Latin America Research Seminar
Presented by the Center for Latin American Studies
Research is the lifeblood of academia, just as evidence and analysis are the basis for sound policy decisions. Georgetown faculty, visiting researchers and fellows, and doctoral students whose work focuses on Latin America and the Caribbean engage in fascinating inquiry on an array of topics, in a myriad of contexts, using a diverse set of research methods. CLAS has established a Latin America Research Seminar (LARS) so that our community can learn about, celebrate, and promote their work.
LARS will meet twice a month, on the second and fourth Wednesdays from 12:00 p.m. to 1:00 p.m. (see schedule below). Lunch will be served.
Participation in LARS:
We encourage Georgetown faculty, visiting researchers and fellows, and doctoral students whose work focuses on Latin America and the Caribbean to capitalize on this opportunity to share, and get multidisciplinary feedback on, their research.
If you are interested in presenting your ongoing or recently completed research in LARS, please email Diana Kapiszewski (email@example.com) indicating (1) the month in which you would like to present; (2) the topic of your presentation.
With regard to attending LARS, sessions are open to the entire university community, and to the public.
Location: ICC 302-P
Presenter: Father Matthew Carnes, Associate Professor, School of Foreign Service / Department of Government
Bio: Fr. Carnes’s research examines the dynamics of labor and social welfare policy in developing and middle-income countries. A specialist on Latin America, he has conducted extensive field research in Argentina, Peru, Chile, and Bolivia, and he has worked on development projects in Honduras, Mexico, Uruguay, Paraguay, and Ecuador. He is the author of Continuity Despite Change: The Politics of Labor Regulation in Latin America (Stanford University Press, 2014), and numerous journal articles. He served as the Director of the Georgetown Center for Latin American Studies from 2016-2022. He has been a Visiting Fellow at the Kellogg Institute for International Studies at the University of Notre Dame (Spring 2009) and a National Fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University (Academic Year 2011-2012).
Title: Transforming the Religious/Secular Arena: The Far-Reaching Consequences of Educational Reform in Chile
Abstract: When Chile adopted a policy guaranteeing “free” education for qualifying students and schools in 2016, it set in motion a set of reforms that are massively reshaping not just the university sector, but also the larger landscape of social policy and the key actors in it. In a particular way, the relative balance of religious and secular providers of education has shifted, with an abrupt emergence of new lay-run institutes of higher learning and the re-definition of many religious schools away from their earlier affiliations. Chile’s extensive reliance on religious providers for a variety of social services over the last half-century has thus experienced a fundamental shift, one that has not yet been recognized or explored in the literature. This paper gathers novel evidence, collected during fieldwork and in collaboration with local co-investigators, to explore this transformation. First, it draws on interviews with the leaders of five Chilean universities in Santiago, as well as an analysis of another 20 school’s websites and promotional materials, to understand how the new financial calculus of the 2016 law and subsequent regulations have shaped their decisions. It complements this analysis with an examination of country-wide data on enrollments, school openings and closings, and self-reported religious affiliation of over two thousand pre-primary through tertiary schools from the period of 2010 to 2022. The findings show that the new financing models entailed in the legislation are having a significant and lasting impact on the religious makeup of the educational landscape at all levels. This project shows the far-reaching effects of institutional reforms and their embedded incentives, disentangling the effects of broader social trends toward secularization from the impacts of the new law. It ultimately shows how deeply embedded social policy design, which in Chile’s case displayed a particular reliance on religious organizations, can be transformed in a relatively short period of time and produce new institutional frameworks that had not existed before.
Location: ICC 302-P
Presenter: Simon Ballesteros, PhD Candidate, Department of Government
Bio: PhD candidate in Government at Georgetown University. In my research, I use quantitative and qualitative methods to study (i) the causes and consequences of the democratic characteristics of constitution-making processes and (ii) the evolution of political and legal institutions in Latin America.
