Latin American & Caribbean History
MSU’s History Department has a flourishing program in Latin American and Caribbean History which builds on decades of tradition. In the last five years, the program has become particularly dynamic. We have hired four new Latin Americanists in addition to two professors with strong intellectual connections to Latin America. At present the Latin American and Caribbean history faculty specializes in the following geographical regions: Brazil, Mexico, the Spanish Caribbean, the Southern Cone, and the Atlantic World. We have particular thematic strengths in:
- Gender Studies
- Luso-Brazilian World
- Urban Studies
- Political and Institutional History
- Religious History
- Labor and Migration
There is considerable overlap in the interests of faculty members in the program. Yet the specializations of each also provide in-depth coverage of a wide range of the regions and historical eras that mark Latin American and Caribbean History. This combination facilitates a broad and yet focused approach to the field, contributing to a vibrant intellectual environment that builds both specific expertise and an ability to engage with general trends and debates. Peter M. Beattie focuses on the interaction between state institutions and the poor (both free and enslaved) in Brazil from the nineteenth to the early twentieth centuries. His case studies in Brazilian history engage broader debates on state building, masculinity, race, national identity, sexuality, the body, and penology. Benjamin T. Smith’s publications look at the relationship between the Mexican state and subaltern groups during the post-revolutionary regime. He is particularly interested in the ways in which indigenous groups and female-led urban social movements sought to resist, deflect and undermine state power during the 1940s and 1950s. Shifting to a more expansive project, his new research examines the links between Catholicism and indigenous politics in southern Mexico during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Erica M. Windler’s research focuses on childhood amidst the world’s largest nineteenth century urban slave population: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. She examines how slavery, gender, age cohort, class, and race influenced the treatment and education of children from humble backgrounds in this fascinating tropical city. Edward Murphy’s current book project explores the tense overlap between elements of political economy, state formation, domesticity, citizenship rights, and the production of space in the evolution of low-income neighborhoods in Santiago, Chile since the 1950s. Murphy has also published a book of collaborative oral histories in Chile and is the editor of a forthcoming volume on the current state of scholarship at the crossroads of Anthropology and History. David Wheat investigates the roles played by Africans and their descendants in the Spanish Caribbean’s major port cities during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. His research on early connections between the Caribbean and pre-colonial western Africa speaks to larger issues of forced migration, slavery, and ethnic minorities in the early modern Iberian world.
Our Latin America and Caribbean field is supported by professors hired in fields outside the region, but whose research and teaching contribute to Latin American history. Our two professors of Chicano/Latino History were originally trained in colonial Mexican history. Dionicio (Dennis) Valdes is one of the foremost historians of Chicano workers in the United States. Concentrating on the American Midwest, he has published extensively on issues of wage labor, land and exploitation. Javier Pescador has an extremely diverse range of interests. He has published on race, migration and religion in colonial Mexico as well as contemporary Mexican American religious practice and sport. He is also a professional photographer who has worked on histories of the visual and photography. Liam Brockey is a scholar of early modern Europe who specializes in Roman Catholicism and the empires of Spain and Portugal. He has presently shifted his attentions to Brazil and the South Atlantic, and, in particular, to the task of translating the sermons of Antonio Vieira, a Jesuit priest who was one of the most influential religious figures of the seventeenth century in both Europe and the Americas. Finally, Walter Hawthorne has published a book on the supply of slaves for the international market in the Portuguese colony of Guinea Bissau and is publishing a second book on the slave trade from Guinea to northern Brazil in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Our students also benefit from the expertise of top ranked scholars in other fields of history: African, Comparative Black, Atlantic, Migration and World History. Moreover, MSU has more than 140 faculty affiliated with its center of Latin American and Caribbean Studies. Students are encouraged to work with highly respected Latin Americanist and Caribbeanist scholars in other related disciplines such as Geography, Sociology, Anthropology, Agricultural Economics, and Political Science.
In addition to support from the History Department, students of Latin American and Caribbean history can compete for additional support for their research from other MSU units. The Center for the Advanced Study of International Development (CASID) has Foreign Language Areas Studies (FLAS) fellowships that fund the study of less commonly taught languages in the region. International Studies and Programs (ISP) offers ten $5,000.00 grants that fund pre-dissertation research in the international arena. In addition the College of Social Science and the Council of Graduate Students offer support for conference travel, dissertation research, and dissertation write up. Other competitive funds are available for research, writing, and conference participation from the College of Social Science, MSU’s Graduate School, the Department of History, and the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies. Competitive fellowships are also available to graduate applicants as well as funding targeted to support students from underrepresented groups. MSU maintains important support for Latin American and Caribbean Studies in a number of important areas. The Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies is a Title VI funded center that provides a venue to encourage interdisciplinary teaching and research on the region. CLACS sponsors a speaker series that brings top scholars to campus to share their research findings and enliven the campus community with the arts and music of Latin America. Our Latin American bibliographer Mary Jo Zeter works to build our library holdings in Latin American and Caribbean Studies. Matrix, MSU’s award winning humanities and technology center works with CLACS on projects to preserve Latin American images, documentation, and data. The department of Spanish and Portuguese support the study of the two most spoken languages of the region, and tutors are contracted through CLACS to teach less commonly taught languages in the region.
Our graduate program, though relatively small in terms of the number of students, has had great success in placing our graduates in competitive academic posts in recent years. Some of our graduates now hold tenure stream positions at Florida International University, South Florida University, and the John Jay College of Criminal Justice (CUNY). The small number of graduate students in the field is a benefit to our students who can look forward to working closely with their professors.