Interview with Kia Caldwell, “Health Equity in Brazil: Intersections of Gender, Race, and Policy”

We are pleased to share the following interview with ISA faculty member Kia Caldwell. 

Erica L. Williams, an Associate Professor of Anthropology at Spelman College, interviews Kia Lilly Caldwell about her new book, “Health Equity in Brazil: Intersections of Gender, Race, and Policy,” recently published by the University of Illinois Press. Kia Lilly Caldwell is Associate Professor in the Department of African, African American, and Diaspora Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She earned her PhD in anthropology from the University of Texas at Austin. Her first book, “Negras in Brazil: Re-Envisioning Black Women, Citizenship,” and the “Politics of Identity in Brazil,” was published by Rutgers University Press in 2007. She is also the co-editor of “Gendered Citizenships: Transnational Perspectives on Knowledge Production, Political Activism, and Culture,” which was published by Palgrave MacMillan in 2009. Follow her on Twitter @KiaLCaldwell.

Click to read it now.

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Javier Arce Nazario

Associate Professor of Geography

Javier Arce Nazario is an associate professor in the UNC Geography department. His research program has focused on the biophysical and social components of the Puerto Rican landscapes, and how they affect water quality and adaptability to extreme precipitation events. His interests specifically include understanding how watershed composition impacts water quality in the tropics, assessing the economic impact of extreme precipitation events, and exploring how community water management can be viewed through the lens of environmental justice. He is also interested in using historical orthophotography as an outreach tool for education and community involvement in water quality and environmental concerns.

Dr. Arce Nazario studied Ecology, Evolution and Environmental Biology at Columbia University, writing his dissertation on how humans and rivers shape the Peruvian Amazon landscape. Before joining the Geography program at UNC, he held a UC President’s Postdoctoral Fellow position at UC Berkeley, and professorships at the University of Puerto Rico campuses at Utuado and Cayey.

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ISA Faculty Spotlight: John Bruno

The Institute for the Study of the Americas (ISA) at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is dedicated to the pursuit of knowledge of the Latin American experience in the Western Hemisphere. We were pleased to sit down with ISA faculty member and marine ecologist John Bruno, who researches marine biodiversity and macroecology, coral reef ecology and conservation, and the impacts of climate change on marine ecosystems. Professor Bruno recently received a National Science Foundation grant to study how temperature affects marine food webs in the Galápagos Islands.

Prof. John Bruno

Q: Prof. Bruno, thank you for joining us. Can you tell us more about the application process for a National Science Foundation grant? 

A: First, we spent a few years collecting pilot data, basically proving what we proposed would actually work. Then we we wrote the proposal; 15 pages single-spaced for the main project description plus a dozen or so ancillary documents including a very detailed budget, and a data management plant. After submission you wait six months for the reviews and decision. The first time it wasn’t funded and we were asked to make a number of changes. We did and luckily – a mere five years after conception – the project was funded.

Q: Five years, wow! Congratulations again! Tell us about the work you will do and what outcomes you anticipate finding. 

A: The goal of the project is to understand how temperature affects marine food webs. Most marine animals are ecotherms, meaning their body temperature matches the temperature of seawater. The Galápagos are unique in that there is a very strong temperature gradient across the islands. This enables us to conduct experiments, measuring how temperature affects, for examples, the rate at which sea urchins eat algae and thus how much algae is left standing on the seafloor.

View from the Galápagos Islands; photo courtesy of John Bruno

Q: How does this relate to research you have conducted before?

A: The role of temperature has been a theme in my lab for a long time. Sometimes we perform experiments in aquariums in the lab. We also use satellite data on ocean temperature combined with ecological data to try to figure out how temperature is affecting the way marine ecosystems work. It’s important to test the outcomes of that work out in the real world, but you can’t really experimentally warm up part of the ocean. So this is a really exciting opportunity to take the next step in this work.

Q: We think it’s exciting too! What do you hope others can take away from this project?

A: We think the work could totally change the way marine ecologists think about these kinds of ecosystems.  The long-standing paradigm is that the amount of seaweed attached rocks on the sea floor or phytoplankton in the water column is controlled by nutrient availability. Currents periodically bring cold nutrient-rich water up from the deep and when that happens you see big blooms of algae in the ocean. Our work will test an alternative explanation for this phenomena: we think the colder water is greatly slowing down the metabolism and grazing rate of herbivores, which stop eating the algae.

