The coming semester promises to be rewarding in many ways. As August comes to a close, we have already begun to welcome a new cohort of Research Fellows, at both the doctoral and post-doctoral level, hailing from Brazil, Cuba, and Peru. We also look forward to the arrival of newly hired AU faculty with expertise in both Latino and Latin American Studies, along with the return to campus of faculty, students, and Fellows whose work is what drives the Center’s programs of research and knowledge diffusion.
While continuing to advance efforts described in previous messages, we also hope to move forward with a number of new initiatives over the course of the academic year. Planning is underway for the Center’s second Annual Latino Public Affairs Forum, which will focus on the impact of Latinos on the 2016 presidential election. We are initiating a next phase of research and collaboration with Broward County, FL, on the importance of Latin America's creative economy for the county’s economic and social development. We are also preparing to launch research initiatives on educational opportunities and challenges for Latinos, including projects on their recruitment, retention, and success in selective four-year universities and colleges and on how school districts in the Washington DC metropolitan region are addressing the needs of almost 7,000 Central American youth who have settled here over the past two years.
In this regard, the Center is consolidating a growing portfolio of projects devoted to the circumstances of Latino populations in the DC metro area. In addition to expanding our work surveying Latino entrepreneurs to better understand the factors affecting their success, which we are doing in partnership with the Greater Washington Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, we are now carrying out the Washington area component of a multi-year project analyzing gangs in the U.S. and El Salvador. We are also supporting faculty from across AU and the recently established Metropolitan Policy Center, in the School of Public Affairs, to launch the first DC Area Survey. In this inaugural year the survey, which the University hopes to conduct annually, will oversample neighborhoods with substantial Latino populations, supplying information that can inform research on health, employment, education, and other issues.
Our Latin America focused work will continue to thrive as well. We have renewed our collaboration with the Mexican National Council for Culture and the Arts, which will bring distinguished Mexican artists to AU’s campus throughout the year. Plans are in place to extend our ongoing research on the drivers of migration from Central America, and to develop projects on a variety of timely topics, including cross-regional comparisons of trajectories of economic change; linkages between remittances and community development; lessons for Cuba of transitions from centrally planned economies elsewhere; and religious engagement with debates about climate change. Our hope is that several of these projects will provide opportunities for the Center to highlight the utility of comparative, cross-regional research that transcends the geographic barriers that have too often been encouraged by conventional area and regional studies programs. Indeed, CLALS is a space where Latinamericanists engage productively with researchers and practitioners whose work is not strictly on the region, but who bring valuable methodological insights or relevant perspectives from other parts of the world. It is important to foreground projects that feature innovative collaboration between Latin Americanists and interlocutors from outside the field, in part because area specialists still all too frequently confine themselves to conversations with each other, as evident in the recent decision by the Latin American Studies Association to require that, to be eligible for consideration, applications to convene panels for its annual Congress must consist of individuals who are all members of LASA. In staking out a diametrically opposite position, we hope to inform thinking beyond AU about how area studies ought to be organized and conducted in the 21st century.
The final weeks of 2014 were remarkably exciting for faculty, fellows and staff at CLALS. We held a productive workshop focused on advancing our work on Religion and Democratic Contestation in Latin America; launched in Santiago, Chile, a book resulting from our studies of emerging challenges in Latin American economies; and presented to researchers and practitioners at multiple venues across the country a timely study of the factors driving migration to the U.S. by unaccompanied minors and families from Central America. We also witnessed history in the making in Cuba, as a half dozen of us were in Havana for a meeting on U.S.-Cuban relations precisely at the moment that the two countries’ presidents announced a long overdue commitment to normalize bilateral relations.
We are especially proud of the role that American University researchers have played over the years, and particularly during 2014, in advocating for rational policies that would finally bring the two countries to relate to one another in, as President Castro put it, “a civilized manner.” At this pivotal moment I wish to acknowledge publicly the vital support provided to our efforts and those of others by the Christopher Reynolds Foundation, which has been a steadfast source of support for work on this issue for many years. We intend to work diligently during the coming months to advance the momentum unleashed by the two Presidents’ announcements, and in partnership with the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), the Center will convene a stakeholders meeting in January to discuss how best to move forward.
