You are here

LASP Lecture Recordings

"Brazilian Race Relations and French Late Colonialism: A Connected Intellectual History" by Ian Merkel, New York University PhD Candidate, October 2, 2017


From a political and economic perspective, the relationships between Brazilian social organization and French late-colonialism appear unrelated. But French intellectuals in institutions as varied as UNESCO and the École Pratique des Hautes Études found Brazilian race relations to be a model for "harmonious" coexistence and mixing in the 1950s. Brazil, in a sense, might help to de-escalate colonial conflict. This presentation analyzes this ambiguous connected history between intellectuals such as Gilberto Freyre, Florestan Fernandes, Roger Bastide, and Fernand Braudel.


Ian Merkel is a PhD Candidate in History and French Studies at New York University. He received funding for his dissertation from Fulbright-Hays (Brazil) and the Centre National de Recherche Scientifique (CNRS), among others. This spring, he will be teaching a course on Brazilian intellectual and cultural history here at Cornell.

LASP Video:



"The Woman in the Window: A Tale of Mystery in Several Parts" by Sylvia Sellers Garcia, History, Boston College, September 25, 2017


The Woman in the Window is the contextualized history of a sensational crime that took place in Guatemala in 1800. It draws on a cluster of related topics: social violence; the history of medicine; gender and sexuality; and early modern policing. It also draws on several narrative traditions: though researched in the archive and anchored in traditional historiography, the story is narrated in the first person and incorporates elements of memoir, fiction, and “true crime” writing. This project offers the incredible opportunity to tell a gripping story about an obscure place, but it also confronts challenges that often haunt the border of literature and history: Are there any “truths” to be found in this story? In the telling of it, how much invention is allowable? And how much of the author’s own story belongs in the narrative?


Sylvia Sellers-García is an Associate Professor of History at Boston College. She holds an MPhil in Latin American Studies from St. Antony’s College, Oxford, and a PhD in History from UC Berkeley. Sellers-García’s publications include When the Ground Turns in Its Sleep (Riverhead, 2007), Distance and Documents at the Spanish Empire’s Periphery (Stanford, 2013), and, as a co-editor, Imagining Histories of Colonial Latin America: Synoptic Methods and Practices (University of New Mexico Press, forthcoming in 2017). Her current research focuses on social violence in Guatemala in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.

LASP Video:



"Housing Pathways, Elective Belonging, and Family Ties in Middle Class Chileans' Housing Choices" by Joel Stillerman, Sociology, Grand Valley State University, September 11, 2017


Much of the research on culture and stratification has focused on cultural consumption. In contrast, this paper addresses the housing field, an important arena for the reproduction of social inequality. Models of housing choice often assume individuals are rational actors functioning in free markets. In contrast, scholars combining the concept of “housing pathways” with a Bourdieusian framework demonstrate that the state shapes housing markets, and families deploy different forms of capital to access housing. Additionally, scholars use the concept of “elective belonging” to understand middle class housing tastes and identities. For Chile’s middle classes, extended family is an important source of housing wealth and a key influence on housing decisions.


Joel Stillerman received his PhD in Sociology (with a minor in Historical Studies) from the New School for Social Research in 1998. Before teaching at Grand Valley State University, Stillerman taught and was the chair of the Sociology Department at the Universidad Diego Portales in Chile, as well as teaching at the University of Arizona. He is the author of The Sociology of Consumption: A Global Approach (Polity Books, 2015), his articles have appeared in Latin American Politics and SocietyPolitical Power and Social Theory, and the Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, to name a few, has published several book chapters, and co-edited three special issues of International Labor and Working-Class History.


LASP Video:


"Public Ritual, Temple Construction, and the Origins of Maya Civilization," Takeshi Inomata, Anthropology, University of Arizona, May 1, 2017


Throughout their history, including the modern and colonial times, the Maya people have strongly emphasized public ceremonies, in which political authorities have played central roles. In this talk, I will trace this tradition back to the Preclassic period around 1000 BC when sedentary communities were initially formed. Our research at the Maya site of Ceibal, Guatemala, has revealed evidence of temple constructions at the beginning of a sedentary village. The importance of public ritual and its close connection to political authorities significantly shaped the later course of Maya society.


