LASA 2016

I have just got back from the 50th Anniversary Congress of the Latin American Studies Association in New York. Although I’ve been a LASA member for many years, and served as a track chair in the Montreal congress in 2007, other commitments meant that the last LASA congress that I attended was the Rio de Janeiro event in 2009. So it was good to be able to participate again. I heard a lot of good papers and the fact that many of the best were given by young scholars at the start of their careers was an encouraging sign for the next fifty years. There had been some controversy over the invitation to speak that had been extended by the congress organisers, prior to the coup against Dilma Rousseff, to Brazilian former president Fernando Henrique Cardoso, although in the event, FHC prudently decided not to come.

My wife, Dr. Maria Gabriela of the Federal University of Bahia, and I, presented a paper bright and early on Sunday morning on work that we’ve been doing in Salvador. Our paper “Urban redevelopment in Salvador, Bahia: comparing impacts on poor residents in new and old centres” was included in a panel sponsored by the Latin American Cities Working Group and organised by Erik Vergel Tovar and José Antonio Ramírez, entitled  Exploring and Questioning the inner-city in Latin America: urban renewal, historic preservation, gentrification and segregation dynamics. Although the written version of our paper was in English, we decided to do all the presentations and discussion in Spanish to maximise understanding and dialogue amongst the paper givers and other attendees. The fact that Spanish and Portuguese are as equal a treatment to English as is practical is one of the best features of LASA meetings.

My second panel, a little later on Sunday morning, in fact had presentations in English, Portuguese and Spanish. Its purpose was to give people at the congress a foretaste of a forthcoming book edited by David Lehmann (for which I wrote a foreword). The Crisis of Multiculturalism in Latin America will be published by Palgrave Macmillan later this year, and will, I’m sure, be a great success. In addition to presenting the contributions of David Lehmann himself and those of Andrew Canessa, Maité Boullosa-Joly, and Veronique Boyer, I briefly summarised  the chapter on Mexico written by Luis Vázquez, who along with Manuela Picq, was unable to attend the meeting in person. There is a flyer which offers more details of the book and a 30% discount for individual (but not library) orders direct from the publisher’s website or by email from The discount can be obtained quoting the coupon code PM16THIRTY.

Attending academic events in the USA is expensive, especially for people who live and work in Latin American countries in which little government money is available to support participation, but LASA is distinguished for its efforts to be inclusive, which include travel grants for Latin American scholars on lower incomes. LASA also now regularly holds congresses outside the United States. Next year’s congress is in Lima, Peru, and I hope I’ll be able to make it again.