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Department of History
Old Horticulture
506 E. Circle Dr
Room 256
Michigan State University
East Lansing, MI 48824
Main: 517.355.7500
Fax: 517.353.5599
Email: history@msu.edu
Hours: 8:00-5:00 M-F

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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 several 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 and Atlantic Studies
  • Urban Studies
  • Political and Institutional 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.  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 research explores the evolution of low-income neighborhoods in Santiago, Chile since the 1950s, focusing on citizenship rights, domesticity, and property holding.  He has also published a book of collaborative oral histories in Chile and has edited two volumes, one on scholarship at the crossroads of anthropology and history and the other on urban housing regimes in comparative international perspective.

 

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.  Glenn Chambers is a historian of the Caribbean Diaspora in Central America, particularly Honduras. His most recent work focuses on the impact of West Indian immigration on broader national discourses on race, ethnicity, and citizenship.  His current project encompasses the immigration of Central Americans to New Orleans in the first half of the twentieth century, a period largely overlooked in Latino and immigration historiography.   Erin Graham focuses on childhood, women, and the family in modern Mexico.  Her work embraces the methodological tools offered by both history and anthropology to explore the relationship between migration, the political economy, and gender.

A number of other scholars in the Department of History contribute to the Latin America and Caribbean field, even though the region is not their primary area of study. Javier Pescador is a specialist in Chicano/Latino History, although he was originally trained in colonial Mexican history. He has published on race, migration and religion in colonial Mexico as well as contemporary Mexican American religious practice and sport. A scholar with a wide range of interests, Pescador is also a professional photographer who has worked on histories of the visual and photography. Jessica Marie Johnson focuses on enslaved and free women of color in the Afro-Atlantic world. Her current research explores the lives of free women of African descent who resided in the port towns of Senegal, Saint-Domingue, and Gulf Coast Louisiana during the eighteenth century. Her other interests include Afro-Latin@ studies, New Orleans studies, and slavery and diaspora in the digital humanities. Walter Hawthorne has published a book on the supply of slaves for the international market in the Portuguese colony of Guinea Bissau and a second book on the slave trade from Guinea to northern Brazil in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Finally, 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.

Beyond our faculty, 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 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. 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 (CLACS) currently has Tinker funds to support graduate pre-dissertation research in Latin America or Iberia. 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.

Our graduate program, though relatively small in terms of the number of students, has had great success in placing graduates in competitive academic posts in recent years. Some of our recent graduates now hold tenure stream positions at Florida International University, South Florida University, the John Jay College of Criminal Justice (CUNY), Samford University, and Hillsborough Community College. Currently, we have three graduate students pursuing dissertation research with support from Fulbright Fellowships in Argentina, Brazil, and Mexico.  Another has won three grants to pursue pre-dissertation research in Mexico this summer. 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, at the same time that they can take advantage of the many resources that the Department of History and the broader university have to offer.