XXXV International Congress of the Latin American Studies Association
Universidad Nacional de Colombia
Juliet A. Hooker
University of Texas, Austin
Fifty years after LASA was founded, its membership looks very different: we have grown from a core of mainly North American social scientists and historians to an academically diverse organization with notable growth in members from the humanities and the arts; 40 percent of our members live in Latin America and the Caribbean; there is a growing indigenous and Afro-descendant presence; we share the podium at our scholarly panels with activists, journalists, and filmmakers. Today, the concept of Latin America overflows the traditional geopolitical boundaries of the region with, on the one hand, a growing presence of Latin@s in North America and a burgeoning Latin American diaspora in Europe, while on the other hand, Latin Americanist scholars have begun to envision their research in a broader global context and from more interdisciplinary standpoints. Finally, theory produced in the global South, and in Latin America in particular, is gaining increasing purchase in both academic and nonacademic circles in the North, reversing the traditional directionality in the flow of ideas and recognizing the growing presence of knowledge producers from sectors that have traditionally been excluded from academic dialogues.
The 2017 LASA Congress in Lima, Peru, will build on these multiple transformations in LASA and in the field of Latin American studies by highlighting the theme of “Diálogos de Saberes/Dialogues of Knowledge.” With it, we seek to highlight a broad range of dialogues that move beyond the traditional academic disciplines and traditional knowledge producers, and are at the heart of Latin American studies today.
The notion of “diálogos de saberes” originates in Latin American evaluations of the social sciences in the mid-twentieth century, which were criticized for their supposed positivist objectivity and neutrality, as well as for their largely metropolitan origins in the global North. In their place, Third World scholars proposed the development of forms of knowledge production, such as Participatory Action Research, committed to establishing equal collaborations with popular sectors in support of their struggles. The dedication to producing research that is socially relevant and whose methodologies involve the sharing of intellectual authority with nonacademics continues to be the norm in Latin America. Collaborative research and the incorporation of the voices of indigenous, Afro-descendant, and other popular sectors will thus be at the center of the 2017 Congress.
In keeping with the theme of a diálogo de saberes, we also seek to promote interdisciplinary dialogue that disrupts the boundaries between fields. Against the notion that certain topics are the special purview of certain disciplines, we want to encourage inter- and intradisciplinary dialogues. Because these dialogues are also informed by the way global power relations impact the production of knowledge, we are especially interested in how the foci and thematic preoccupations of different academic fields diverge between the United States and Latin America. We want LASA to help establish interdisciplinary dialogues that are inclusive of perspectives produced in Latin America that do not assume the North American position as the default. Because significant contributions to Latin American studies are also being made by writers working on the margins of academic disciplines, such as investigative journalism and comics, we hope that interdisciplinary dialogue can also make space for other mediums and genres. Finally, reflecting the way transnational flows of people and ideas have shaped Latin America, we encourage panels that explore under-studied experiences/spaces/histories that unsettle accepted notions of Latin America.