Official Blog of the Latin American, Caribbean and Iberian Studies Program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison

LACIS Graduate Student Conference – Flowing Frontiers: The Dancing Dynamics of the Americas

The 2012 LACIS Graduate Student Conference was held at the Memorial Union on Friday, April 13. The keynote address was presented by Maria Elena Cepeda, Associate Professor of Latino/a Studies at Williams College. She presented her lecture entitled, “The American Dream’s Nightmare: Locating the Latino/a in Transnational Popular Culture and U.S. Higher Education.” The conference was organized by LACIS graduate students Ramona Fields and Jaime Rhemrev and videotaped by Russ Attoe.

The conference focused on the fluidity of interdisciplinary study. Just as ideas flow, meander, and surge across borders, and just as identity dances, sways, and pivots, so too, does interdisciplinary study engage and challenge the parameters of traditional disciplines. This conference examined the dynamics of movement among disciplines and across the borders of the Americas, the Caribbean, and Iberia. The work of the conference keynote speaker, María Elena Cepeda, truly embodies and exemplifies such examination of movement across disciplines and borders. Cepeda is an associate professor of Latino/a Studies, and affiliated with American Studies; Spanish; and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts. She is the author of Musical ImagiNations: U.S.-Colombian Identity and the “Latin Music Boom” (New York University Press, 2010), and is currently writing Survival Aesthetics: Latina Beauty and Power in Transnational Context.

The first panel, entitled “Twists on Tourism & Shifting Geo-Spaces” included talks by Ian Carillo, Jen-Jei Jason Nu, and Joe Quick.

Ian Carillo presented his paper entitled “Paradise or Paradise Lost?: Tourism and Development in Coastal Communities of Northeast Brazil.” Ian is currently a second year student in the Development Studies Ph.D. Program, specializing in economic development in Latin America.  He is interested in analyzing how global and sub-national economic trends impact community development and labor market outcomes.  In 2009 he received an M.A. at the Center for Latin American Studies at the University of Kansas and in the coming academic year he will be entering the Department of Sociology at the University of Wisconsin. When asked “What makes Latin America, the Caribbean, and Iberia dynamic for you as a scholar?”, Ian answered, “The Latin American and Caribbean region is one of the most diverse in the world in terms of culture, ecology, language, and geography, among many other aspects.  In short, as a fountain of interest, the region’s compelling characteristics are as bountiful as a person’s imagination will permit.  As a scholar, I consider it a privilege that I can devote so much of my time and energy to studying Latin America and the Caribbean. And I hope that through my work I am able to convey the enjoyment I experience while conducting my work.”

Jen-Jei Jason Nu presented his paper, “From Zona Portuaria to Porta Maravilha: The Transnational Dimensions of Urban Redevelopment in the Extrospective City of Rio de Janeiro.” Jason is a third-year Ph.D. student in the Department of Geography at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  He is currently working on a doctoral dissertation proposal dealing with the transnational dimensions of urban redevelopment in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, with a particular emphasis on issues surrounding risk management and security.  His interests within the field of human geography include contemporary urban transformations associated with globalization, and the uses and meanings of the built environment.  Regional emphases include Brazil and northern Europe.  Jason holds an M.A. degree in Geography from Hunter College, CUNY, and a B.A. in Film Studies from Wesleyan University.  Previous to returning to graduate school, Jason worked as an associate producer and assistant editor on PBS documentary films in his hometown of New York City. When asked “What makes Latin America, the Caribbean, and Iberia dynamic for you as a scholar?”, Jason answered, “Despite the fact that Brazil is the seventh or eighth largest economy in the world, and home to some of the biggest urban conurbations on Earth, Brazilian cities have been curiously understudied by North American and European geographers.  I suspect that demand for scholarship on this region will increase as Brazil’s economy continues to expand and the country’s leaders display a growing confidence in asserting their political and economic influence on the world stage.  I have become increasingly interested in the subject of Brazilian urbanization over the past several years.  I visited Brazil for several months in 2008 and 2011, and had the chance to explore the cities of Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, Salvador, Curitba, Belo Horizonte, and Brasília, amongst others.  These places are particularly fascinating because they embody a blend of global North And South, of European, Indigenous, African and Asian cultures.  The current phase of economic growth and mega-events development in Rio de Janeiro will continue to blur the boundaries between the global and the local, the formal and the informal.  It is this dynamic cultural blending that gives the city such a unique, and lively character.”

Joe Quick presented his paper, “Mobile Objects and Tourist Souvenirs.” Joe is a second year graduate student in cultural anthropology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  His interests revolve around the production of artisanries for sale in tourist markets in Ecuador. When asked “What makes Latin America, the Caribbean, and Iberia dynamic for you as a scholar?”, Joe answered, “Over the course of centuries, Latin America has been buffeted by forces that have constrained the possibilities open to residents and decision makers of the region.  The same may be said of forces operating at the level of nation-states.  But if Latin America is a site of power, it is also the home of many individuals and organizations that have found remarkably creative ways to confront and challenge power.  This creative engagement is the fountainhead of the region’s dynamism.”

