-Galán, approaches the works of Cervantes through the perspective of race, gender and sexuality. David Hildner writes on the theater of Calderón.

Last, but not least, among LACIS affiliates, we have not only literary and art critics, but also poets, and translators, such as Henry Drewal, Jesse Kercheval, Sarli Mercado, Rubén Medina, Carolyn Kallenborn, Marcelo Pellegrini, and Cherene Sherrard. Living Poetry: Women in Translation (WIT) is an international collective women translation project co-sponsored by LACIS and 4W under which auspices various LACIS scholars translate Latin American poetry into English.

This is by no means a complete map, so if your work is not mentioned and you would like us to talk about it in our next newsletter, please send us your information. We are always looking forward to hearing about your new projects and publications. We will be updating this map periodically.