Our plans for 2015 include building on achievements of projects related to the dynamics of democracy in Latin America and core economic challenges facing the region, as well as on migration, U.S. foreign policy, and the evolving role of Latino populations in shaping American society. In this regard, we are looking forward to convening the inaugural American University Annual Latino Public Affairs Forum (ALPAF), scheduled for January 15, which will bring AU faculty together with other scholars, policy experts, journalists and advocates to debate the likely dynamics of immigration policy over the next two years. In addition, the Center will facilitate an unprecedented survey of households in the Washington DC metropolitan area, to be conducted in collaboration with AU’s newly-established Metropolitan Policy Center, which will over-sample Latino populations so as to gain insight into the ways that they are shaping social and economic trends in the city and its surrounding areas.
The Center will continue during the coming year to expand its activities related to Central America, both through a series of book launches devoted to our four volume collection on Central American Elites and the Reconfiguration of Power in the region and through ongoing collaboration with the Latin American Faculty of Social Sciences (FLACSO) regarding social exclusion and urban violence. At the same time, we intend to focus during 2015 on expanding our existing strong ties to research networks in Brazil and Mexico, the two most populous countries in Latin America, both of which boast remarkably strong research networks in their academic communities. Faculty working groups are being established in order to consolidate and expand our programs related to both countries, and I look forward to sharing results of our efforts during the coming months with faculty and students across campus.
The past academic year has been a watershed for the Center for Latin American & Latino Studies at AU. As we mark four years of operation, numerous scholarly initiatives are coming to fruition. We are especially proud of the growing portfolio of publications resulting from Center-sponsored work. Our Hemisphere in Flux project on regional dynamics in the Americas generated two significant special journal issues, published in Brazil and Argentina; the Religion and Violence initiative is resulting in an ambitious collaborative volume, to be published by prestigious presses in 2015 in both the U.S. and in Mexico; and our collaboration with CIEPLAN on challenges confronting Latin American economies has produced a manuscript that will be published in Chile during the fall. Meanwhile, the Center's Ford Foundation-funded work on Central American elites is resulting in five volumes that will be published in Costa Rica and Guatemala by the end of 2014, with plans in the works for an English language volume or two to be published by an academic press in the U.S., and our collaborative research with FLACSO-Costa Rica and FLACSO-El Salvador is yielding important findings on the linkages between social exclusion and urban violence. A study of Brazil's role in the international system has been accepted for publication by Palgrave-MacMillan, which also published our 2012 study of new institutions for participatory democracy in Latin America, a second edition of which will be released later this year. CLALS has since its inception been committed to generating research that will be circulated through top quality presses throughout the Americas, and we making good on that aspiration.
The Center has also launched a Working Paper Series that is available on the web and, in most instances, in hard copy form. We are gratified to see that those products, like our work circulated on the web through the AULA Blog, InSight Crime and Latin Pulse, are attracting a substantial and growing readership. We continue as well to share the results of our state-of-the-art research with stakeholders beyond academe. Studies of Latin voting behavior, police corruption in Central America, productivity and inclusion in Latin American economies, and the integration of Cuba into the OAS and the broader inter-American system have been the focus of well-attended public events on the AU campus, think tanks in Washington, UN headquarters in New York City and numerous capital cities in Latin America.
As a number of projects launched since the Center's inauguration in 2010 wind down, we have launched several new initiatives. Research on the structure of Latino gangs is well underway, and a new Luce Foundation-funded project, on Religion and Democratic Contestation in Latin America, held its first workshop last February. A dozen studies have been commissioned for that initiative, and preliminary versions of papers will be debated at a workshop at AU in November, around which we will also convene a series of public events. Activities focused on the impact of cultural industries on Latin American economies and on U.S. communities with substantial Latino populations are thriving, most recently through a workshop that CLALS organized for economic development agencies in Broward County, Florida. Meanwhile, studies of Latino entrepreneurs in the Washington DC metropolitan area and on the health of U.S. children of deportees are proceeding apace, and we are exploring possibilities for developing new investigations of the impacts of the Great Recession on Latino household savings and retirement prospects; the empowerment of LGBT communities in Colombia; conflict over extractive industries in Andean countries, and comparative analyses of efforts to enhance access to safe water supplies in vulnerable urban communities in Brazil and Washington DC. There is no shortage of pressing topics around which new knowledge is needed, and we aim to provide it through work and through strategic partnerships - both new and ongoing - with other organizations in the U.S. and abroad.
The Center for Latin American and Latino Studies enjoyed a very productive summer. Three and a half years since our inauguration in 2010, the Center has consolidated a portfolio of innovative programs of funded research, and these are now beginning to have a clear impact in a variety of ways. I am pleased to report our receipt over the summer of grants and contracts totaling over $1.2 million that will enable us to launch new initiatives on top of roughly two dozen that are already well underway. These include investigations into economic ties between Asia and Latin America, the internal structure of Latino gangs, and linkages between social exclusion and violence in Central America. In each case, new funding will mobilize expertise from across the AU campus and beyond. And more is on the way, as we are optimistic about the prospects for several pending proposals for additional projects engaging themes of gender and sexuality, security, environmental change and the impact of Latin American culture industries.