Title: Political Elites’ Decision-making and Democratic Constitutional Change in Chile after a Social Uprising
Abstract: Recent literature in constitution-making shows that their democratic characteristics, namely, the degree of citizen participation and elite contestation, are linked to desired political outcomes, including reduced post-conflict violence (Widner 2007) and enhanced democracy (Eisenstadt et al., 2015; Negretto and Sanchez-Talanquer, 2021). Despite the importance of the mentioned desired political outcomes, the process by which political elites decide the specific institutional mechanisms for constitution-making remains unclear. In this presentation, I present work in progress in which I use process tracing to understand how a highly democratic process of constitutional change began in Chile in 2019 after a social uprising during a conservative government initially reluctant to any significant constitutional reform. Specifically, I interviewed Chilean political elites and used archival evidence from newspapers and social media to study the decision-making process of the relevant political elites who agreed to initiate a constitution-making process in 2019, focusing on the evolution of their political positions based on learnings and circumstantial accommodation. Preliminary results suggest that the uncertainty created by the social uprising was critical to forcing the government and the opposition to reach an agreement that introduced unprecedented democratic mechanisms in the Chilean political system to guarantee their survival. Once uncertainty dissipated, social protests ended, and a new constitutional deal was needed to begin a new process after the failure of the first one, political elites abandoned several democratic provisions of the first process. This article contributes to the literature on democracy and conflict by detailing and explaining the causal sequence of events that transforms political conflicts into democratic processes of institutional change.
Location: ICC 302-P
Presenter: Anna Deeny Morales, Adjunct Professor, Center for Latin American Studies
Bio: Anna Deeny Morales works in music and poetry as a librettist, translator, and literary critic. Recent works include Las Místicas de México, an interactive opera that debuts in March, 2024, with the IN Series and the Children’s Chorus of Washington at the Dupont Circle Underground and the Mexican Cultural Institute. ZAVALA-ZAVALA: an opera in v cuts, with score by Brian Arreola, premiered with the IN Series and the Georgetown University Orchestra at the Kennedy Center in 2022, and will be performed at Gala Hispanic Theater in 2024. A National Endowment for the Arts Fellow for her translation of Latin America’s first Nobel Laureate in Literature, Gabriela Mistral, Deeny Morales has translated volumes of poetry by Raúl Zurita, Nicanor Parra, Amanda Berenguer, Alejandra Pizarnik, and Mercedes Roffé, among others. Her works in opera and poetry have been supported by the Ford Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities. She received a BA in English Literature with a minor in Piano Performance from Shepherd University; an MA in Comparative Literature, with a focus on Puerto Rican theater, from Dartmouth College; and a PhD in Hispanic Languages and Literatures from UC, Berkeley. In Rome, she studied theater at the Accademia Nazionale d’Arte Drammatica. Her book, Other Solitudes: Essays on Consciousness and Poetry, is forthcoming in 2025.
Title: From Archive to Adaptation and Voice
Abstract: How do characters emerge from archives? What’s the bridge between people as they are registered in time on archival documents, scores, photographs, or paintings, and current, voiced representations? Anna Deeny Morales will talk about the processes involved in the research, adaptation, and creation of new operas that form part of a Latin American and Latine opera tradition.
Location: ICC 302-P
Presenter: Nayeli Riano, PhD Candidate, Department of Government
Bio: Nayeli Riano is a Ph.D Candidate in political theory in the Department of Government at Georgetown University. Her dissertation, “A Mirror of Modernity: Revisiting Civilization and Barbarism in Latin American Thought,” analyzes the conceptual impact and creative reconstruction of Enlightenment rhetoric in Latin American political thought during the long nineteenth century. Prior to Georgetown, she studied intellectual history at the University of St Andrews (MLitt) and English literature at the University of Pennsylvania (BA).
Title: Bridging Fiction and Politics : Juan Egaña’s “Cartas Pehuenches” and Nation-Building in 19th-century Chile
Abstract: A common literary style in 18th-century Enlightenment writings about the New World involved stories of “encounter” with Amerindians. The Chilean politician and thinker, Juan Egaña (1769-1836) curiously adopted this style when he wrote his “Cartas Pehuenches” (1819-1820) as a series of letters from a Santiago-based Pehuenche to his friend, in which he analyzed the strange customs of the developing South American city in contrast to the natural simplicity of his home and people in Pire-Mapu. The work has been analyzed as an early form of South American fiction that also recognizes the political context in which it was written during a time of republican nation-building in Chile. This paper, which is a shortened version of a chapter of my dissertation, expands these analyses by connecting the genre of the “Cartas” to its European discursive origins as an investigation into the relationship between barbarism and civilization. I argue that Egaña, a liberal philosopher and political actor who participated in the Chilean Independence process since its inception, probed the concepts of barbarism and civilization in his “Cartas” to better understand and convey the nation-building project of Chile. The “Cartas” and Egaña’s thought, moreover, are better understood within a wider intellectual and political context in Latin America in which the relationship between barbarism and civilization were used to assess a series of central questions for the region’s cultural, political, and economic development.
