News & Events

Lecture Series

CLACS LECTURE SERIES take place in an informal, friendly, and supportive setting where you share any selected aspect of your academic research with graduate and undergraduate students and faculty. Our aim is not only to promote students but also to involve faculty to participate and share their work.

PLACE: 101 International Studies Bldg, 910 S. Fifth St. Champaign

If you've missed a lecture, click on the title link to view the video. To see past lecture series videos and other presentations, please CLICK HERE.



Lecture Series - Fall 2019

Monday, September 16th - Room 101 ISB, 3:00 pm

Dr. Mareike Winchell, Anthropology, Assistant Professor, University of Chicago

Liberty Time in Question: Historical Duration and Indigenous Refusal in Post-Revolutionary Bolivia

This talk examines Bolivian state discourses of revolutionary historical transformation and tracks the ways those discourses are appropriated, contested and recast by rural Quechua-speakers in the Ayopaya province. During my fieldwork in Bolivia, Quechua-speaking farmers commonly expressed uncertainty to me about the ordering of time and its entailments for state promises of revolutionary political change on the part of the Movimiento Al Socialismo (MAS) party government. Their anxieties echo Bolivian reformers’ concerns with the duration of colonial history and its shaping of rural land practices and productive relations. Yet, in Ayopaya people invoked historical duration not only to distribute blame for wanting state programs but also to renegotiate and even refuse their interventionist tenets. In particular, Quechua-speaking farmers’ lamented the potential of a return to colonialism to raise alarm about the MAS government’s attempt to impose an unpopular agrarian reform program. By tracing these critical redeployments of progressive history in Bolivia, this talk raises questions about the emergence of new conditions of indigenous refusal in Bolivia while also meditating on the broader potency of time and of temporalizing languages in our political present.

Monday, September 23rd - Room 101 ISB, 3:00 pm

Dr. Antonio Sotomayor, Associate Professor & Librarian of Latin American and Caribbean Studies, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

The Sovereign Colony: How the Olympic Movement helps us understand Puerto Rico

This presentation will discuss my book, “The Sovereign Colony: Olympic Sport, National Identity, and International Politics in Puerto Rico” (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2016). I will do so contextualizing it in current events in Puerto Rico including the political, economic, and social crises since the book’s publication in 2016. The book documents the often-surprising process by which Puerto Ricans managed to become an Olympic nation despite not having political sovereignty. The Olympic Movement provides a unique vantage point for understanding the complexities of Puerto Rican politics and identity. Puerto Ricans are by law U.S. citizens, and by culture, history, and traditions Caribbean and Latin American. While the United States has politically intervened and occupied other Latin American countries, only Puerto Rico has experienced a sustained colonial relation since 1898. I argue that Puerto Ricans navigated the politics of empire and international diplomacy to negotiate their Olympic nationhood. In this way, Puerto Ricans offer an example of a way in which a peripheral society managed to negotiate the boundaries of empire, test the limits of nation and Olympism, and assert their place in the international scene. Despite Puerto Rico’s coloniality, the Olympic Movement has given Puerto Ricans the best tool to nurture and fuel feelings of national identity and has become a critical issue in the discussion about Puerto Rico’s political future.

Tuesday,October 1st- Room D College of Law, 4:00 pm

Mark Wainwright, Tropical Ecologist, Wildlife Artist and Autor, and President of the Children's Eternal Rainforest in Monteverde, Costa Rica

Murder Mystery! A "Whodunnit" of Global Amphibian Declines

Monday, October 7th - Room 101 ISB, 3:00 pm

Dr. Margaret Power, Professor of History, Humanities Department, Illinois Institute of Technology

Puerto Rican Nationalism, Latin American Solidarity, and the 1930s: How Good Was the Good Neighbor Policy?