Takeshi Inomata is professor and Agnese Nelms Haury Chair at the School of Anthropology, University of Arizona. He has been directing archaeological investigations at the Maya sites of Augateca and Ceibal, Guatemala. His publications include the Aguateca Archaeological Project monograph series (University of Utah Press), The Classic Maya (Cambridge University Press), as well as articles in journals, such as Science, PNAS, Current Anthropology, and American Anthropologist.

LASP Video:


"Can Intrastate Accountability Reduce Local Capture? Evidence from a Field Experiment in Mexico," Ana de la O, Yale University, April 24, 2017


Improving accountability in public service provision is one of the most pressing challenges that young democracies face. One of the most difficult challenges is ensuring efficient and effective spending at the local level. Presenting results from a field experiment conducted in Mexico, Dr. de la O shows how central government oversight of local expenditures induces local governments to reallocate spending to programs which are harder to audit.

Speaker Affiliation:

Ana de la O, Associate Professor of Political Science and the Institute for Social and Policy Studies at Yale University.

LASP Video:

"Soccer Chants, Heteronormativity and Participatory Sounding-In-Synchrony," by Eduardo Herrera, April 10, 2017


In local Argentine soccer matches one can find anywhere between two hundred to fifty thousand people chanting together, accompanied by large ensembles of percussion and brass instruments. Public mass participatory singing allows fans to actively partake in a performative social space that establishes a non-hegemonic shared system of meaning. This system, under a logic locally known as aguante (endurance), frames locally rooted interpretations of heteronormative, patriarchal, homophobic, and sometimes violent values and actions in a positive manner, in a way that might not be voiced by single individuals.



Eduardo Herrera is Assistant Professor in Ethnomusicology and Music History at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. He specializes in contemporary musical practices from Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking Latin America. He has done historical and ethnographic research in topics including Argentinean and Uruguayan avant-garde music, soccer chants as participatory music making, and music and postcoloniality in Latin America. Herrera is currently working on a book titled Elite Art Worlds: Philanthropy, Latin Americanism, and Avant-Garde Music. In this work, Herrera explores the history of the Centro Latinoamericano de Altos Estudios Musicales (1962–1971) as a meeting point for local and transnational philanthropy, the framing of pan-regional discourses of Latin Americanism, and the aesthetics and desires of high modernity. Also forthcoming from Herrera is a co-edited volume with Alejandro Madrid and Ana Alonso-Minutti titled Experimentalisms in Practice: Music Perspectives from Latin America. This volume discusses a wide variety of artistic and musical traditions from Latin America, the Caribbean, and Latinos/as in the United States, conceived and/or perceived as experimental.

LASP Video:

"Wandering in a Labyrinth of Indians: Uncertain Alliances in the Colonial Brazil Borderlands," Heather Roller, Colgate University, March 27, 2017

LASP Seminar Lecture VIDEO: "Wandering in a Labyrinth of Indians: Uncertain Alliances in the Colonial Brazil Borderlands" (LASP), Heather Roller, Colgate University, March 27, 2017


"Presidential Elections and Democracy in Latin America in the Trump Era," Patricio Navia, Liberal Studies, New York University, March 24, 2017



The effect of Donald Trump’s victory in 2016 in the U.S. will have consequences on presidential campaigns and democratic practices elsewhere in the world. In this talk, I will discuss some of those effects  and how they have already affected presidential elections in Ecuador and presidential campaigns in Chile, Brazil and Mexico.


Patricio Navia is a professor of Liberal Studies at New York University and Profesor Titular de Ciencia Política at the Universidad Diego Portales, Chile.