Location: ICC 450
Presenter: Luis Jácome, Adjunct Professor, Center for Latin American Studies
Title: The Long Road to Central Bank Independence in Latin America
Abstract: This presentation describes a new book that analyzes central bank independence in Latin America through the lens of history. It makes a historical account of how the independence of central banks evolved since the early 1920s, when the first central banks were created. Building on a novel database of an index of legal central bank independence for seventeen countries and a long series of inflation spanning 100 years, the book highlights that independence made a stark contribution to achieving price stability in a region historically battered with unparalleled levels of inflation. The analysis also takes into consideration how the international monetary system, the exchange rate regimes, and banking crises influenced the implementation of monetary policy and inflation performance. Against this backdrop, empirical evidence suggests that higher central bank independence is associated with a lower likelihood of high inflation episodes, especially when accompanied by restrictions to finance fiscal deficits.
Bio: Luis Jácome was Governor of the Central Bank of Ecuador in 1998-99 and previously Vice Minister of Finance. He was until recently the Deputy Chief of the Central Banking Division at the International Monetary Fund (IMF), where he worked for almost twenty years. During this time, Luis Jácome led missions to many countries around the world advising emerging markets’ central banks on monetary and macroprudential policies and on managing financial crises. He has published extensively, including in a number of peer-reviewed journals in English and Spanish, and is the co-author of the book Challenges for Central Banking: Perspectives from Latin America, published by the IMF in 2016. Luis Jácome holds a Ph.D. in Economics from Boston University, a MSc in economics from the University of London, and a Licenciatura in economics from Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Spain.
Location: ICC 302-P
Presenter: Matias Spektor, Fellow, Georgetown Americas Institute
Title: Building the Latin American Transnational Surveillance Database (LATS)
Abstract: Transnational surveillance is a powerful tool in the arsenal of autocrats the world over. Despite its pervasive use in extraterritorial coercion, the study of surveillance of regime opponents beyond national borders remains underexplored in Political Science, primarily due to limited data availability. To help fill this gap, we constructed LATS, a micro-level dataset based on declassified foreign surveillance reports produced by autocratic Brazil over two decades (1966-1986). LATS records the identity, locations, social ties, and political activism of 17,000 individuals, the vast majority of whom congregated within and migrated across Latin America. Drawing on this abundant data, we empirically explore existing theoretical insights about the motivations, methods, and consequences of transnational surveillance, a task that would be difficult to do using other sources. We also leverage social network analysis to showcase potential applications of LATS in the testing of collective-action theories of transnational political violence as practiced by autocrats and their victims.
Bio: Matias Spektor, a resident fellow at Georgetown’s Americas Institute, is professor of Politics and International Relations at FGV in São Paulo (Brazil). He has published extensively on international security, political violence, and climate politics. Matias has held visiting professorships at Princeton, the LSE, and King’s College London, as well as the Council on Foreign Relations, the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, and the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. He holds a doctorate from the University of Oxford.
