Jo-Marie Burt

Jo-Marie Burt

Political Science; George Mason University, United States


LASA has been formative to my personal and professional growth. I joined LASA as a graduate student in 1991 and have attended nearly every congress since. I’ve been an active member of several sections, including the Peru, Central America, Memoria y Historia Reciente and Otros Saberes sections; co-chaired the Peru section; and participated in several committees, including the Bryce Book Award and the Martin Diskin Dissertation Award. In 2016 I was elected to the Executive Council and was a Program Cochair to LASA 2020—the first virtual LASA, imposed by circumstance rather than choice due to the pandemic. LASA has enriched my academic life, created space for meaningful collaboration, and given me a lifetime of friendships. It is a huge honor to be nominated as a candidate for LASA Vice President.

LASA’s promotion and support for interdisciplinary, collaborative and engaged research has been critical for scholars like me who cross boundaries, disciplinary and otherwise, to investigate challenging issues such as political violence, transnational human rights activism, and wartime sexual violence. Even as the Association has experienced remarkable changes—LASA now has over 14,000 members from the Americas, Europe, Asia, and beyond—it continues to offer critical spaces for connection, collaboration, and promoting socially significant research. LASA is more diverse, inclusive, interdisciplinary, and global than ever.

Still, accessibility remains a central concern. The pandemic has brought into sharp focus the inequalities that make membership difficult for many potential constituents, including Latin American students and scholars and practitioners from historically excluded communities, such as indigenous, Afro-descended, and LGBTQ communities. Less than 30% of our members enjoys institutional support to travel to LASA. LASA’s expansion of travel scholarships has helped addressed this, yet the core problem remains. Beyond hybrid or virtual meetings, how can LASA rethink ways to connect and support members virtually?

The pandemic obliges us to envision new ways of being an academic association with a core identity like LASA's, with our commitment to social justice, inclusion, and diversity. We must imagine new ways to encourage participation in LASA by groups with limited access, ensuring that LASA offers resources and programs that benefit them. The creation of sections several years ago was a major innovation that restructured and enriched the way LASA is organized. What new innovations can we imagine to make LASA more inclusive, participatory, and meaningful to these members?

LASA could develop research networks to incentivize and encourage collaboration. LASA sections, which are a site of energy and activism, could be a natural starting point for this. LASA could institute virtual programs of value to students, such as pedagogy workshops, teaching symposia, courses in innovative methodologies, mentoring services, and professional development programs. Pursuing new partnerships, for example with small Latin American publishers and book fairs, which are invisible at the large book exhibits held at Congresses, is another avenue for innovation. As someone who has challenged the boundaries between scholarship and activism by regularly publishing for broader audiences, using my research as an advocacy tool, and through collaborative research with civil society groups, I’d also work to strengthen LASA programs that foster dialogue and collaboration among practitioners, policymakers, and scholars.

The pandemic, the structural inequalities it has made so painfully visible, as well as growing authoritarian practices in the region conspire to undermine access to LASA and call on us to rethink the traditional ways we’ve conceptualized our work. I welcome the opportunity to work to enhance LASA’s commitment to accessibility, diversity, and inclusion; to explore ways to enhance the role of the sections; and to envision new programs, beyond the annual congress, that LASA offers to its members.