Discussions of the Good Neighbor Policy typically overlook Puerto Rico because the archipelago was not an independent Latin American nation. Yet, for many Latin Americans, Puerto Rico symbolized U.S. domination in the region and exposed the hypocrisy of Washington’s pledges of noninterference. Hemispheric opposition to U.S. colonialism in the archipelago and Latin Americans’s impassioned demands for the release of the Nationalist political prisoners represent an important critique of the Good Neighbor Policy and evidence of significant hostility to U.S. intervention in the region. This chapter shifts the discussion of the Good Neighbor Policy from Washington and the U.S. officials who formulated it to Latin Americans who questioned it and Washington’s intentions for the region by denouncing U.S. colonialism in Puerto Rico.

Despite protests and requests from Latin Americans, the U.S. government did not grant Puerto Rico independence nor did it release the Nationalist prisoners. U.S. interests, not the petitions of Latin Americans nor the demands of anti-colonial Puerto Ricans, determined U.S. policy toward the archipelago. Puerto Rico was essential to U.S. military defense plans for the Caribbean region, particularly in the face of impending war with Germany and Italy.

Monday, October 14th - Room 101 ISB, 3:00 pm

Dr. Flavia Andrade, School of Social Work, Department of Kinesiology and Community Health, Associate Professor, University of Illinois at Urbana - Champaign

Monday, October 21st - Room 101 ISB, 3:00 pm

Dr. Anibal Perez-Linan, Department of Political Science, Professor, University of Notre Dame

Protecting Democracy in the Age of Polarization: Lessons from Latin America

Conventional wisdom holds that, in Latin America, conflict between the president and the opposition is a recurrent source of democratic instability. This presentation shows instead that dysfunctional institutions can help us protect democracy in times of political polarization. A comparative study of 18 Latin American countries between 1925 and 2016 yields important lessons to understand contemporary cases like Brazil, Mexico, and Venezuela, but also illuminates challenges to democracy in the United States.

Monday, October 28th - Room 101 ISB, 3:00 pm

Dr. Francina Dominguez, Associate Professor, Department of Atmospheric Sciences

Following The Water that Evaporates from the Amazon Forest

Monday, November 11th - Room 101 ISB, 3:00 pm

Dr. Noelle Brigden, Department of Political Science, Assistant Professor, Marquette University

The Migrant Passage: Clandestine Journeys from Central America

At the crossroads between international relations and anthropology,The Migrant Passage(Cornell University Press 2018)analyzes how people from El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala navigate the dangerous and uncertain clandestine journey across Mexico to the United States. However much advance planning they do, they survive the journey through improvisation. Central American migrants improvise upon social roles and physical objects, leveraging them for new purposes along the way. Over time, the accumulation of individual journeys has cut a path across the socioeconomic and political landscape of Mexico, generating a social and material infrastructure that guides future passages and complicates borders.Tracing the survival strategies of migrants during the journey to the North, The Migrant Passage shows how their mobility reshapes the social landscape of Mexico, and the book explores the implications for the future of sovereignty and the nation-state. To trace the continuous renewal of the transit corridor, Noelle Brigden draws upon over two years of in-depth, multi-sited ethnographic fieldwork along human smuggling routes from Central America across Mexico and into the United States. In so doing, she shows the value of disciplinary and methodological border crossing between international relations and anthropology, to understand the relationships between human security, international borders, and clandestine transnationalism.

Monday, November 18th - Room 101 ISB, 3:00 pm

Pedro Urra Gonzalez, Professor, University of Havana; Yohannis Marti-Lahera, Library Director, University of Havana; Kate Williams-McWorter, Associate Professor, University of Illinois

"Cuba-US scholarly publishing: Three partners reflect Publicacion academica Cuba-EEUU: Tres socios reflexionan"




Lecture Series - SPRING 2019

Monday, February 11th - Room 101 ISB, 3pm

Agents Provocateurs, the Dead, and Apocryphal Propaganda in 1968 Mexico

Jaime Pensado, History, University of Notre Dame

This lecture examines state repression in Mexico with particular attention to those students killed during the 1968 movement prior to the October 2 massacre at the Plaza of Tlatelolco. In the broader and comparative context of the Cold War era in Latin America, this repression included a sophisticated use of agents-provocateurs (porros) and apocryphal propaganda.

