Arlene Davila, Professor of Anthropology, Social and Cultural Analysis, at New York University recently delivered the first lecture in the Latin American and Latino Studies (LALS) Distinguished Lecture Series. Davila’s talk, titled “Locating Neoliberalism in Time, Space and Latino/Latin America,” was based on a paper she originally published in the September 2014 issue of America Quarterly.
Davila argues that culture can best be understood by examining its interaction with neoliberal processes, such as production and open markets. She contends that cultural analysis alone is risky. It can carry ethnocentric tendencies and avoid issues of class, race, and power. Similarly, Davila points out that focusing on just an economic analysis can erase ideology and experience.
But when one examines the relationship between culture and neoliberalism, culture can then be unpacked and realized. Culture carves out a site for cultural production, and it is that space Davila chooses to explore. She points to Chilean artist Alfredo Jarr as an example of neoliberalism and culture at play. Jarr’s piece, “This Is Not America” was displayed in Times Square, which Davila argues challenged American and Latin American representation in mainstream culture while teasing preconceived notions of geography and space.
Department Chair, Lourdes Martinez-Echazabal comments, “Davila's work offers a successful model of interdisciplinarity. In that sense her works aligns very well with the tradition of interdisciplinarity foster at UCSC.” Martinez-Echazabal shares, “Arlene pressed the audience to think about identity formations in relation to neoliberalism. She refused to examine identity from the vantage point of either the Ethnic or Area studies paradigms. In doing so she defined identity by the practices of quotidian engagement.”
Dean of Social Sciences, Sheldon Kamieniecki, Dean of Graduate Studies, Tyler Miller, LALS professor Pat Zavella, and Martinez-Echazabal delivered opening remarks. The event also welcomed the first cohort of PhD students in the department’s new doctoral program - the first in the country to offer a graduate course of study that combines Latin American studies with a Latino studies curriculum to analyze the people and culture of the Americas.
Dean Kamieniecki remarks, “We were most fortunate to have had such a distinguished and innovative thinker and scholar as Professor Davila to help launch the new Ph.D. program in LALS.”
The next speaker in the LALS Distinguished Speaker Series will be John Tofik Karam, Associate Professor Of Latin American and Latino Studies at DePaul University who will present a lecture titled "Latin American in the Umma / The Umma in Latin America." Professor Karum's research focuses on the Syrian-Lebanese diaspora in Brazil. More information to follow.