The second panel, called “Bending Borders and Migration Movements” included presentations by Annabel Ipsen, Alberto Ortiz, Lauren Pagel, and Juan Antonio del Monte Madrigal.

Annabel Ipsen presented her paper, “Harvesting Inequality: Paradoxes of Regulation and Deregulation in Chilean Agriculture.” Annabel is a third year doctoral student in Sociology with a regional focus on Latin America.  Her research interests include: gender, labor, migration, and economic change and development.  Currently she is doing pre-dissertation research on foreign migrant workers in the agricultural sector on the triple border of Chile, Peru and Bolivia.  Her previous research includes a project on temporary workers in the citrus industry in Argentina and Uruguay and an investigation on supply chain development with local farmers in the fruit export industry in northern Chile.

Alberto Ortiz presented his paper, “Incarcerated Border-Crossers: Chinese Labor Migrants in Late Nineteenth Century Puerto Rico.” Alberto is a second-year graduate student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and specializes in Latin American and Caribbean history, specifically Puerto Rico.  He earned his B.A. in Historical Studies at the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey in 2005 and first M.A. in History at the University of Texas-Austin in 2008.  Before arriving at the UW in fall 2010, he worked as an archivist at the Archivo Gerneral de Puerto Rico in San Juan.  His M.A. Thesis, which he plans to complete by the end of this semester, is about the racialization of crime and punishment in late-nineteenth-century Puerto Rico.  His dissertation will focus on sex crimes, science, and surveillance through the prism of Puerto Rico’s Insular Penitentiary (1933-2007). When asked “What makes Latin America, the Caribbean, and Iberia dynamic for you as a scholar?”, Alberto answered, “For me, the region’s dynamism is self-evident, and lives and evolves through, among other things, the fluid cultural expressions of its people.  This is not a new development, of course.  It has been in the making for the better part of half a millennium, for better or worse under the wing of colonial and national projects.  Through the region has had, and to an extent continues to have, a tumultuous and wrenching history, when I think of Latin America and the Caribbean what stands out to me is the perseverance of its people.  They have an uncanny ability to “roll with the punches,” to amplify and little bit of light in an overwhelmingly dark room.  It is this sheer resolve, at least in part, that makes the region’s peoples dynamic for me as both a scholar and human being.”

Lauren Pagel presented her paper, “Voyaging the Root: Erotic Representations of Transpacific Desires.” Laruen is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese.  Her current research interests are focused on representations of transpacific relationships in contemporary Latin American and Japanese Literature. When asked “What makes Latin America, the Caribbean, and Iberia dynamic for you as a scholar?”, Lauren answered, “It is a geographic space where many times/bodies/ideas/nations/peoples mingle.”

Juan Antonio del Monte Madrigal from El Colegio de la Fontera Norte in Tijuana, Mexico presented his paper, “Motorized Identities: A Theoretical Approach to Bikers and Low Riders on the Mexican Border.” Juan Antonio is a second-year M.A. student in Cultural Studies at El Colegio de la Frontera Norte. His interests are cultural studies, motorized mobility, urban studies and symbols. When asked “What makes Latin America, the Caribbean, and Iberia dynamic for you as a scholar?”, Juan Antonio answered, “What makes this region dynamic is the dialogue between its particular historical development and hegemonic contemporary societies.  It’s the complex process of identity torn between permanence and change, the permanence of particular societies and the changes that globalizing flows represent.  A dialogue, often rough, between particular historical development including indigenous cultures and experience of colonization, and contemporary hegemonic societies like the United States or Europe.”

The third panel was called “Memory Pirouttés and Identity Arts” and included presentations by Aurelio Meza, Beth Ann Zinsli, and Jeanne Essame.

Aurelio Mesa from El Colegio de la Fonterna Norte in Tijuana, Mexico presented his paper, “Collectives and Artistic Fields in Tijuana and San Diego.” Aurelio (Mexico City, 1985) hold a B.A. cum laude in English Literature at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM).  He is studying an M.A. in Cultural Studies at Tijuana’s Northern Border College (COLEF), and took a one-semester exchange program at San Diego State University (SDSU).  He is currently writing his M.A. thesis on art collectives in Tijuana, Mexico and San Diego, CA. When asked “What makes Latin America, the Caribbean, and Iberia dynamic for you as a scholar?”, Aurelio answered, “Ever since pre-Columbian times, the Americas has swarmed with what some scholars have called cultural syncretism. I believe that such “syncretism” is rather of the many faces of human adaptation to every kind of situation or even. Dynamism is the continent indicates how healthy their nations and cultures are; their constant change is a sign of liveliness, and brings the hope of imagining a better future for the more underprivileged regions.  Through the comparison I make between artists in Latin and North America, I hope to illustrate how dynamism operates in the artistic field, and how artists imagine better futures for their regions.”