Jaime M. Pensado is Associate Professor of History and Director of the Mexico Working Group at the University of Notre Dame. He is the author of Rebel Mexico: Student Unrest and Authoritarian Political Culture During the Long Sixties (2013) and co-editor with Enrique C. Ochoa of México Beyond 1968: Revolutionaries, Radicals, and Repression during the Global Sixties and Subversive Seventies (2018).

Monday, February 25th - Room 101 ISB, 3pm

The Taste of Innovation in Merida, Mexico, and in Seville, Spain

Steffan Igor Ayora-Diaz, Universidad Autonoma de Yucatan

In this presentation I discuss the ways in which restaurateurs in Yucatán and Seville are deploying the notion of innovation. The first one, has been promoted as a synecdoche for all Mexican Food, disregarding the Caribbean rather than Mexican influences in Yucatecan food. The second, an invention by US nutritionists, has been from its inception a translocal construct involving Seville among other Mediterranean cities. In this talk I describe the strategies of innovation and retro-innovation deployed by chefs and restaurant owners seeking to attract and maintain their clientele.

Tuesday, March 5th -Knight Auditorium, Spurlock Museum, 6 pm

Lecture: Racial Banishment: A Postcolonial Critique of the Urban Condition in America

Ananya Roy, Director, Center for Democracy and Inequality, UCLA

This talk is concerned with processes of racial banishment, which I conceptualize as state-instituted violence against racialized bodies and communities.  Breaking with narratives of neoliberalization, I foreground how dispossession and disposability are being remade in the contemporary American metropolis. Holding in simultaneous view black studies and postcolonial theory, I seek to pinpoint the workings of racial capitalism at both urban and global scales. Such frameworks also make possible the study of imaginations and practices that challenge banishment and insist on freedom. Thinking from postcolonial Los Angeles, I share examples of movements and struggles that work to dismantle the color-lines of the 21st century. 

Wednesday, March 6th - Russell Seminar Room, 2049 NHB, 10 am - 12 pm

Seminar: Universalism and Its Others: The Limits of Critical Urban Theory

Prof. Ananya Roy, Director, Center for Democracy and Inequality, UCLA

Monday, March 25th - Room 101 ISB, 3pm

With Whatever Weapons: Mexico City's People, National Identity, and the American Invasion, 1847

Peter Guardino, History, Indiana University

For more than three decades now, scholars of Latin American history have published studies arguing that during Latin America tumultuous 19th century various groups of impoverished rural people, although long considered isolated, were able to develop visions of what 19th century states should be and their own versions of national identity. Surprisingly, there has been relatively little similar work for urban people. This talk will look at popular resistance to the American invasion of Mexico City to show how poor urban people under particular circumstances also expressed a vision of what the nation was and why it should be defended against extreme odds. It will also consider why their efforts were interpreted by both the Americans and the city's elite as being little more than criminal behavior.

Monday, April 1st- Room 101 ISB, 3pm

Intellectuals, NGOs and Social Movements Under Correa's Regime: Collaborations and Estrangements"

Carmen Martinez-Novo, Anthropology, University of Kentucky

The talk will examine the relations between intellectuals, non-governmental organizations and social movements as well as the production of knowledge under the semi-authoritarian or 'hybrid” regime of Rafael Correa (2007-2017) in Ecuador. The regime kept a democratic facade holding elections and following some basic rules of democracy, while simultaneously manipulating the public sphere, civil society and social movements through a combination of co-optation, division, and repression strategies. The talk will focus on the regime’s attempts to manipulate public debates and civil society as well as on society’s diverse responses to these strategies.

Monday, April 8th- Room 101 ISB, 3pm

Presidents on the Fast Track: Fighting Floor Amendments with Restrictive Rules

Gisela Sin, Political Science

Among presidents' lesser known legislative powers is urgency authority. Seven Latin American presidents wield it: the constitutional power to impose on lawmakers a short deadline to discuss and vote selected bills. This power is similar to the fast-track authority that Congress grants periodically to the U.S.\ president. We claim that the key consequence of urgency authority is procedural: urgency prevents amendments during floor consideration. By using fast track authority, presidents can protect bills and committee agreements; in essence becoming a single-member Rules Committee with ability to impose closed rules on the floor. A formal model generates hypotheses that we test with original data from Chile between 1998 and 2014. Results confirm that preference overlap between the president and committee chairs drives the use of fast track authority systematically. Patterns in Chile are reminiscent of restrictive rule usage in the U.S.