Newly funded research supplements an array of ongoing projects addressing such questions as: religious agency in combatting violence; the changing roles of Central American elites; the dynamics of inter-American relations; the fortunes of Latino entrepreneurs; and the health effects of the mass deportation of Latino immigrants. These projects are now resulting in tangible products. During 2013 the Center will have completed manuscripts for seven edited volumes and one single-authored book, published multiple white papers and a special journal issue, and produced four documentary films. We look forward to sustaining this productivity throughout 2014.
Through effective use of the web and social media, our impact on public understanding of pressing contemporary issues continue to grow. The InSight Crime website is attracting over 100,000 views per month. Latin Pulse, our weekly podcast and radio show, is also reaching more than 100,000 listeners. Now carried by the Christian Science Monitor and La Prensa Gráfica, our AULA Blog -to which numerous AU faculty, Center staff and experts from throughout the Americas have contributed- is making waves in D.C. and beyond, with an average monthly viewership nearing 2,000. We now have around 4,000 Facebook followers. In addition to our free and searchable visual archive, we recently supported the launch of Election Passport, an on-line database supplying comprehensive election results from Latin America and the Caribbean.
A majority of our 78 faculty affiliates have taken prominent roles in one or more CLALS-sponsored projects. At the same time, the Center continues to host a growing roster of Research Fellows, with the current cohort hailing from Argentina, Brazil, El Salvador, Italy, Mexico, Nicaragua and Spain as well as numerous U.S. institutions. Their research has become integral to the Center's programming, as has that of AU graduate students supported through the Tinker Field Research Grant Program. As we work to bring Latin America and Latino affairs to the forefront of the intellectual and policy agenda, and to translate research into concrete results accessible to scholars and practitioners alike, we will continue to draw on expertise from across the AU community and beyond.
The AU Center for Latin American and Latino Studies had a busy fall semester and a productive spring is well underway. As we approached the three-year point since our inauguration in 2010, we reached a milestone with publication of the first Center-sponsored scholarly volume, New Institutions of Participatory Democracy: Voice and Consequence, which was released simultaneously in English by Palgrave MacMillan and in Spanish by FLACSO-Mexico in November 2012. We expect an additional four books to emerge as a result of CLALS projects during 2013.
Our current research portfolio encompasses nearly two dozen projects, and planning is underway for new investigations of several important topics, including the health impacts of mass deportations of Latinos from the U.S.; the role of religious institutions in rights advocacy for U.S. Latinos; and mangrove conservation efforts undertaken by Afro-Ecuadoran communities. During the first two months of 2013 numerous grant proposals, seeking well over $1 million in support for these projects, were submitted to federal and private funding agencies. This builds on the Center’s receipt of roughly $1 million in grants during the previous academic year.
Our efforts to incorporate innovative multimedia and social media into our research and dissemination activities are beginning to bear fruit. High-quality content continues to attract large audiences to InSight Crime, with over 100,000 views per month, and to our weekly podcast and radio show, Latin Pulse, with over 30,000 weekly listeners. The CLALS Facebook page is gaining visibility, with over 2,000 likes, and the AU Latin America blog is building a dedicated audience as it enters its second semester of provoking debate on U.S.-Latin America relations.
It is especially gratifying to report that more than half of our 75 affiliated faculty are playing leadership roles in CLALS-sponsored projects, and many others are involved in one or another of our activities. In addition, the Center’s expansion continues to benefit from the efforts of a growing roster of Research Fellows, whose scholarly, journalistic and public policy expertise contribute to the production and dissemination of high quality and valuable knowledge. As CLALS continues to establish itself as a world-class research center that brings Latino affairs and the study of Latin America to the forefront of the intellectual agenda in the U.S. and beyond, we look forward to continued engagement from the communities of researchers and practitioners who are making this work happen.
We extend our best wishes for a productive spring semester.
A number of important developments have taken place at CLALS in recent months, and will shape much of our work during the coming academic year. Several scholars and practitioners have joined us as Research Fellows, working on their own projects and shaping Center-sponsored initiatives funded extra-murally. An additional cohort of Fellows will come on board in August. To accommodate this welcome influx of talent, we have again expanded our space, incorporating an additional suite of offices at 4545 42nd Street, a block from the Tenleytown metro station.