LASP Video

"Clandestine Cattle and Community Forestry: Unraveling the Conservation Paradox in Guatemala's Maya Biosphere Reserve" by Jennifer Devine, March 6, 2017

Jennifer Devine, Geography, Texas State University

A spatial paradox characterizes 25 years of conservation in Guatemala’s Maya Biosphere Reserve.  In the western half of the 8,300 square mile reserve, high deforestation rates plague national parks with strict land use regulations.  By contrast, deforestation rates are much lower in the eastern half of the reserve home to community forestry, but conservation outcomes between the 12 community concessions are highly uneven.  My research asks: what dynamics are driving deforestation in the strictest areas of conservation in the reserve?  And, what factors explain the unequal conservation outcomes defining community forestry?  Unraveling this puzzle using ethnographic and remote sensing methods illuminates the role drug trafficking and “narco cattle ranching” play in environmental degradation in Central America’s protected areas, and thus, the inseparable links between conservation and drug policy in the Americas. Furthermore, I argue the remaining forest cover in the Maya Biosphere’s east reflects twenty years of successful, albeit uneven, community forestry efforts that illuminate the political possibilities and challenges of community based resource management. Rather than blaming reserve residents for forest concession “failures,” as many stakeholders do, I illustrate how drug trafficking threatens the sustainability of community forestry in the reserve and how issues of impunity, insecurity and inequality in the rest of the region dramatically impact the protected area’s ecologies.

Jennifer A. Devine is an assistant professor of geography at Texas State University. Her research and teaching interests include US-Latin American geo-politics, community-led resource management, drug policy and impacts in the Americas, grassroots development and critical social theory. She received a PhD degree in geography from the University of California, Berkeley, in 2013. She has published and forthcoming articles in Latin American Research Review, the Journal of Peasant Studies, Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, Antipode, the Journal of Sustainable Tourism, and L’Espace Politique.

LASP Video:

"The Politics of Conservation in the Galápagos Islands” by Renu Saini, 13 Feb 2017

Renu Saini was our first guest speaker for LASP's Spring 2017 Seminar Series. The event will took place on Monday, February 13th. 

Renu Saini is a Program Officer for the Helmsley Charitable Trust’s Conservation Program. In this role, she develops and implements grantmaking strategies in Madagascar and Galápagos, and the Marine portfolios. She also contributes to program-wide strategic planning, monitoring, and evaluation of all the program’s geographic focal areas- Madagascar, Galápagos, Myanmar and Mexico. 

Other areas of specializations include:

* Maintenance and expansion of marine and terrestrial protected areas

* Promotion of sustainable fisheries

* Creation of alternative livelihoods 

* Eradication of invasive species

* Capacity building of local community groups and not-for-profit organizations

Before joining the Trust, Renu spent nine years at the Kohlberg Foundation, where her grantmaking portfolio included initiatives in environmental conservation, cancer research, human trafficking prevention, and supports for at-risk youth. In prior roles, she developed a philanthropic program for a family foundation based in Mumbai, India, and supported the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s field biology program in New Jersey. 

Originally from Texas, Renu holds a master’s degree in Global Affairs from Rutgers University and bachelor’s degree in Marine Biology from Texas A&M University. She serves as a member of the board of I-MAK (Initiative for Medicines, Access and Knowledge) and a member of the Pleiades Network. 

LASP Video:

LASP Fall '16 Seminar: "Challenges of Party-Building in Latin America" by Steve Levitsky, November 14, 2016

A video recording of this lecture from the Latin American Studies Program, click here. 

More than three decades after the onset of the Third Wave of democratization, parties remain weak in much of Latin America: parties have collapsed in much of the region, and most new party-building efforts have failed. Yet the party-building experience in the region has not been universally bleak. Of the 308 parties that were created in Latin America between 1978 and 2005 (and which received at least one percent of the legislative vote), 11 succeeded in taking root. Why do some new parties succeed while most fail? Our book challenges the widespread belief that democracy and elections naturally give rise to strong parties and argues that successful party-building is more likely to occur under conditions of intense conflict than under routine democracy.  

Steve Levitsky is Professor of Political Science at Harvard University. He focuses on authoritarianism and parties in Latin America - specifically Peru. 