Photo courtesy of John Bruno

But the big takeaway will be how ocean warming will affect the marine plants and animals in this system.  The Galápagos are projected to warm much faster than most regions and we currently have little understanding of how climate change will impact this unique ecosystem.

Q: We look forward to learning more. What is it like to be in the Galápagos?

A: Well, it’s a crazy place to work. Even though it’s on the equator, the water gets very cold in July and August. And it looks nothing like the tropical environments I’m used to working on in the Belize. In the Galápagos there are penguins, orcas, and sea lions! So it feels a lot more like northern California.

Sounds amazing. Thank you again for joining us, we look forward to seeing the results!

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Angela Stuesse (Anthropology) awarded 2017 C.L.R. James Award and 2016 Society for the Anthropology of Work Book Prize

Angela Stuesse (Anthropology) received the Working-Class Studies Association C.L.R. James Award for Published Books for Academic or General Audiences and the Society for the Anthropology of Work Book Prize for her book Scratching Out a Living: Latinos, Race, and Work in the Deep South (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2016.)


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Cynthia Radding (History) awarded Fulbright-García Robles Senior Scholar Fellowship

Cynthia Radding, Gussenhoven Distinguished Professor, was awarded a Fulbright-García Robles Senior Scholar Fellowship to complete her book project, “Bountiful Deserts: Environment, Nutrition, and Cultural Resilience in Arid Lands.” She will be in residence in Mexico City during Academic Year 2017-2018, where she is affiliated with the Instituto de Investigaciones Históricas at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México. During May-August 2018, she will be in residence with a fellowship at the John Carter Brown Library of Brown University.


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Miguel La Serna (History) receives American Council of Learned Societies Collaborative Research Grant

Miguel La Serna received an American Council of Learned Societies Collaborative Research Grant to complete his co-authored book (together with Duke University anthropologist Orin Starn), tentatively titled “The Last Revolution: Shining Path and the War for the End of the World.” Peru’s Shining Path insurgency led a whole generation of scholars, military experts, and policymakers to puzzle over just what led a small band of Maoists to such macabre extremes in the final two decades of the twentieth century. Yet, the full story of the Andean insurrection has never been told. “The Last Revolution” is the first complete history of the guerrilla group’s rise and fall.

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Adam Versenyi (Dramatic Arts) receives prestigious Travis Bogard Artist in Residence Fellowship

Adam Versenyi received the prestigious Travis Bogard Artist in Residence Fellowship at the Eugene O’Neill Tao House at University of California, Berkeley.  The Fellowship is for scholars whose work is focused on the performing arts.

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Associate Director Beatriz Riefkohl Muñiz wins 2016 Distinguished Service Award


“Our work was made infinitely better by having the contributions of her voice, her mind, and her spirit on this project.” -CGI Program Officer Jaclyn Gilstrap (pictured left with Beatriz Riefkohl Muñiz).

Associate Director Beatriz Riefkohl Muñiz received the 2016 Distinguished Service Award Thursday, April 28, 2016 at the Center for Global Initiatives award reception. This award is given by the Center for Global Initiatives to leaders who have demonstrated extraordinary dedication to the center.

Riefkohl Muñiz and Joseph Jordan, Sonja Haynes Stone Center for Black Culture and History Director, were both recognized for their leadership with the Global Take Off: Puerto Rico program, which provided funding for students to participate in an interactive, four-day, faculty-led trip to Puerto Rico over fall break in October 2015. 

Having been recognized for her key role in the Global Take Off program, Program Officer Jaclyn Gilstrap said Riefkohl Muñiz played a key role in connecting the team to contacts at the University of Puerto Rico and other communities in and around San Juan. Gilstrap added Riefkohl Muñiz worked tirelessly to plan a minute by minute schedule that was well-rounded and efficient, but also reflected the ins and outs of Puerto Rican culture, tradition, and history.

“Our work was made infinitely better by having the contributions of her voice, her mind, and her spirit on this project,” Gilstrap said.

We are so excited and proud! Congratulations, Beatriz!

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Doctoral Alumnus Miguel Rocha Vivas Awarded Prestigious Cuba Literary Prize


Miguel Rocha Vivas, PhD

We are delighted to congratulate former ISA professor Miguel Rocha Vivas, PhD 2015 from the Department of Romance Studies, for winning Cuba’s distinguished Premio Literario Casa de las Américas 2016 award!

Rocha Vivas was an active member of the UNC-Duke Consortium in Latin American and Caribbean Studies’ Abya Yala Working Group, taught Spanish, and taught an ISA course on indigenous cinema and contemporary writing. He was also a recipient of the Dissertation Fellowship and the Mellon Travel Award.

