PG Symposium in Latin American and Caribbean Studies

The Centre for Latin American and Caribbean Studies at Manchester would like to invite PhD students working in Latin American and Caribbean Studies at the Universities of Manchester, Liverpool and Lancaster to participate in a PG symposium funded by the North West Doctoral Training Centre and the North West Consortium Doctoral Training Partnership.

The event will take place on Tuesday 16 May at the University of Manchester and will provide PhD students with the opportunity to present papers on their research in a friendly and constructive environment, and to get feedback from peers and staff. Dr Paulo Drinot (UCL) will be giving a keynote talk as part of the day.

If you are interested in participating, please submit a 200-word abstract to Prof Peter Wade ( and myself ( by the end of Friday 5 May.

There are funds available for train travel, and lunch will be provided. The event is free but registration is required. You can register here:



PG Symposium: Research Trends in Latin American Studies


On 26 April, CLACS organised a symposium for PhD students working in Latin American and Caribbean Studies at the Universities of Manchester and Liverpool. The event was funded by the North West Doctoral Training Centre. The event built on previous symposia organised in Manchester and provided PhD students with the opportunity to present papers on their research in a friendly and constructive environment, and to get feedback from peers and staff.

Linda Avendano (HCRI) kicked off the symposium with a presentation on child soldiers and miners in Colombia. Linda discussed the current academic interpretation of ‘child soldiering’ and its implications in terms of human rights violations and policy interventions. She argued for a wider comprehension of the multiple roles performed by children in current conflicts and outlined a theoretical framework that can help address gaps in theorising and practice.

Carole Myers (SALC) discussed elective cosmetic rhinoplasty in contemporary Brazilian women, focusing on the appropriation of cultural influences and their significance in contemporary Brazilian society.

Luis Eduardo Pérez Murcia (SEED) shared the results of his ethnographic work among displaced people in Colombia. He explained the multiple ways in which they construct narratives of home that are crucially shaped by the experiences of conflict and Displacement.

Nicola Astudillo-Jones (SALC) gave the first of two presentations dealing with cinema. She showed how British spectators of Latin American films at Manchester’s Viva Festival perceive Latin America-ness in terms of imagined cosmopolitan communities.

Nicola Runciman (SALC) continued with the topic of cinema, but moved from reception to film analysis, examining the narrative, aesthetic and socio-political functions of the Chilean landscape as it emerges in two recent films: El año del tigre (Sebastián Lelio, 2011) and Matar a un hombre (Alejandro Fernández Almendras, 2014). Nicola demonstrated how these films engage with nationally specific concerns about the social order while also articulating a troubling dimension of the body’s relationship to the external world, a dimension which connects the particular and the universal.

After lunch, Dr. Jon Beasley-Murray (University of British Columbia) gave a keynote talk on Latin American literature and infrapolitics as part of the day, entitled “What’s the Use of Literature?  Machinery and Mechanism in the Latin American Canon”.


The afternoon session was devoted to literature. María Montt Strabucchi (SALC) explored Colombian author Santiago Gamboa’s novel Los Impostores (2002) in dialogue with the work of Sara Ahmed, Homi Bhabha and Jean-Luc Nancy, in order to draw out the challenge of essentialist views as well as the understandings of community that the novel suggests.

Ailsa Peate (Liverpool) analysed Rogelio Guedea’s Detective Trilogy and demonstrated how the Mexican author presents an original interpretation of the genre, achieved in part by creating a distressing plot based on historical events, which draws our attention to the corruption currently at the heart of the Mexican political elite.

Finally, Rafael Argenton Freire (SALC) looked at Brazilian Romantic poet Gonçalves Dias (1823-1864). Rafael explored how Gonçalves Dias self-fashioned himself as a poet in relation to European models and as a poet writing within and against the ideology of a Romantic, post-independence Brazil. Moreover, he look at how and to what extent his role within the literary relations of production contributed to his literary success and public recognition as a poet.

Prof. Peter Wade closed the symposium with a talk on how to get published in Latin American Studies, which provided very useful tips.