LASP Video:

"Impeachment in Brazil: Coup or Accountability?" by Anibal Perez-Liñan, September 26, 2016

The Impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff in Brazil has ignited a debate. Is impeachment the functional equivalent of old-fashioned military coups or is it an effective mechanism for presidential accountability? Professor Aníbal Pérez-Liñán will discuss the proliferation of presidential impeachments in Latin America since 1990, analyze their similarities and differences with traditional coups, and explore their limitations as a mechanism of accountability.

Aníbal Pérez-Liñán is Professor of Political Science at the University of Pittsburgh. He is the author of Presidential Impeachment and the New Political Instability in Latin America. He is Editor in Chief of the Latin American Research Review.

LASP Video:

'Real Tobacco for Real People: Lacandon Maya Nicotine Trade in the Lowland Frontier" by Joel Palka, October 24, 2016

Lacandon Maya engaged in brisk trade with outsiders in the lowland rainforest frontier of the burgeoning colonial powers in Petén, Guatemala, and Chiapas, Mexico. Documents describe Lacandon economic exchanges and archaeological investigations recovered abundant foreign goods in nineteenth-century Lacandon sites. This presentation focuses on the transformational effects of cross-cultural interaction through one indigenous product: cheap, excellent tobacco.  The tobacco trade eventually restructured the local Lacandon economy and exposed these unconquered Maya to foreign influences, which brought changes in indigenous religion, agriculture, and social organization. This kind of domestic trade and inherent symmetrical interactions were based on indulgences and random encounters not controlled by states. These classes of small scale social and economic exchanges with a reduction in power differentials were typical in peripheral regions of expanding world systems in Latin America.

Joel Palka is Professor of Anthropology and Latin American and Latino Studies at the University of Illinois-Chicago.

LASP Video:

"Muisca Sounds: Indigenous Politics of Recognition in Multicultural Colombia" by Beatriz Goubert, Columbia University, September 19, 2016

Through an emphasis on the Andean musical practices of the Muisca community, this talk analyzes the conflictive production of an indigenous identity within the indigenous politics of recognition in multicultural Colombia. It includes the questioned legitimacy of the music and of the subjects who produce it. Also, it will also examine the contrast between the wish for an autonomous self-government and the type of indigeneity in multiculturalism which must be sanctioned by government officers and academics to be valid. Finally, it will discuss the self-recognition of indigeneity as an alternative path to becoming Muisca nowadays, which bypasses and somehow undermines the effort of officially-recognized cabildos towards achieving and maintaining legal recognition as indigenous groups entitled to positive rights.

"Decentralizing Payments for Ecosystem Services Programs on Coupled Human and Natural Systems in Mexico " by Mariana Nava, October 31, 2016


Use of payments for watershed services (PWS) programs as a policy tool for enhancing water quality and supply has gained momentum in recent years. One of the oldest PWS programs, Mexico’s Federal Payment for Hydrological Service (PHS) was initiated in 2003 by the National Forestry Commission as a government-financed program. It was envisioned as a mechanism for providing financial incentives to land owners to conserve their forest cover in key watersheds identified on the basis of the presence of priority ecosystems. In 2008, an additional mechanism was created by the government to transition from the national program funded by the government to a local program funded by the government in combination with the private sector. With this new scheme, the Matching Program, Mexico wanted to evolve from a government-financed to a user-financed PES program, by creating a more direct link between water users and providers and by fostering local participation in the creation, design and implementation of PHS programs. Based on two case studies in Veracruz, Mexico, and informant interviews with institutional actors, this research examines whether and to what extent community participation of both service providers and service users has been fostered in local matching programs in Mexico, as a way of understanding challenges faced by each program and possible solutions.

Brief biography

Dr. Mariana Zareth Nava-Lopez is a research scientist at the State University of New York, College of Environmental Science and Forestry (SUNY-ESF). She graduated from the Faculty of Science of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), where she studied Biology and earned a master’s degree in Restoration Ecology. From 2006 to 2009, she was a professor at UNAM teaching Natural Resources courses covering topics relevant for the understanding of current global environment issues.