History of LALS Program

Fundart - Ubatuba, Brazil (photo courtesy of Alessandra Álvares)

Latin American and Latino Studies began in 1971 as the Program of Latin American Studies. By 1994, the LAS Program formally changed its name to Latin American and Latino Studies (LALS), becoming one of the first such programs in the country. The new name was designed to reflect the interdisciplinary focus of the field as well as the convergence of area studies (Latin American studies) and ethnic studies (Latino studies) approaches to teaching and research. In 2001, the LALS Program was granted departmental status, making us the first department that combines Latina/o Studies with Latin American Studies.

Our innovative approach to the field of LALS is a result of ongoing discussions and collaboration among the faculty of LALS who have been concerned with bridging the borders between disciplines and intellectual approaches. Our department's intellectual core lies at the intersection of various academic traditions: arts, social sciences and humanities on the one hand, and Latin American Studies and Latino studies on the other. Notably, the content of our core courses stresses interdisciplinary approaches, as well as both Latin American and Latino studies content.

The collaborative work among faculty toward building conceptual bridges between different scholarly traditions has been carried out under the auspices of the various seminars, conferences and research clusters co-sponsored with the Chicano/Latino Research Center. The most important intellectual exercise towards improving interdisciplinary understanding has been the joint CLRC/LALS Hemispheric Dialogue project (1998-1999) and Hemispheric Dialogues 2 (2000-2005), funded by the Ford Foundation. These projects supported close collaborations between faculty, social activists and graduate students invested in bridging Chicana-o/Latina-o Studies and Latin American Studies. The project, coordinated by a team including both core and participating LALS faculty, also funded seminars with prominent scholars in the two fields, study groups, and international conferences. A central component of this project involves a significant investment in further interdisciplinary and area/ethnic studies course development, focusing on developing new undergraduate courses and the mentoring of graduate students.
Latin American and Latino Studies faculty are associated to the Department in three ways: as core faculty with their faculty lines inside the department, participating faculty whose courses are cross listed and who serve on department committees, and affiliated faculty whose courses are cross listed. Together the core, participating and affiliated faculty, along with graduate students working toward a parenthetic notation, and undergraduate majors and minors, make up a community of scholars interested in social justice in the Américas. There are 11 core members. Currently, we have 17 participating and 33 affiliated LALS faculty based in other departments.