Thursday, January 23, 2020

The second half of the year-long Andrew W. Mellon Sawyer Seminar Imagining Latinidades welcomes a full slate of speakers to campus this spring. After hosting an opening conference and two short symposia in the fall, in addition to commencing a podcast, the Seminar’s directors—Darrel Wanzer-Serrano (Latina/o Studies and Communication Studies), Rene Rocha (Political Science and Latina/o Studies), and Ariana Ruiz (Latina/o Studies and Spanish & Portuguese)—have organized two more symposia, the continuation of a film series, and a closing conference.

Drawing on and Extending UI Scholars' Work

The first daylong event on January 31, “Imagining the Latina/o/x Midwest,” specifically draws on and extends the work of Claire Fox (English, Latina/o Studies, and Spanish & Portuguese), who in conjunction with former UI faculty members Omar Valerio-Jiménez and Santiago Vaquera-Vásquez, directed the Obermann Humanities Symposium Latinos in the Midwest and the Obermann Summer Seminar Teaching the Latino Midwest, as well as co-edited The Latina/o Midwest Reader (University of Illinois Press, 2017). The work of this trio was pivotal to the formation of the UI’s Latina/o Studies program.

One of the participants in those earlier events, Theresa Delgadillo, (Comparative Studies, The Ohio State University) will give a talk at the January 31 symposium that extends a recent project she undertook with Fox, “Environmental Sustainability and Alternative Place-Times in Midwest Latinx Literature.” She will be joined by Sujey Vega (School of Social Transformation, Arizona State University), who will present a lecture titled “Of Borders and Belonging: Addressing the Meaning of Home and Belonging in Latinx Midwestern Imagined Comunidades,” and Lilia Fernández (Latino & Caribbean Studies and History, Rutgers University), whose talk is titled “Transient Pasts: Theorizing the History of Latinos/as in the Midwest.” As with all Imagining Latinidades symposia, the day ends with a roundtable conversation.

Origin Stories

Lisa Ortiz, the Mellon Postdoctoral Research Fellow who is helping to organize the events, says that one of the highlights for her and, she imagines, other graduate students and young scholars, will be to hear visitors reflect on their own path in the academy. “Each guest is asked what advice they would give to Latina/o/x students at predominantly white institutions,” says Ortiz, who earned her PhD at the University of Illinois in 2018, “and it’s useful to hear how, even if they weren’t practicing Latina/o Studies under that specific label, they still found a way to do this work.” Sharing origin stories of themselves as Latina/o scholars was also central to the first episode of the podcast, which the three co-directors create.  

Complications and Rejections

The next daylong symposia on March 27 will focus on the topics of citizenship and popular belonging, with talks about race and sports and Latinx superheroes, as well as a presentation by a mainstream Latino journalist. The year wraps up with a three-day event from April 30 to May 2, “Performing Latina/o/x Futurity.” The six invited speakers hale from performance studies, queer studies, and cultural studies, in addition to Latina/o/x studies. Some of them are expected to discuss Latina/o/x cultural production that complicates and rejects homogenizing tendencies of Latino identity formation for alternative and/or queer community formations.

The symposia and conference will take place at the Iowa City Public Library and the two film screenings are at Film Scene. To learn more about the speakers and view a detailed schedule, visit the Imagining Latinidades website.