Afro-Latin American Studies

Year Awarded: 2016

This Initiative is actively conducting research.

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.

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.

Principal Investigators

Alejandro de la Fuente

Faculty Associate. Robert Woods Bliss Professor of Latin-American History and Economics, Department of History; Director, Afro-Latin American Research Institute, Hutchins Center; Professor of African and African American Studies, Department of African and African American Studies, Harvard University.

Davíd Carrasco

Neil L. Rudenstine Professor of the Study of Latin America, Harvard Divinity School and Department of Anthropology; Director, Moses Mesoamerican Archive and Research Project, Harvard University.

Doris Sommer

Faculty Associate. Ira Jewell Williams, Jr. Professor of Romance Languages and Literatures, Department of Romance Languages and Literatures; Professor of African and African American Studies, Department of African and African American Studies; Director, Cultural Agents Initiative, Harvard University.

See also: Initiatives