Get to Know LTAM 101 Professor Florence Babb
Dr. Babb is a cultural anthropologist specializing in gender and sexuality as well as race and class in changing contexts in Latin America. Her courses in Anthropology and Latin American Studies include topics such as Latin American cultural politics; the anthropology of gender and sexuality; feminist ethnography; decolonizing methodologies; and travel and tourism. She has gained extensive knowledge and research during her time in Peru, Nicaragua, Cuba, and Southern Mexico.
Why is your research in gender and sexuality in Latin America important to you?
I’ve been interested in gender and sexuality for a very long time, at least from the time I was in college and I connected with the US women’s movement. Gender and sexuality are fascinating because they are often regarded as “natural” and unchanging, but the more we explore the subject the more we see that they are always changing across time and place. Oddly enough, it was during my study abroad in Paris that I became curious about Latin America—I was meeting Latin Americans there!—and as I got more deeply involved in Latin American anthropology as a grad student, I directed my attention to research in Peru.
What do you enjoy most about working on research projects?
I enjoy the human connections we make when doing ethnographic research—that’s the sort of research cultural anthropologists do when we stay for an extended period of time with a community in order to know the people and culture more deeply. It’s the everyday experience of interacting with people whose lives may seem at the outset to be remarkably different from our own, yet over time we find lots of shared meanings and interests…I would also say that I love the excitement of discovering new things over the course of doing my research, so that sometimes my work takes new directions that I would never have anticipated!
Why should students take Latin American Studies courses?
I often wish that I’d discovered Latin American studies earlier in my education. As a broad interdisciplinary field, almost anyone could find areas of interest to explore, whether in the region’s political ecology, social history, medical anthropology, or cultural geography. A major in Latin American studies can be very versatile and it also pairs well with a host of other majors and minors in the liberal arts and the professions. It offers exposure to a world area that is spectacularly diverse and offers insights from the Global South that can be truly revelatory for those of us in the Global North…To be well educated today, I believe students can benefit greatly from learning from and about our neighbors.
What advice would you give a student who is considering being a Latin American Studies major?
Go for it! I would say to sample a few courses—likely, but not necessarily starting with LTAM 101 Intro to Latin American Studies. If you have an interest in music, you might see if there are related courses offered in that field. Likewise, if politics is your passion, see if there is a suitable course offered in Political Science. Some courses are now participating in COIL, Collaborative Online International Learning, including my current LTAM 101 course, and this has given us the exciting opportunity to link up with students in Quito, Ecuador for a portion of the course. This has proved to be a highlight, particularly for students who have not yet had a chance to study abroad. Of course, I do encourage students to find a study program in Latin America to have a fully immersive experience abroad (when travel is possible). I would also recommend that students take advantage of the wide range of talks and other events on campus, including the wonderful, annual Latin American Film Festival.