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Research The Groningen Research Institute for the Study of Culture (ICOG) Research Research centres Research Centre for the Study of Democratic Cultures and Politics Events & Colloquium

Lecture - ROBERTO BARRIOS (University of New Orleans): "The status of Afro-descended communities in Latin America and the Caribbean: The perspective of activist scholars"

When:Th 16-06-2022 16:30 - 17:30
Where:Room A3, Academy building & online

The Mexico and LA Study Center is delighted to announce a most interesting talk by Roberto Barrios titled: The status of Afro-descended communities in Latin America and the Caribbean: The perspective of activist scholars.


Since the late 15th Century, the Americas have witnessed encounters and cultural exchanges between the region’s original indigenous inhabitants, Iberian colonizers, and Afro-diasporic populations. The result of these encounters and exchanges – which were often violent and exploitative – was the emergence of a rich tapestry of identities, communities, languages, and cultural practices that distinguish Spain’s former colonies from those of other European empires in the region.

A key element of social and economic life in the colonies was the formation of body politics structured along the lines of racialized and ethnicized difference which varied significantly between and within imperial domains. Throughout the colonial period, imperial authorities established different legal frameworks for the treatment of indigenous and afro-descended populations, often promoting the paternalistic protection for the former (while simultaneously outlying the conditions under which indigenous labor and tribute could be extracted) and casting the latter as a form of otherness outside Spanish American society.

Following the independence movements of the early 19th Century in New Spain and South America, many criollo governments fabricated the invisibility of Afro-descended populations through census categories and hegemonic discourses of national identity. Up until three decades ago, Afro-descendants remained largely invisible in national demographic statistics and imaginaries of national identity often foregrounded the mestizo or ladino (people of European and indigenous descent) as the normative citizen.

In this presentation, I detail recent efforts across the Americas to recognize the existence of Afro-descended communities and the challenges that remain to achieve racial equity and justice in Latin America.

About the speaker

Roberto E. Barrios is Doris Zemurray Stone Chair of Latin American and Caribbean Studies and Director of the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies at the University of New Orleans. During the last 20 years, he has conducted ethnographies of disaster recovery and mitigation in Central America, Mexico, the United States, and the Caribbean. His work focuses on the issues of governmentality, affect, and racial justice in disaster contexts. He is author of Governing Affect: Neoliberalism and Disaster Reconstruction (2017, University of Nebraska Press), and co-editor of Disaster Upon Disaster with Susanna Hoffman (2020, Berghahn).