Friday, June 24, 2022
Woman jumping joyfully through Obermann's back yard

From June 13 to 17, 2022, the Imagining Latinidades Mellon Sawyer Seminar convened 10 faculty and graduate students in Latina/x/o Studies at the Obermann Center. Participants from across the UI and local colleges came together to write, work, and craft dynamic lesson plans for the Imagining Latinidades website.

"Summertime often shows up as a moment for getting lots of writing and research done and, at the same time, for rest and replenishment," says co-organizer Naomi Greyser (American Studies, GWSS, English, UI). While those aims can feel contradictory at times, this retreat was filled with reflective immersion, stimulating workshops, time spent outdoors, shared meals, and much laughter.

Greyser and Aimee Carrillo Rowe (Communication Studies, California State University) engaged participants in guided morning writing sessions and afternoon rhetoric seminars, where faculty and graduate students offered feedback on their own emergent scholarship in Latina/x/o Studies. Sara Nasrollahian and Eva Lattner (UI Center for Teaching) led after-lunch pedagogy sessions.

In addition to Nashrollahian, Lattner, Greyser, and Carrillo Rowe, participants included Lina-Maria Murillo (GWSS, History, Latina/o/x Studies), Rene Rocha (Political Science, Latina/o/x Studies), Eric Vázquez (American Studies), Jose Fernandez (Latina/o/x Studies), Elizabeth Rodriguez Fielder (English), Andrew Boge (Communication Studies), Abigail Escatel (Communication Studies), Thelma Trujillo (English), Emiliano Valle (History), Fernanda Díaz-Basteris (Cornell College), and Nicole Amato (Teaching & Learning).

Scholars writing by Iowa River
Boge and Díaz-Basteris at work beside the Iowa River

The retreat was organized around the four elements: earth, air, water, and fire. Scholars lay in the grass for grounding meditations and discussed the grounds and burden of proof for their projects, which ranged widely—from tropical comics, to food as medicine under the U.S. Cuban Embargo, to reproductive justice in the U.S.-Mexico borderlands. They considered organization and flow by the Iowa River. And dwelling on areas of the unknown in their work, they practiced inferential leaps in their writing and on the lawn behind the Obermann Center. (In the photo above, Rodriguez Fielder, drawing on her dancing expertise and scholarship in performance studies, demonstrates both feet leaving the ground for these leaps.) Greyser notes, "Movement between connection and solitude is so important for writing and research." 

Participants and organizers alike felt energized for the summer by the weeklong retreat and the community it fomented. One participant enthused, "I want to personally thank everyone involved for such an incredible week. Not just for the community, but I was especially grateful for the space provided to get so much work done. I got SO MUCH done. And that is such a gift for me as a mom of toddlers. Thank you! ¡Mil gracias!" As Greyser put it, "What a beautiful, generative week. I've so missed seeing and working with everyone!"