In sum, it was a long but fulfilling day in which we all engaged in exciting and stimulating discussions and that demonstrated the excellent research being carried out by our PhD students.

Beyond Speech: Silence and the Unspeakable across Cultures

The international conference Beyond Speech: Silence and the Unspeakable across Cultures took place in the SALC Graduate School on 8th May 2015, thanks to generous funding from artsmethods@manchester, the Alliance Française, and the Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst. Organised by Mary Farrelly (Spanish), Eleanor K. Jones (Portuguese), and Joe Twist (German), the conference brought together speakers from a broad range of institutions, backgrounds, and disciplines to explore the ways in which silence, the ineffable, and the unspeakable are represented, interpreted, and subverted across different cultures and cultural media. The papers presented covered a diverse range of fields including literature, music, film, art history, and drama, and several papers were of specific interest to scholars working in Spanish, Portuguese and Latin American Studies.
Keynote speaker Dr Tom Whittaker (University of Liverpool) kicked off the day with ‘Listening to Silence in Contemporary Spanish Cinema.’ The talk explored Spain’s recent ‘cine de silencio’ with special attention to the films Las olas (2011) and La mujer sin piano (2009). While making use of these examples from the world of Spanish cinema, Whittaker’s rich and engaging talk also tapped into themes and ideas that spoke to a wide range of disciplines and cultures, creating a common ground for the papers and discussions that followed.
Dr Ignacio Aguiló chaired one of the first panels of the day, ‘Beyond Words in the Hispanic World,’ which specifically explored the limits of language and silence in Spain and Latin America. Dr Óscar Salgado Suárez (Birkbeck College, London) opened the panel with a discussion of Julián Ríos’s Larva (1983) and how this monumental novel works asliberature, a literature that plays with the limits of language to free itself from rigid narrative strategies. Dr Ricki O’Rawe (Queen’s University Belfast) followed with an illuminating paper on Borges and the potential of poetry. Ricki’s paper was followed by Emily Baker’s (University of Cambridge) ‘“Shaking Hands Can Be Like Disarming a Bomb”: Division by Language, Reconciliation through Touch in The Informers by Juan Gabriel Vásquez.’ The final speaker, Manus O’Dwyer (University of Santiago de Compostela) returned to poetry with his study ‘José Ángel Valente and the Limits of Silence.’
Representing lusophone studies were Anneliese Hatton (University of Nottingham) and David Bailey (University of Cambridge), who shared the panel ‘Unspeakable Subalternities,’ chaired by Professor Hilary Owen. Anneliese’s paper, ‘Overcoming the Insuperable: Strategies of Representing the Subaltern,’ drew on her doctoral research on Portugal’s ‘semiperipherality’ to explore the limitations and pitfalls of the notion of ‘subalternity’ as category of identity. Her study set the scene well for David’s paper, ‘Uttering the Unutterable: The (D)enunciation of Deviant Sexuality in the Naturalist Novels of the Portuguese Fin de Siècle,’ which made use of Foucauldian theory to examine Portuguese literary pathologisations of homosexuality.
The final two panels of the day, ‘Articulating Atrocity’ and ‘Beyond Page, Beyond Stage,’ featured three Hispanic-centred papers. Imogen Bloomfield’s (University of Hull) paper, ‘Ils ne sont pas: Spanish Civil War Photographs of Child Mortality,’ added to the conference’s interdisciplinary nature through its focus on the medium of posters. By bringing the images into dialogue with Marianne Hirsch’s writing on family photography, Bloomfield was able to theorise the affective response generated by these emotive images of child casualties and analyse how they function as propaganda. Manchester’s own Dr Esther Gómez-Sierra headed up the second of these final panels with her paper ‘Lope de Vega and Money: The Unspeakable Truth,’ which explored the relationship between love and money in Lope de Vega’s La dama boba. Her study was followed by Lucy Bollington’s (University of Cambridge) ‘Writing without Writing: The Aesthetic Philosophy of Mario Bellatin,’ an examination of the eponymous author’s use of narrative to generate silence.
The interdisciplinary nature and friendly atmosphere at the conference was productive for both attendees and organisers, providing a rigorous yet informal arena for the sharing and discussion of ideas. The organisers would like to extend particular thanks to Dr. Jérôme Brillaud, head of the SALC Graduate School, for his support of the event, as well as our sponsors, chairs, speakers, and other attendees.
For more information on the programme, and photographs of the day, visit