Read more below about Rocha Vivas’ prestigious accomplishment.

Original post from our friends at UNC Global


“I want to thank the wonderful Isa team and the Duke-UNC Latin American Consortium academic group, specially Beatriz Riefkohl, Natalie Harman, Shelley Clarke and Miguel Rojas,” said Rocha Vivas (toward right, top row).

Miguel Rocha Vivas, who received a doctorate degree in 2015 from the Department of Romance Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, has received Cuba’s prestigious international literature award, Premio Literario Casa de las Américas 2016.

His UNC adviser was Emilio del Valle Escalante, associate professor of Spanish.

The Premio Literario Casa de las Américas is a literary award given by the Cuban Casa de las Américas. Established in 1959, it is one of Latin America’s oldest and most prestigious literary prizes. The award is presented for works in Spanish, Portuguese, English and French by writers from Latin America and the Caribbean. In addition to the main categories of fiction, poetry and essays, there are categories for narrative and children’s literature.

Rocha Vivas received the prize for his book “Mingas de la Palabra, Textualidades Oralitegráficas y Visiones de Cabeza en las Oralituras y Literaturas Indígenas Contemporáneas.” (“Word´s Mingas, Oralitegraphic Textualities and Upside Down Visions in Contemporary Indigenous Oralitures and Literatures” is a text based on his doctoral dissertation.)

His book was chosen for “Being a profound, relevant and original study about contemporary indigenous writings in Colombia, understood within the continental indigenous literary movement.”

Rocha Vivas is a Colombian writer, professor, researcher and traveler. Currently, he is an associate professor at the Pontificia Universidad Javeriana in Bogotá. He has devoted part of his academic career to studying and fostering indigenous literatures and creative work throughout the continent.

During his time in Chapel Hill (2012- 2015), he founded the Cineminga (intercultural cinema group) and became an active member of the Abya Yala Working Group, sponsored by the Consortium in Latin American and Caribbean Studies at UNC and Duke University. As a member of this working group, he organized numerous events such as the campus visit of four indigenous writers, two Colombian social scientists and one elder from the camëntsa nation.

At UNC he taught Spanish and an Institute for the Study of the Americas course on indigenous cinema and contemporary writing.

Learn more about Rocha Vivas and his work.


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La Serna wins ACLS Collaborative Research Grant Award


ISA Faculty, Dr. Miguel La Serna

Historian Dr. Miguel La Serna knows about the importance of numerous voices to tell a story. That’s why he and Duke University anthropologist Dr. Orin Starn sought an American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) grant to write a complete history of Peru’s Shining Path insurgency.

“The story is not as well-known, and we saw a need for a narrative history of the war,” said La Serna.

La Serna and Starn’s book, The Last Revolution: Shining Path and the War of the End of the World, will document the rise and fall of the Peru Shining Path Maoist guerilla group in the final decades of the twentieth century. The book is under contract with W.W. Norton & Company. La Serna and Starn’s access to voices not yet fully explored in academia will provide insights and understandings into the Shining Path group’s actions, as well as adding to the understanding of the logic of collective violence.

“We now have access to inside sources that weren’t even able 10 years ago,” said La Serna. “We have so many diverse perspectives…we even interviewed imprisoned Shining Path leaders.”

Although La Serna has already established himself as a historian with previous publications such as The Corner of the Living: Ayacucho on the Eve of the Shining Path Insurgency (UNC Press, 2012), the opportunity to continue the Shining Path narrative was one he would not miss. By winning the prestigious ACLS grant, La Serna is able to continue his research.

“It was a surprise and honor for me [to win the award],” said La Serna. “It empowers us to do this story the right way, to complete research, and to not only write it, but write it well.”

La Serna’s clear passion for history has guided his career and he said the grant will help write a narrative that is accessible to all people, even those who did not previously know about Peru’s Shining Path or even Peruvian history.

“We want to make history accessible to a broad audience,” said La Serna. “We want all people to understand the story.”

About the ACLS Collaborative Research Grant Award

ACLS invites applications for the eighth annual competition for the ACLS Collaborative Research Fellowships for collaborative research in the humanities and related social sciences. The program is funded by a generous grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

The aim of this fellowship program is to offer small teams of two or more scholars the opportunity to collaborate intensively on a single, substantive project. The fellowship supports projects that produce a tangible research product (such as joint print or web publications) for which two or more collaborators will take credit.

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