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Latin American Research Forum

Upcoming Speakers | Past Speakers

The Latin American Research Forum is an interdisciplinary lecture series led by recognized IU professors and distinguished visitors. The Forum exhibits the extensive quality and diversity of research of IU faculty in the region.

The Latin American Research Forum is open to the public.

Fall 2016 Speakers

Monica Humeres Requelme

    "The Love of Humanity in Kilowatts: US-Chile Translations of Electrification During the 20th Century"
    October 12, 4pm (GA 2067)
    Monica Humeres Requelme, a PhD student in Sociology at the Universidad Alberto Hurtado in Chile, in this forum will discuss how the influence of US policy remained strong along the 20th century, where technology and Chilean society shaped each other in important ways. The electrification of Chilean society in the twentieth century was a complex process meant not only to improve the standard of living and advance towards progress but also as a moral policy to better the racial makeup. In connecting all Chileans to electricity, Chilean engineers followed the example of North American Electric Policy of the 1930s as a source of inspiration.

    Kalim Shah

      "Prioritizing Island Resiliency: New (and Old) Foreign Investment and Development Partners"
      November 16th, 4pm (GA 2067)
      Dr. Kalim Shah - Assistant Professor of Environmental Policy, IU Northwest - will discuss how the US has recently initiated renewed policy positions on Caribbean relations and the EU, UK, and Canada continue to be reliable development investment partners. Japan and Chinese-Caribbean economic relations have deepened over the past decade. This dicussion provides an overview of this relationship landscape, attentive to areas of potential benefits, risk and implications for the future of new copperation ties.

      Andrés Guzmán

        "Brazil in Transition: Beliefs, Leadership, and Institutional Change"
        September 28th, 4pm (GA 2067)
        Dr.Andrés Guzmán - Assistant Professor of Spanish and Portuguese - The idea of universal citizenship has been the object of much critique during the last decades, with many critics pointing to the racial, class, and gendered (among other) exclusions upon which the notion of universality is founded. Rather than jettisoning the idea of universal citizenship, the present talk seeks to take these critiques as a point of departure for its reconceptualization.

        Past Speakers

        2016-17 | 2015-16 | 2014-15

        Fall 2016

        • Lee J Alston
          Brazil in Transition: Beliefs, Leadership, and Institutional Change

          Dr. Lee J. Alston will be speaking about the roles of beliefs, leadership, and institutions in the elusive yet critical transition to sustainable development within Brazil. His talk will outline how the nation's beliefs, centered on social inclusion yet bound by orthodox economic policies, led to institutions that ultimately altered economic, political, and social outcomes. Dr. Lee J. Alston is the Ostrom Chair, professor of economics and law, and director of the Ostrom Workshop at Indiana University.

        • Claudia Avellaneda, Associate Professor at the School of Public & Environmental Affairs (SPEA)
          Local Governance in Latin America

          Claudia N. Avellaneda will speak on the factors explaining municipal performance in Latin America. Since the adoption of decentralization, Latin American municipalities became responsible for funding, planning and implementing programs affecting both human and economic development. Based on data collected from field research, Avellaneda will present the role that mayoral qualifications play in explaining municipal performance when it is assessed in terms of public service delivery and fiscal performance. Besides testing the effect of managerial quality, Avellaneda also tests the effect of political, demographic, economic, and contextual factors. Findings across six Latin American countries - Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Honduras, El Salvador, and Ecuador - suggest that the municipal context moderates the effect that managerial and political factors have on municipal performance.

        • Eden Medina, Associate Professor of Informatics and Computing
          Science, Technology, and Human Rights: A Case Study of Forensic Identification in Chile

          Eden Medina will be speaking on the intersections between science, technology, and human rights as understood through events in Chile. In 1991, Chilean forensic scientists began the exhumation of 126 skeletons from Patio 29, a plot in the General Cemetery where the military ordered the burial of hundreds the disappeared and executed. The exhumations began shortly after Chile returned to democracy and provided proof of the human rights crimes that had taken place during the dictatorship. By 2002, the Chilean government had identified 96 of these skeletons and returned them to the families. However, in 2006 the Chilean government announced that the scientists had misidentified at least half of the skeletons exhumed from Patio 29. This talk will consider how Chile's particular reparation ecology shaped its use of science and technology for forensic identification, and how the misidentifications have shaped reparation, truth, and justice in the aftermath of Pinochet.

        • Elizabeth Stein, of the IU Media School
          Latin America's Accountability Deficit Trap: Declining Political Competition & Declining Media Freedom

          This talk will address the endogenous relationship between media freedom and presidential accountability (or the lack thereof). She will focus on when horizontal institutions of accountability become subservient to the executive and no longer monitor and sanction the president and when the frailty of constitutional checks and balances jeopardizes the very freedom and independence that the media require to remain the citizens' watchdog. She links presidential actions towards media freedom to (1) president-opposition competition in elections, (2) president-media polarization and citizen access to alternative media, and (3) the de jure and de facto institutional accountability framework. In light of these conditions, she will explain the evolution and devolution of media freedom during 14 presidencies in 6 Latin American countries. She will argue that presidents are more likely to infringe upon the independence and freedom of the media when presidents face minimal electoral competition from opposition parties and where they hold ideological positions contrary to the dominant ideological leaning of the media establishment.

        • Fall 2015

          • Stephen Selka, Associate Professor of Religious Studies and American Studies
            Our Lady of Many Causes: Religion and the Politics of Heritage in Bahia, Brazil.