Location: ICC 450
Presenter: Natalia Chávez Gomes da Silva, PhD Candidate, Deparment of Spanish and Portuguese
Title: “Almitas milagrosas” in Bolivia: Rites and Objects of Devotion as Portals of Hope for the People
Abstract: Five women murdered by different men in Bolivia between 1973 and 2003 have been iconized as popular saints (“almitas”) by the communities near the site of the tragedies: Mama Adela (Yotala, Chuquisaca), La Niña Patricia (La Paz city), Inocencia Flores (Oruro city) , Santa Cholita (San Benito, Cochabamba), and Shirley Quispe (Sipe Sipe, Cochabamba). Devotees go to their memorial sites – tombs, grottoes, and altars- to ask and thank them for miraculous help in difficult personal situations; they ask for health for mysterious, serious or chronic illnesses, they ask for success and protection in migration, they ask for fertility, work, repayment of debts, financial success, judiciary processes, family relations, envy and “mal de ojo”, among other things. This research uses Jill Dolan’s concept “performative utopias” to think about the revolutionary potential of cultural practices of faith that link the material world with a complex spiritual dimension that includes both Catholic values and Andean worldviews. “Performative utopias” address questions about the adaptation or reaction to postcolonial and postmodern social contexts in Bolivia. The observed practices are performances in the sense that they always happen in a public place and that they depend on a material expression of communication between the devotees and a holy figure. These expressions/acts can be: going to the place of the “almita” image(s), praying, lighting colored candles, leaving written letters and engraved metal plates, and inviting cigarettes, alcohol or coca leaves to the “santita”. Both the acting devotees and those who watch the acts end up being part of the devotional event that is perpetuated and maintained over time through ritual (practical) or oral communication of the practices and their motivations.
Bio: Natalia is a Ph.D. candidate in Spanish Literature and Cultural Studies at Georgetown University. She holds a BA in Communication (UPSA University, Bolivia) and an MFA in Creative Writing in Spanish (New York University). Her main area of research interest is the narrative and material forms that shape Latin-American social categories (such as indigenous people, mestizxs, women, among others) in contemporary non-fiction literature and other cultural artifacts such as digital literature, performance, and mixed media. She is currently working on her dissertation titled: “The Gendered Expansion of History: Techniques and Materiality of Womanhood in Bolivian Undefined Expressive Artifacts.”
Location: ICC 450
Presenter: Calla (Cici) Cameron, PhD Candidate, Department of History
Title: Partido de Agua: An Examination of a Local Election in Rural Ayacucho, Peru
Abstract: This paper will analyze the social structures surrounding a mayoral election in rural Peru. An ethnographic and historical study of the community of Quinua, located outside of the city of Ayacucho, Peru will demonstrate the nuanced effects of language, ethnicity, tourism, collective memory, and familial ties have on modern, democratic elections. By accidentally becoming a figure within the election, the author demonstrates the omnipresence of the United States and Global North even in rural mayoral elections and the performative nature of Peruvian local elections.
Bio: Calla (Cici) Cameron is a fifth-year doctoral candidate in the Department of History. She received her Bachelor’s in History and Human Rights from Claremont McKenna College, and her MA in Global, International, and Comparative history from Georgetown University. She won a Fulbright-Hays Doctoral Dissertation Award, with which she conducted research in rural Ayacucho, Peru. Though her research currently focuses on the aftermath of the Peruvian Internal Armed Conflict (1980-2000) in rural areas, she is generally interested in post-conflict reconciliation and transitional justice across Latin America. Outside of academia, Calla manages a local bridal store and lives with her beloved rescue greyhound, Spaghetti.
January 24 *CANCELED*
Location: ICC 302-P
Presenter: Arturo Romero Yanez, PhD Candidate, Department of Economics
Bio: Arturo Romero Yanez is currently a Visiting Clinical Assistant Professor in the Department of Economics at NYU. His research focuses on the political economy of development. His work covers the study of judicial politics; affirmative action; women’s political representation; and, political selection in majoritarian elections in the U.S. and Mexico. He has been an economist at the Mexican Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of the Economy, and the Federal Electoral Court. Before Georgetown, he received a M.Sc. in Economics from University College London (with Merit) and a Bachelor (Licenciatura) in Economics from the Centro de Investigación y Docencia Económicas (CIDE).
Title: Reaching Gender Parity in Politics: The Mexican Case
Abstract: One of the targets of the Sustainable Development Goals is reaching gender parity in political representation. In 2017, Mexico became the first country to achieve sustained gender parity in virtually all of its state and federal legislative bodies. Much of this achievement has been awarded to the unintended experimentation with gender quota rules, capping the share of male politicians in candidate lists increasingly closer to 50% during the 2000 and 2010 decades. Using a staggered diff-in-diff strategy and a novel dataset of all candidates in single-district elections since 1995, I estimate that while women’s political participation as candidates increased by 30% after the introduction of candidate quotas, women did not hold more seats in the states with quotas. I discard that this is due to any substantial changes in the qualifications of male and female candidates, but rather due to parties’ avoidance of the quota rules, and the strategic allocation of women to losing districts.