Fieldwork as déjà vu: writing up to give up familiarity*

Sofía González-Ayala
(sofia.gonzalez-ayala [at]

The subject of my PhD in Social Anthropology with Visual Media at the University of Manchester is the exhibition Wakes and living saints: Black, Afro-Colombian, Palenquero and Raizal communities or Velorios y santos vivos: Comunidades negras, afrocolombianas, raizales y palenqueras, which was open for three months in 2008 at the National Museum of Colombia, in Bogotá, and began travelling around the country since 2009. I got initially involved with that exhibition project as a research assistant for its temporary version at the Museum. Then, during the two following years, I was in charge of its travelling version, a set of 21 banners with printed text and photographs and a few objects that worked as a structure used to organize local versions of the original exhibition.

In my PhD research project I proposed to follow this moving display, which still travelled in 2012 and 2013. Therefore while doing ‘fieldwork’ for my PhD degree in Manchester I would not be away but ‘at home’—fieldwork was like a déjà vu. This implied that, although I met new people with whom I had to gain rapport and familiarity, perhaps it meant even more that I had to de-familiarize myself from my previous knowledge and expertise as a museum employee, local anthropologist, colleague and friend. This had implications not only during that year back in Colombia, as my colleagues, friends and even myself became my informants, because when I started writing up my ethnography I realised that they might also become my audience and this has triggered feelings of betrayal and guilt. I have felt ‘anti-social’ (Mosse, 2006) in relation to that possible audience as, precisely because of the roles I used to play while I worked for the Museum, there were things I did not talk about, I was not aware of or simply did not know.

In the paper I used the distinction made by Strathern (1987) between writer and author to discuss my position, showing also how as much as time and distance, the archive material produced in the exhibition research has helped me de-familiarize and deal with those feelings and thus be able to write. Furthermore, that archive has become an ethnographic source that has revealed traces of the public and academic character of the endeavour that made it possible. I see myself thus as an ‘insider ethnographer’ (Mosse, ibid.) who understands the exhibition Wakes and living saints, as a local ‘ethnographic genre’ (Strathern, ibid.) in the sense that it was the product of the work of locally legitimized anthropology practitioners, framed by museological, official and institutional practices.

*The paper I read in the CLACS seminar series on the 22nd of October 2014 was a similar version to the one I presented at the RAI conference at Brunel University on the 3rd of September 2014.


Strathern, Marilyn. 1987. ‘The limits of auto-anthropology’. In Anthropology at home. Edited by Anthony Jackson. Association of Social Anthropologists, Cambridge.

Mosse, David. 2006. Anti-social anthropology? Objectivity, objection, and the ethnography of public policy and professional communities. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, 12, 935-956.

Beyond Speech: Silence and the Unspeakable across Cultures

Beyond Speech: Silence and the Unspeakable across Cultures is an interdisciplinaryconference to be held at the University of Manchester Arts, Languages and Cultures Graduate School on the 8th May 2015, sponsored by the Alliance Française and artsmethods@manchester. The keynote speaker will be Dr Tom Whittaker, a specialist in Spanish film and Cultural Studies from the University of Liverpool. The event will be free to attend but registration is required. preview

Organisers Mary Farrelly (SPLAS), Eleanor Jones (SPLAS), and Joe Twist (German Studies) got together in the Interdisciplinary Exchange Area (IDEA) in the School of Arts, Languages and Cultures to tell us a little more about the ideas behind the conference. Check out the video here!

For further information, please see the Beyond Speech website at , email or like the Facebook page