The Center’s growing success in attracting major grants from an array of different agencies is a second noteworthy advance. Thanks to diligent efforts of faculty and staff, a dozen awards received over the past year have generated more than $1 million in support of a variety of Center-sponsored programs that are generating new knowledge and circulating the findings of research in innovative ways.
This relates to a third aspect of our work: the diversification of channels for disseminating information. In addition to our use of social media – we recently ventured into the worlds of both Facebook and Twitter (@AU_CLALS) – the Center has launched a public affairs blog and is continuing to support Latin Pulse, a weekly radio show and podcast undertaken by AU’s School of Communication (SOC) and Link TV. As evident in our increasingly robust website, we are also making greater use of video, again drawing on the talents of our colleagues in SOC.
During the coming year we will continue to expand the Fellows program, our portfolio of funded research and our use of diverse media. I am confident that we will also formalize evolving partnerships with other organizations, including universities, governments and advocacy organizations. In so doing, we aim to contribute meaningfully to AU’s institution-wide efforts to raise the profile of what we do beyond the boundaries of the campus, to bring cutting-edge ideas from outside AU into our classrooms and research units, and to see our work have a growing impact on the broader world around us. Contemporary societies have much to gain from deeper understanding of Latino experiences and of Latin America, and with your continued support CLALS will play an ever more important role in supplying this valuable knowledge.
On the heels of a very productive summer, CLALS is poised to advance an array of projects during the coming academic year. In September, the Center will launch a two-year program of research and publications on elites and political power in Central America. This program is supported by a generous grant from the Ford Foundation, and will engage scholars throughout the region. We will also inaugurate the research project “Hemisphere in Flux” with a major conference at AU in October. Exploring the shifting contours of international relations in the Americas, the project is a collaboration with a consortium of Brazilian universities and the Buenos Aires-based Coordinadora Regional de Investigaciones Económicas y Sociales (CRIES).
Additionally, we are excited about several new initiatives that are currently under development, and for which we hope to secure funding this academic year. These include studies of environmental law and regulation in extractive industries, the impact of countercyclical economic policies on Latin America’s experience of the global financial crisis, and religious institutions and violence under dictatorship and democracy.
The Center’s ambitious efforts focused on concerns of Latinos in the United States have been especially productive. Within the Washington, D.C. region, our ongoing partnership with CentroNia, the Columbia Heights-based charter school and social service organization, is generating valuable insights into the nature and impact of after-school programs that target Latino youth. Similarly, together with the Latino Economic Development Council we are designing a project that will aim to better understand the time horizons that shape how Latino immigrant entrepreneurs conduct their businesses. Also, working with staff at Nueva Vida, a health services provider, we are planning to assess the efficacy of different strategies for motivating Latina women to seek breast cancer screening.
While much of our work in Latino Studies is focused on the local metropolitan area, we are engaging national level institutions as well, for example through an upcoming workshop, co-sponsored with the National Council of La Raza (NCLR), devoted to exploring how emerging currents of research on discrimination might inform strategies for reducing discrimination against Latinos.
Although the Center is still just over 18 months old, we are pleased that scholars from around the world are increasingly seeking to join us as they carry out research in Washington. During the coming semester we will host doctoral and faculty fellows from Brazil, Canada and the U.S., investigating topics such as Latino identities, climate change policy and organized crime. We expect to welcome additional fellows beginning soon after the new year.
Most of what CLALS does will continue to take place on the main AU campus, but we have just moved to new quarters, a newly renovated suite of offices on 42nd Street, conveniently located by the Tenleytown Metro stop. Our phones, fax and mailing address remain unchanged, as is our core mission of advancing the frontiers of research in Latin American and Latino Studies, and connecting the findings of our work to users of knowledge from a wide range of institutions and walks of life.
The spring semester of 2011 is well underway, and CLALS is as busy as ever. We have convened workshops on contemporary political, economic and security issues in Mexico, on basic needs provision in Cuba, and on organized crime in the Americas, and we will host leading experts from throughout the Hemisphere at an April planning meeting for a project with the Washington College of Law focused on environmental law and regulation in Latin America. Each of these events exhibits our commitment to bringing state of the art research to AU, and to engaging our faculty and students in cutting edge debates about Latin America.
The Center has partnered with the School of Education, Teaching and Health to launch an ambitious research project measuring the quality and impact of after-school programs serving Latino kids in Washington, DC, and we have begun an initiative with the School of Communication to develop a series of multi-media documentaries on the challenges facing Latino populations in distinct settings across the U.S. Caribbean issues have also been at the forefront of our work in recent months: a Center-sponsored report on challenges for reconstruction in Haiti was recently released, and we are looking forward to a panel discussion on Cuban cinema.