Location: ICC 302-P
Presenter: Jenny Guardado, Assistant Professor, Center for Latin American Studies
Bio: Prof. Guardado’s research examines the political and economic mechanisms affecting armed conflict, corruption and long-run economic development with a regional focus on Spanish America. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming at the American Political Science Review, Journal of Politics, Journal of Development Economics, International Organization, World Development, and Electoral Studies, among others.
Title: Unequal Burden: Colonial Taxation and Living Standard Disparities Within Minorities
Abstract: This paper shows that while indigenous communities in Peru and Bolivia are poorer on average than the rest of the population, this is not necessarily the case in places where historical exactions disproportionately burdened indigenous members of lower socioeconomic status. One reason is selective sorting within the indigenous population, with poorer and lower status members in these communities “exiting” in the long-run via low fertility, high mortality and (or) out-migration vis-à-vis higher-status ones, changing the composition of the community. Consistent with this argument, current surname data in Peru reveals a higher prevalence of Inca nobility descendants in areas where colonial identity taxation was the most regressive, suggesting the ability of these elites to remain in these communities. Already in the late 19th century, these communities exhibit higher levels of literacy, collective action ability, and land ownership. These results propose a different mechanism – sorting – through which the indigenous population met the challenge of Spanish colonization.
Location: ICC 302-P
Presenter: Aned Ladino, PhD Candidate, Department of Spanish and Portuguese
Bio: Aned Ladino is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese in the Latin American Literature and Culture field. Her primary research interests are female voices in literature, culture, and sound studies with an emphasis on hybrid narratives involving race, gender, and queer theoretical frameworks. Her current research and dissertation, titled: “Afro-Andean and Diasporic Oral Feminisms: Colombia, Peru, and Ecuador” aims to analyze orality as a politic of expression and decolonial feminism in musical and literary productions (1999-2021) by women of the African diaspora in Colombia, Peru, and Ecuador. Aned is also a co-founder of the Georgetown Graduate Student Magazine; Plaza públicaLiterature Magazine, and served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Ecuador (2015-2017).
Title: Afro-Colombian female resistance and resilience in Ancestras by Petrona Martínez
Abstract: This presentation focuses on the repertoire of Petrona Martínez, an Afro-Colombian singer and composer, and her recent album Ancestras (2021). The album revolves around bullerengue, a musical rhythm from maroon communities in Colombia, and it prioritizes voice, orality, listening, and poetry as a politic of expression. It brings together the voices of 14 Afro-descendant women to pay tribute to the Black diaspora ancestral memory and to articulate shared sorrows and joy. From a black feminism theoretical framework, this presentation aims to analyze how Petrona Martínez’s repertoire in Ancestras becomes a sonic space of resistance and resilience. I explore how the album’s oral and musical tradition of bullerengue contributes to a social transformation by highlighting black women’s spirituality, motherhood, and gender violence. These themes transcend through collaborative female practices, becoming a form of resistance. The folkloric rhythm of bullerengue favors female voices in the roles of cantadoras, singers, and composers, empowering them to become leaders, producers, and agents of their own stories. My project includes the analysis of the songs “El niño roncón” ft the Afro-Peruvian singer Susana Baca and “San Antonio de Padua” ft Monica Carrillo to explore how the conjunction among, the voice, the female body, and the musical ensemble turns into a political tool. In this research, the perspectives of race, gender, class, and age are crucial to understanding and exploring the notions of ancestral oral traditions as a decolonial form. This form allows for self-emancipation projects and knowledge creation through connections with the past.
LARS Presenter Guidelines:
LARS Presenter Guidelines:
Presenters do not need to distribute anything written in advance, and there will be no dedicated discussant. Instead, LARS sessions will be structured in the following way:
For the first 20 minutes, presenters will discuss their research, offering answers to four guiding questions:
1. What is the research project/focus/question?
2. What date collection methods and data analysis methods do you use and why and how? What are your findings/results?
3. What are you teaching us?
4. What are the BIG PICTURE issues that your work takes on? Why does it matter?
For the last 30 minutes, we will open the floor for Q&A