Monday, April 15th- Room 101 ISB, 3pm

Colorful Tropical Feathers and Andean Meaning Making. Reading Chroniclers Literally

Claudia Brosseder, History

Pre-Hispanic Andean cultures are famous for their colorful feathered objects, the pride of museums worldwide. Surprisingly, the meaning of these feathered objects has so far remained elusive. Scholars have primarily interpreted them as status symbols. In this talk, I show how a careful context analysis of mentions of feathers in chronicles combined with an analysis of the material record from Late Horizon archaeological material evidence helps us decipher hitherto overseen meanings of colorful feathers among Andean people, mainly the Incas. This is a novel story of decipherment as it is a discussion of Inca modes of thinking and Inca meaning-making processes, as well as European attempts to make sense of them.

Monday, April 29th - Room 101 ISB, 3pm

Global entanglements in the production of violence and migration of Hondurans

Lirio Gutierrez Rivera, Political Science, National University of Colombia - Medellin

This talk focuses on the case of Honduras. Honduran migration to the US is not new. In recent years, violence, crime, and lack of economic opportunities appear to be the main reasons for leaving. Studies, however, tend to understand violence, crime, and inequality within regional or local processes, as a consequence of state weakness, or a combination of both. I claim that Hondurans’ reasons for leaving their country are entangled with global processes. In this talk, I explore U.S.-Central America relations (in particular the ‘war on drugs’), the global agenda on migration control, and its connections to contemporary Honduran migration. These global processes contribute to reproducing violence, crime, and inequality in the region and the country, leaving many low-income Hondurans, the population that cannot access protection (private or public), with no option but to leave the country.


Lecture Series - Fall 2018

Monday, September 10th - Room 101 ISB, 3pm

Impacts of a Credit Program on Employment and Income in the Brazilian Semiarid Area

Renata Caldas, Economics

This paper analyzes the effects of a credit policy in the Northeast of Brazil on income and employment rates at a municipal level. I took advantage of a change in the law in 2005 which classifies municipalities as part of the Brazilian Semiarid area. The municipalities classified in the area receive better benefits in terms of credit policy, such as lower interest rates and larger discounts if loans are paid on time. With this change in the law, 102 municipalities became part of the semiarid area and were able to receive these benefits. Using Difference-in-Differences strategy, I do not find any evidence that credit policies like this one brings positive impacts in less developed areas.

Monday, September 17th - Room 101 ISB, 3pm

Specters of Comparisons: American Subjects and Self-Discovery in Spain

Augusto Espiritu, History, University of Illinois

Part of a larger study on the politics of hispanismo in the American insular empire in the first half of the twentieth century, this presentation focuses on nationalist intellectuals—including Nick Joaquin (a Filipino novelist and essayist), Margot Arce and Antonio Pedreira (Puerto Rican literary critics of the Generation of 1930), and Jorge Mañach (Cuban cultural critic and political leader)–and their touristic travels in Spain. I argue that their journeys provided the basis for cross-cultural encounters that Benedict Anderson terms “specters of comparison”--that is to say, deeply felt, even quasi-religious pilgrimages of “return” to the “Spanish Motherland,”not without feelings of ambivalence, that were meant to enrich the self, one’s national awareness, and a transcendent Hispanic identity.