We are also preparing to evaluate proposals in the first Tinker Field Research Grants competition that will support graduate student research in Latin America and the Caribbean. In addition, we are working with the Kogod School of Business to launch research on Latino enterprises and, in collaboration with a consortium of Brazilian universities and with NGOs from across the Hemisphere, we are developing a research project on the shifting contours of foreign policies throughout the Americas. That initiative has already begun to engage diplomatic missions of several countries, and promises to impact debates in academe and beyond.
Meanwhile, the roster of Center affiliates continues to expand, with more than 70 AU faculty and research staff now involved in our work. That number will grow during the coming year, as we welcome at least three new members of the faculty who have been hired to work in Latin American and Latino Studies, as well as a fresh cohort of visiting fellows. As we prepare to close the Latin American and Latino Studies exhibit at the Bender library, we are confirming details of a major photography exhibition at the Katzen Arts Center, featuring remarkable work on Puerto Rico by the acclaimed photographer Louise Rokham.
One indicator of the dynamism of an academic unit is the career trajectory of the students and junior staff who work within it. In that regard, I am delighted that two of our M.A. students working as graduate assistants—Catalina Esguerra and Mathias Poertner—have accepted offers for five years of full funding to carry on their studies at top ten doctoral programs, and that another member of our staff is weighing similar offers. We now have eight graduate students working in the Center, and I am confident that this number will expand over the course of 2011. These promising young intellectuals are critical in advancing our work, and I am committed to increasing both their numbers and their substantive roles during the coming academic year.
We remain eager to involve students, faculty and stakeholders from throughout Washington and beyond in our efforts to advance Latin American and Latino Studies here and elsewhere. Your ideas and engagement are as welcome as ever, and I hope that you will share advice as we continue to build the program at AU.
The AU Center for Latin American and Latino Studies enters its second semester having accomplished a lot, but with much work ahead of us. CLALS has launched a dozen or so projects, organized around five thematic clusters, and a similar number of initiatives are in the works. These are evolving in partnership with Schools and Colleges across the University, as well as with individuals and institutions beyond AU. What unites these disparate efforts is a common commitment to generating new knowledge and deploying that knowledge to address challenges faced by Latino communities in the United States and by societies throughout Latin America. Exploration of our website will introduce visitors to the range of issues that we are addressing, and to the sorts of activities that we hope to carry out during the months and years to come.
We are developing ideas, and building relationships that I am confident will endure over time. This is an exciting moment for the Center, and for the University. AU faculty, staff and students decided through a planning process that spanned 2008 and 2009 that we wanted to bring this about, and it is now happening: Latino Studies and Latin American Studies have a significant and institutionalized presence at this University, and we are reaching out beyond the boundaries of the campus to ensure that our work has impact.
Aside from the workshop on Latina/o politics that took place at AU at the end of September, with participation of leading experts from throughout the country, we are sponsoring nearly a dozen lectures, films and other events over the course of the fall semester. We also look forward to the research workshop on participation and representation in Latin America, to be held in December at the Universidad Nacional de San Martín in Buenos Aires, and to plenary meetings with faculty, graduate students and alumni over the course of the next few months. During the spring semester of 2011 we will host a number of activities related to contemporary Cuba, as well as a plethora of events devoted to Latino and Latin American Studies debates. At the same time, we are working with the Department of Language and Foreign Studies to highlight the potential of their MA program in Latin American Studies, and to get the word out to prospective students regarding what AU has to offer.
As we continue to generate new work and highlight the dynamism of activities already in place at the University, we encourage you to consult our website, sign on to our electronic mail list, and contact us to propose ways in which we can advance research on Latin America and on Latino communities throughout the United States. Our endeavor is both collective and collaborative, and we remain eager to recruit new partners as we strive to fulfill our potential.
The Center for Latin American and Latino Studies (CLALS) at American University was established in January 2010 to promote cutting-edge research, innovative teaching and productive outreach activities designed to enrich understanding of Latin America and of Latino communities in the United States. The new Center will supply state of the art expertise on a wide range of topics, and aspires to set the standard for a dynamic University-based program equipped to grapple with the challenges of the 21st century. Drawing on expertise of faculty, students and staff at AU, as well as from other institutions in the Washington D.C. metropolitan area and beyond, our programs will encompass the study of cultural, economic, political and social affairs, as well as pressing themes of health, education and environment. We welcome opportunities to collaborate with stakeholders both on campus and off, and we encourage visitors to our website to participate in our expanding portfolio of activities.