            This talk examines the transformation of a local Afro-Catholic religious festival (the festival of Our Lady of Good Death celebrated by the Sisterhood of Our Lady of the Good Death in Cachoeira, Bahia) from a local celebration to heritage of the state and a tourist attraction. It focuses on the critical period from the 1970s to the 1990s during which Afro-Brazilian culture became an increasingly important political, economic and cultural "resource" in Bahia. In 1989, the Sisterhood of Our Lady of the Good Death entered into a legal conflict with the Catholic Church over the ownership of the images and objects used in the festival, precipitating something of a national scandal. In this talk I explore how various groups - especially politicians, artists and tourists - came to the Sisterhood's defense during this conflict and how, in the process, the Sisterhood expanded from a religious organization to a legal, political and cultural one.

          • Rebecca Dirksen, Assistant Professor of Ethnomusicology
            Zafè Fatra (The Affair of Trash): Haiti's Trash-Talking Musicians and Their Pursuit of a Cleaner Port-au-Prince.

            Intimately tied to poverty, health insecurity, political uncertainty, and structural violence, trash is one of the most visible and hazardous challenges in Port-au-Prince today. Pedestrians are frequently forced to traverse piles of garbage on their daily routes, and many Haitian citizens speak of politik fatra, a "politics of trash," that governs civic behavior to a surprising extent. Notably, the mounting trash problem has given rise to a distinct and growing musical discourse on garbage. In fact, several groups of young musicians have used their songs to voice concerns about environmental degradation and inappropriate dumping practices, but these musicians' engagement with trash does not end with their lyrics. They are physically trying to combat the problem and empower their local communities toward concrete action. This talk will present two such projects led by youth who have endeavored to clean up their spaces and the negative images society has hoisted on them: (1) a neighborhood trash collection program initiated and organized by teenage rappers, and (2) a work-in-progress musical documentary called Zafè Fatra (The Affair of Trash), a collaboration between a collective of musicians, a Haitian filmmaker, and the presenter.

          • Carlos Sandroni, Associate Professor in the Department of Music at the Federal University of Pernambuco, Recife, Brazil.

            Music and Intangible Heritage in Brazil
            Public policies around the idea of "Intangible Cultural Heritage" (ICH) began to be discussed in Brazil by 1997. In 2000, the Federal Government established the register and safeguard of ICH as a legal duty. In 2003, Brazil was among the first signatories of the UNESCO convention on the safeguarding of ICH. Between 2000 and 2014, seven forms of music and dance from the Northeastern region of Brazil were classified as national ICH and two of these were submitted to and approved for UNESCO ICH lists. Brazil's prompt integration of UNESCO's public policies is connected to a history of ongoing debates and exchanges about folklore and popular culture which helped shape and influence social practices. In this talk, Prof. Sandroni will link present debates on ICH to Brazilian experiences in related fields since the 1930's and discuss recent Brazilian ICH cases in music and dance.

          • Vicky Unruh, Professor Emerita of Latin American Literary and Cultural Studies at the University of Kansas

            Intimations of Mortality: The Cemetery in Post-Soviet Cuban Film and Fiction
            The Necrópolis Cristobal Colón in Havana, one of the largest cemeteries in the Western Hemisphere, is a popular tourist stop for visitors to contemporary Cuba. The site of Fidel Castro's first memorable public appearance in 1951, the Colón entrance also witnessed Fidel's first use of the word "socialism" in 1961 to describe the Cuban Revolution. Decades of official oratory have reinforced the cemetery as a renewable site of ostensibly immutable state authority but have also rendered it the rich target of cultural inquiry, satire, or critique. This talk explores Post-Soviet Cuban fiction and film representations of the cemetery as a cultural "vortex of behavior," to use Joseph Roach's concept, or a "practiced place," in Michel de Certeau's terms, for unpacking, critiquing, or recasting residual, if threadbare revolutionary ideals. The talk examines the cemetery as a ground zero of Cuban filmic and literary imaginings of confrontation with a seemingly eternal revolutionary state and the fertile terrain these imaginings offer for disassembling the all-encompassing national communities that modern cemeteries ostensibly embody and for generating smaller-scale, tentative, and mortal models for community and affiliation.


          • Andrés Guzmán, IU Assistant Professor, Spanish and Portuguese

            Immigration and Mass Incarceration in the U.S.: Law, Capital, and the Criminalization of Surplus Labor
            Criminalization is today one of the primary governmental responses to the crisis of surplus labor. Beginning by examining the governmental logics that underpin the related phenomena of immigrant detention and deportation, the criminalization of non-citizen behavior, and mass incarceration in the U.S. during recent decades, this presentation follows by proposing a theoretical framework through which to think the political capacity of such figures as the (Undocumented) Immigrant and Criminal.

          • Terri Francis, IU Associate Professor, Communication and Culture

            UnExpected Archives: More Locations of Caribbean Film
            Regional and national boundaries parallel disciplinary ones and they present instructive challenges. Latin American film criticism excludes the anglophone Caribbean. The borders of the United States define American film history. Even scholarship on cinema of the African diaspora can be limited to countries in Africa, Europe, and North America. Because Caribbean film history stands at the crossroads of all three areas of scholarship, it tends to fall through the gaps between them. What to do?

          • Albert Valdman, IU Rudy Professor Emeritus of French Linguistics and Director of the Creole Institute

            Language and Education in Haiti: Reviving the Réforme Bernard
            The Réforme Bernard, launched in 1979, instituted a transitional bilingual approach in which Haitian Creole (HC) became the primary language of instruction during the first four years of elementary education.

          • Lucia Guerra-Reyes, IU Assistant Professor in Applied Health Science, School of Public Health

            Remaking Health Care in Latin America: The Challenges of Applying Intercultural Policy
            This presentation traced the trajectory of interculturality in health in the region; it explored the meanings of intercultural health in Latin America and presented an application which exemplifies the challenges faced by policies based on this framework.

          For more information on location and scheduled speakers, contact us at clacs[at]