Pitt’s Center for Latin American Studies joins University Consortium on Afro-Latin American Studies


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The Cathedral of Learning.

By Elizabeth Primrose, Senior Staff Writer

More than 90% of the enslaved Africans who survived the Middle Passage arrived in Latin America and the Caribbean, according to the Center for Latin American Studies director Keila Grinberg. 

The University Consortium on Afro-Latin American Studies, formed in November 2022, will examine the contributions of African descendants to Latin American history and culture. CLAS joined this consortium, led by the Afro-Latin Research Institute at Harvard, along with four other universities. 

Grinberg said the consortium also includes the Grupo de Estudios Afrolatinoamericanos at Universidad de Buenos Aires in Argentina, the AFRO Núcleo Pesquisa e Formaçāo Raça, Gênero, Justiça Racial, Brazilian Center for Analysis and Planning in Brazil and the Centro de Estudios Afrodiaspóricos at Universidad ICESI in Colombia.

“It is the main goal of the consortium to institutionalize the academic field that focuses on the histories and experiences of Afro-descendant people in Latin America and empowers a new generation of educators and researchers to impulse an anti-racist cultural shift toward equity and inclusion,” Grinberg, a professor of Latin American History, said.

The Ford Foundation has provided funding for the consortium with a $1.7 million grant.   

Grinberg said the consortium will do a variety of work, from organizing conferences on Afro-Latin American Studies to having dissertation workshops. Grinberg said the main focus of the consortium right now is to establish six postdoctoral fellowships on Afro-Latin American studies within the framework of the International Decade of Afro-Descendants from 2015 to 2024. 

“Our main goal is to transform higher education across the Americas, institutionalizing an academic field that centers the experiences of Africans and their descendants and prepares a new generation of educators to produce the antiracist cultural shift toward equity and inclusion that we need,” Grinberg said.

The leader of the consortium, Harvard professor Alejandro de La Fuente, received his doctorate in history from Pitt in 1996 and taught in Pitt’s history department from 2000 to 2013.

 Grinberg said George Reid Andrews, distinguished professor of history at Pitt, is one of the founders of the field of Afro-Latin American studies.

“[The consortium] is a major effort by U.S. and Latin American institutions to work together in promoting and developing the field of Afro-Latin American studies,” Andrews said. “That field has grown quite a bit in the last 20 years, and this consortium will add further impetus to that growth and development.”

Andrews said he will help oversee the consortium’s project of translating important books on Afro-Latin American studies that were published in Spanish and Portuguese into English.  

Grinberg, who is the consortium director at CLAS, said the center hosted the “Working Group on Comparative Slavery” in October. This working group is an international network of scholars “interested in the comparative and transnational questions concerning slavery.” According to Grinberg, the group organizes research conferences to discuss new research on slavery in the Americas, Africa and the Mediterranean world. 

“I think it’s very important to state Pitt’s role in establishing and shaping the field of Afro-Latin American Studies,” Grinberg said.

Pitt students will be able to participate in the conferences and dissertation workshops organized by the consortium, according to Grinberg. She also said the events and classes taught on subjects related to the consortium will benefit students, as they will have the opportunity to engage in discussions about Afro-Latin American studies.

Samuel Ferreira, a graduate student in the Department of History, said the consortium is an “ambitious” and “necessary” project. 

“As CLAS joined this project, it is not only clear that it shares the same goals and values, but now also has the resources to contribute to make it real,” Ferreira, who is a Latin America Social and Public Policy fellow at CLAS, said. “I see this as a possibility to continue the process of further strengthening antiracist positions not only elsewhere but also here at Pitt.” 

Ferreira said this consortium will be an opportunity for students, faculty members and the community.

“This is really a special opportunity for those who want to contribute to fight against invisibilization of Afro-Latin American experiences through academic knowledge,” Ferreira said. “At the same time, I think this discussion will have a beneficial impact on ongoing necessary discussions on racialization and Black experiences here at Pitt and in the city.”