Beth Ann Zinsli presented her paper, “Writing the Album and the Archive: Dominican Diasporic Memory and Vernacular Photography.” Beth Ann is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Art History at UW-Madison.  She studies global histories of photography, the visual culture of the Caribbean and its diasporas, and critical theories of visuality.  Her dissertation, “Writing with Salt Water and Sunlight: Circulation and Contemporary Spanish Caribbean Photography,” examines the discursive potentials of the medium for producing memory and identity in the context of Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Dominican Republic, and their U.S. diasporas.  Ms. Zinsli is currently the Project Assistant for the Center for Visual Cultures. When asked “What makes Latin America, the Caribbean, and Iberia dynamic for you as a scholar?”, Beth Ann answered, “The contemporary phenomenon of diaspora means that the Caribbean as a cultural and psychic space can no longer be defined by strict geographic boundaries.  Rather, the Caribbean is a highly dynamic place where bodies, ideas, and images circulate continuously.  The cultural diversity and complex history of the Caribbean make otherwise fixed ideas like memory and identity fluid and multivalent.”

Jeanne Essame presented her paper, “Parallèles et digressions: Invisible Frenchness and Colonial Subjectivity.” After graduating from Afro-American studies last summer, Jeanne bridged over to the department of History to work toward a Ph.D. with an emphasis on Caribbean History (with a focus on Haiti), African Diaspora History and Visual Culture.  She is interested in issues of identity, race, ethnicity, dislocations, culture, representation and transnational blackness and is an international from France. When asked “What makes Latin America, the Caribbean, and Iberia dynamic for you as a scholar?”, Jeanne answered, “The richness of its history, the ever thought-provoking cultural productions resulting from stories of migration, mètissage and otherness.”

The fourth panel was called “Policy Swivels and Balancing Practices” and included presentations by Mario Bruzzone, Suzanne Ress, Scarlett Andrews.

Mario Bruzzone presented his paper, “Las Patrones, Material Clientismo, and the Politics of the Purifier.” Mario is a student in the Geography department at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. When asked “What makes Latin America, the Caribbean, and Iberia dynamic for you as a scholar?”, Mario answered, “Latin America is particularly dynamic because of the strong history of local social activism as well as the intertwining of U.S. history with local histories.  As a social scientist and theorist, the mobilization capacities in many communities mean that politics is dynamic and constantly being refigured in ways that often look different from the usual Anglo-American imaginaries.  As an organizer and activist scholar, Latin America has been an incredible generative source of strategies and tactics that are both exciting and potentially liberatory.”

Susanne Ress presented her paper “Se tratar iguais começa já na pergunta: Conceptualizing South-South Partnerships in Higher Education and Development.” Susanne is a third year Ph.D. student in the Department of Education Policy Studies, and the Development Studies Ph.D. Program.  She is interested in south-south cooperation in higher education as development policies for Lusophone African countries and Brazil.  She was born in 1977 in the German Democratic Republic (GDR), and she was 12 years old at the time of the Reunification of the two Germanys.  Susanne participated in a student exchange program in Portugual, which explains her interest in the Portuguese-speaking world.  For her bachelors/masters she studied Psychology, and now as a scholar in international and comparative education, she is interested in thinking about possibilities of change and trying to explain social phenomena that include the societal and political context of individuals’ experiences. When asked “What makes Latin America, the Caribbean, and Iberia dynamic for you as a scholar?”, Susanne answered, “Latin America, particularly Brazil, is dynamic for me because it constantly challenges the mainstream understanding of center versus periphery.  Brazil, and its push for economic and cultural relationships with African countries reminds us that our Euro-North American-centric perspective limits what we perceive as possibilities for change.  Brazil is a very complex country that holds numerous surprises for those of us who embark to study it.”

Scarlett Andrews from Tulane University presented her paper, “Ecophilosophies and Environmental Perspectives in the Amazon Rainforest: Conservation through Sustainable Use Projects.” Scarlett is an M.A. Candidate at the Stone Center for Latin American Studies at Tulane University.  During her undergraduate career at the University of Mississippi (B.A. 2011), she majored in International Studies and Spanish and spent two semesters in Quito, Ecuador, taking classes and travelling throughout the Andean countries of South America.  Upon returning, she focused her undergraduate research on conservation strategies in the Andes-Amazon border region and decided to continue her research at Tulane University.  She is currently developing a research proposal for a Master’s thesis including field work that would take place during the upcoming summer break (2012).  Her current research focuses primarily on food security and environmental policy in the Amazon basin. When asked “What makes Latin America, the Caribbean, and Iberia dynamic for you as a scholar?”, Scarlett answered, “Throughout my personal and academic experiences in Latin America, I am struck over and over again by the astounding diversity of cultural traditions, religious beliefs, ethnic and racial identities, ecosystems, art, and literature that abounds in the region.  The irony is that those not familiar with the region often imagine this space as homogenous.  As a scholar, one of my goals is to break through the barriers that cause Latin America to be misunderstood or simplified in the collective imagination.”