- News & Events
- For Educators
Santa Arias, Professor of Spanish and Portuguese, received a Fulbright/CIES fellowship to Colombia where she completed archival research for her book Transatlantic Reconfigurations of the Americas: Geonarratives of Empire, Nature and Identity during the Enlightenment. As part of her fellowship, she is teaching a graduate course in the Department of Literature at the Universidad de los Andes (Bogotá) titled "Mapas, Imperios e Identidades."
"What role did geo-environmental play in late colonial Spanish American writings authored by missionaries and Creoles at the verge of independence? This central question guided my teaching and archival and field research over the last eight months as I worked on my book in progress Transatlantic Reconfigurations of the Americas: Geonarratives of Empire, Nature and Identity during the Enlightenment. On December 2012, I left Lawrence with the combined support of a KU International Programs Faculty Travel Grant and a CIES/Fulbright fellowship. During these months, I traveled first to Lima, Peru, where I had access to the most important almanac published in South America during the late colonial and revolutionary periods: El conocimiento de los tiempos, housed at the National Library of Peru. I visited Hipólito Unanue’s personal library preserved at the Universidad de San Marcos School of Medicine (he was a key intellectual and organizer of institutions before and after independence and better know for his essay “El clima de Lima”). From Lima, I left to live in Bogota for four months, where I taught a graduate class at the Universidad de los Andes. My teaching was devoted to this topic, but included key texts by European encyclopedists, which served as a counterpoint to American discourses on nature and geography. My experience in Colombia also provided an opportunity to visit a number of sites relevant to my teaching and research which included a visit to the low plains of Orinoco tributaries, (a tropical region critical to geo-environmental debates); the missionary complex for Muisca Indians at Sutatausa, (important indigenous murals were discovered in the 1997 during the restoration of the Church); and Lake Guatavita, a sacred place that inspired the legend of El dorado." (Photos: left: Santa Arias at the personal library of Hipólito Unanue, right: Unknown Cacica from Sutatausa).
Chris Brown, Associate Professor of Geography and Environmental Studies, and Director of the Environmental Studies Program, continues to develop research collaborations involving institutions in Campinas, São Paulo in Brazil. KU recently renewed a 5-yr Memorandum of Understanding with EMBRAPA (Brazil's equivalent of the USDA), related to research Chris leads at KU on the use of satellite-remote sensing to monitor the dynamics of agricultural expansion in the Amazon. This work closely involves Jude Kastens, a researcher at the Kansas Applied Remote Sensing Program at the Kansas Biological Survey. This past summer, Chris travelled to Campinas with Nate Brunsell, an Associate Professor in Geography, a bio-meteorologist who specializes in the study of land-atmosphere interactions. They visited EMBRAPA and neighboring research programs at the State University of Campinas (UNICAMP) including agricultural engineering, geography, energy, and public health to discuss future KU-UNICAMP interactions. KU graduate students Lisa Rausch and Heather Putnam have both spent study periods at UNICAMP, and two students and two faculty members from UNICAMP have also worked with Chris Brown, Town Peterson, and Nate Brunsell as visiting scholars over the last several years. A joint KU-UNICAMP workshop has been scheduled for early January, 2013, to establish formal agreements to facilitate future collaborative research in a number of different fields and to increase exchange of faculty and students.
As part of the 2012 Latin American & Caribbean Studies Cluster Research Award, Jodi Gentry (PhD student, Environmental Engineering) and Brent Metz (Assoc. Prof., Anthropology) traveled to the Ch'orti' Maya are of eastern Guatemala for three weeks in May-June, 2012, to conduct a Photovoice exercise among mothers. The exercise was meant to elicit mothers' perspectives on the most pressing needs, problems, and challenges in their homes and community. The method consists of distributing digital cameras to the women, training them in the basics of photography, explaining the purpose of the exercise, and interviewing them about their photos a few days later to ascertain what they had in mind by their photographs. They managed to train and interview 17 women from different neighborhoods in a community of 470 households. The Ch'orti' women proved to be particularly challenging subjects for this exercise because they are completely inexperienced with modern technology, shy, afraid to make mistakes, and ashamed of their poverty, diseases, and malnutrition, among other things. Still, Gentry and Metz were able to confirm problems that they had identified on previous trips and discover new ones. These included such recurring responses as lack of clean water, lack of food, inadequate construction materials, poor sanitation, vermin in the households, dirty and dangerous trails, and lack of medicine and healthcare. Gentry and Metz will present the results of their research at the annual meeting of the Society for Applied Anthropology in Denver in April, 2013, and hope to publish their results in the journal Practicing Anthropology. They plan to return to the Ch'orti' area with both Engineers Without Borders and KU students in a 3-credit multidisciplinary applied field school in January, 2013 (pending permission from KU) to continue their research and aid work. (Photo: Jodi Gentry, PhD student in Environmental Engineering, works with Ch'orti' women on photography techniques)
Three faculty research centers in Central and South America were established and are maintained by KU faculty. The Center nurtured an affiliation between KU and the University of San Marcos (Peru) through a US Dept. of State Fulbright Exchange Grant 2003-2006. This exchange generated rewarding scholarly opportunities for more than 40 faculty members involved, including conferences in both locations and visits by both chancellors.
The resources KU and CLAS devote to hosting students and faculty from our affiliated Latin American institutions and sending faculty and students for extended stays there, organizing K-12 teacher training programs (in Kansas and in-country), and the events CLAS builds around these activities bring peers into direct, focused contact with one another. Especially among students, these cultural and intellectual exchanges can jump-start interest in Latin America.