María Rosa Olivera-Williams
I am a scholar who approaches literature from a plurality of perspectives: history, sociology, philosophy, psychology, political theory, and gender theory inform my writing. I also create veritable networks of scholars, from established academics to mid-career scholars with vibrant projects, to a cohort of brilliant graduate students, both from Latin America and from the United States and Europe. Therefore, I was delighted to discover LASA as a very young graduate student because it showed me from the beginning the great potential of networking and opening a true North/South interdisciplinary dialogue in which the voices of academics, activists, artists, politicians, etc. were all on the same level. The dynamics of LASA's international conferences became my model. Together with other colleagues I worked very hard to create the exciting PhD program in Spanish we offer at Notre Dame, which attracts some of the most distinguished students from Latin America, especially Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Colombia, Mexico, as well as from Europe and from the best Spanish degree programs in the United States. The dialogue is intensified by directing many of these doctoral theses and collaborating with these young scholars on academic publications and conferences. An excellent example of the fruit of this dialogue is my latest book Humanidades al límite: posiciones desde/contra la Universidad global (2021), co-edited with Cristián Opazo, which studies from different perspectives and geographies the roles of Catholic universities to face the crisis of the Humanities amid the challenges and opportunities offered by globalization. The volume brings together the work of prominent historians, philosophers and colleagues in literary and cultural studies at different stages of their careers.
In the first month of 2022, we are still suffering from the persistence of the COVID pandemic, a pandemic that exposed many of the evils that attack our world: racism, misogynism, hatred of the other, poverty, hunger, migration, ecological crisis, etc. The pandemic and what it uncovered shocked universities and immovable institutions such as the Vatican. From the Vatican, the first Argentine Pope, Francis called for an ethical change in the way we live to really change the environmental crisis. Universities like mine responded by creating the Race and Resilience Initiative, a center with global reach and a critical comparative and interdisciplinary approach, which promotes multiracial collaboration and inclusive pedagogy to challenge systemic racism and promote racial equity. It also created several avenues to challenge the environmental crisis, such as the Center for Environmental Humanities; I am affiliated with both centers. However, the financial crisis, a consequence of the pandemic, is hindering the rich North/South dialogue I referred to earlier with the arrival of Latin American students to our programs due to the limitations imposed by study abroad visas. It is increasingly difficult for a Latin American student to accept a postdoc because of these limitations. It is here where the terrible situation of migration becomes a close reality. I think that LASA is the prime site to accompany these students—the new generation of Latin Americanists—to navigate the uncertainty of their situation and advise them.
The economic crisis also makes it difficult for many Latin American colleagues to attend conferences in the United States and/or Europe. Therefore, small congresses in Latin America such as the ones that the Southern Cone Studies Section held in Montevideo, Uruguay (2017), which I organized with Javier Uriarte, and in Buenos Aires, Argentina (2019), organized by Daniel Link, open wonderful spaces for colleagues and opportunities to build new bridges and networks. I strongly believe that LASA should adopt this model to complement its annual Congress.
Crises create opportunities to reinvent ourselves.