Awarded in 2016, the Weatherhead Initiative on Afro-Latin American Studies supports the growing field of Afro-Latin American studies through various programs and initiatives—including hosting scholars, organizing events, and supporting a book series—housed at the Afro-Latin American Research Institute (ALARI) at Harvard University. ALARI is the first research institution in the United States devoted to the history and culture of peoples of African descent in Latin America and the Caribbean, and has expanded its outreach to academia, international organizations, activists, and regional governments.
Over 95 percent of the Africans forcibly imported into the Americas went to Latin America and the Caribbean, two-thirds of them to the Spanish and Portuguese colonies. Many Hispanics in the United States are also of African descent. Cultural forms and community practices associated with Africa are conspicuous across the region—indeed, the very existence of Latin America would be unthinkable without them. During the last few decades, Afro-Latin Americans have created numerous civic, cultural, and community organizations to demand recognition, equality, and resources, prompting legislative action and the implementation of compensatory policies. The ALARI stimulates and sponsors scholarship on the Afro-Latin American experience and provides a forum where scholars, intellectuals, activists, and policy makers engage in exchanges and debates.
Through generous support of the Weatherhead Center, the ALARI has supported over twenty short-term field research projects in Latin America, including the Caribbean, as well as in Europe and the US. Harvard graduate students focus on a wide range of topics within Afro-Latin American studies, such as comparative slavery, art, ethnomusicology, black mobilization, and gender, among others. The ALARI’s mission is to build the field of Afro-Latin American studies. Supporting field research projects is one of the ways to reach this goal.
Another way the Weatherhead Center is contributing to facilitating research on Afro-Latin America is to actively support visiting scholars from Latin America, and other US and European institutions to present their research to the Harvard community. Over forty PhD Candidates from all over the world have participated in the three editions of the Mark Claster Mamolen Dissertation Workshop (2016–2018); twenty scholars on Afro-Latin American Archaeology participated in the Afro-Latin American Archaeology Workshop in September 2017; several dozens of students participated in the Graduate Conference on Afro-Latin American Studies in April 2017; and more than a hundred proposals are expected to be received for the ALARI First Continental Conference on Afro-Latin American Studies, to be held in December 2019. The number of applicants increasing every year speaks to the dynamic development of the field.
1. Afro-Latin American Archaeology Workshop, September 20–21, 2017. Photo credit: Used with permission of ALARI
2. Graduate Conference on Afro-Latin American Studies, April 2017. Photo credit: Used with permission of ALARI
3. 2018 Mark Claster Mamolen Dissertation Workshop. Photo credit: Used with permission of ALARI