Monday, September 24th - Room 101 ISB, 3pm

The Interminable Wound: Reading Rebellion in Contemporary Mayan Literature of Chiapas

Silvia Soto, American Indian Studies, University of Illinois

In the last four decades, the literary production of contemporary Mayan writers of Chiapas, Mexico has flourished alongside the mobilization created by the uprising of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN). Two parallel movements that have at their center the importance of presence and re-affirmation of Mayan peoples of Chiapas and Indigenous people of Mexico at large. In this presentation, I speak to the trajectory of the contemporary Mayan literary movement in Chiapas. I focus on selected pieces that reflect a new approach in the works of the writers of historicizing their communities’ long histories of rebellions to the colonial projects. This turn in knowledge production, I suggest, reflects the trajectory of the work and consistent collaboration across generations of the writers.

Monday, October 1st - Room 101 ISB, 3pm

Dystopia in Argentina: Political Allegory and the Imagination of Disaster in Argentine Cinema

Mariano Paz, Literature, University of Limerick

Dystopian films have become a commonplace feature of mainstream, blockbuster cinema. There is, however, an alternative form of dystopian film produced in Latin America: it is a low budget, independent approach to the genre, not relying on sophisticated visual effects and spectacle. This talk will explore three key dystopian films produced in Argentina: Invasión (Invasion, 1969), La sónambula (The Sleepwalker, 1998), and Adiós querida luna (Goodbye Dear Moon, 2004). I will show that these films, which often blur the boundaries between high and popular culture (featuring screenplays written by some of the most renowned Argentine writers, such as Jorge Luis Borges, Adolfo Bioy Casares, and Ricardo Piglia), act as political allegories about some of the darkest moments in Argentine history: terrorism and repression in the 1970s, the military dictatorship and the disappeared during the late 1970s, and the Falklands War in 1982.

Monday, October 8th - Room 101 ISB, 3pm

Land Dispossession, Political Violence and the Maya Diaspora: Some Notes from the Field

Korinta Maldonado, Anthropology, University of Illinois

This talk grapples with the contemporary logics of Indigenous migration and the way multiple racial subjectivities and racial ideologies intersect and inform contemporary forms of transnational Mayanness and its political struggles. I bring together fieldnotes and some initial thoughts based on my preliminary research trip to the Q’anjob’al region of Santa Eulalia, Huehuetenango in Guatemala over the 2018 summer. 

Monday, October 15th - Room 101 ISB, 3pm

Scientific Phantasmagoria: Ghosts, Scientists, Technology and Music in the U.S. and Beyond (1848-1940)

Rosa Gabriela Vargas-Cetina, Anthropology, Universidad Autonoma de Yucatan
Presented with IFUSS

In 1848, in a farm in Hydesville, in the State of New York, in the U.S.A., two girls supposedly found a way to communicate with the spirits of the dead. Later on, their sister, with whom they were living in Rochester, also in New York, also became a medium. Through their activities as mediums, the three sisters inaugurated a new obsession with communications, which encompassed talking to the dead but also reaching out to communicate with non-present others in general.
In the Yucatan peninsula, in particular, scientific spiritualism, freemasonry, socialism, feminism and scientific education seem to have merged into a particular movement in pro of science, rationality and progress, which also extended to the arts and the adoption of new technologies. In the meantime, henequen production from Yucatan, which made it possible for harvesting machinery to function, was fuelling agrarian change across the Great Plains in the United States and Canada. Trova music, a type of romantic songs that began to be composed in Cuba and in the Yucatan peninsula during the last two decades of the 19th century, came about in this particular context and thrived until the 1940s. This music reflects many of the values and themes of public interest from the period.

Monday, October 29th ISB, Room 101 - 3PM

The Perils and Promises of Expert Witnessing

Ellen Moodie - Anthropology - University of Illinois

Gilberto Rosas - Anthropology and Latina/o Studies - University of Illinois

In this conversation we reflect on the art and practice of expert witnessing, drawing on our respective work writing declarations for and testifying in court on behalf of Central Americans and Mexicans in asylum and related proceedings. Like many experts, over the years we have become ever more precise in our portrayals of peril. And yet, at the same time, as anthropologists, and as humanistic scholars, we aspire to explore the complexity of human dilemmas—including the demands placed upon us and others in the practice of witnessing. Today we share our recent experiences in court and consider the possibilities of writing and thinking with integrity and respect for emergent migrant communities.

Past Lecture Series