New Initiative on Afro-Latin American Studies Awarded

Image of Professors de la Fuente, Sommer, and Carrasco

Lauren McLaughlinCommunications Coordinator, Weatherhead Center for International Affairs

The Weatherhead Center for International Affairs recently awarded $250,000 to fund a new Weatherhead Initiative in Afro-Latin American Studies. The Center funds the initiative through its Weatherhead Initiative Research Cluster in International Affairs grant, which supports large-scale and groundbreaking research in the realm of international affairs.

Three Harvard investigators will spearhead this new initiative: Alejandro de la Fuente, Robert Woods Bliss Professor of Latin American History and Economics, professor of African and African American studies, and director of the Afro-Latin American Research Institute; Doris Sommer, Ira and Jewell Williams, Jr. Professor of Romance Languages and Literatures and professor of African and African American studies; and Davíd Carrasco, Neil L. Rudenstine Professor of the Study of Latin America and director of the Moses Mesoamerican Archive and Research Project. These researchers will bring together both scholars and students to develop Afro-Latin American studies at Harvard.

The initiative’s collaborators will host events and conduct research over the next three years that focus on race rights and justice in Latin America. Together with the founding of the Afro-Latin American Research Institute at Harvard—the first academic unit in the Americas devoted specifically to promote and sponsor research on Afro-Latin Americans—Harvard is poised to become a leader in this growing field.

Afro-Latin American studies is a nascent field, and it has already changed course rather dramatically in recent years. Whereas researchers used to study the effects of slavery in Latin America, over the past few decades mounting research has shifted focus toward documenting inequality, discrimination, and mobilization for racial justice. Scholars began debating the ideologies of racial democracy, with some blaming these ideologies for perpetuating racial discrimination and others arguing just the opposite. Meanwhile, the study of the colonial period has also moved into novel directions, like the study of black-indigenous relations.

Money from the Weatherhead Initiative will be used to support this interdisciplinary and collaborative set of visitors, local scholars, and students. The researchers will invite visiting scholars, activists, and policy makers for lectures and special projects. The researchers will organize a variety of activities and events: an annual dissertation workshop for a selected group of doctoral students; support for the book series Afro-Latin America, published by Cambridge University Press; and several conferences and research workshops both at Harvard and abroad.

Please visit the WCFIA page on Weatherhead Initiatives for additional information and history on past initiatives.

Photo credits (left to right): Alejandro de la Fuente, by Kris Snibbe/Harvard Staff Photographer; Doris Sommer, by Jon Chase/Harvard Staff Photographer; and Davíd Carrasco, by Kris Snibbe/Harvard Staff Photographer.