Prof. Hale takes over as director of LLILAS
Wed, September 2, 2009
Director mixes scholarship, activism
By Melissa Pan
Daily Texan Staff
Published: Tuesday, September 1, 2009
Updated: Tuesday, September 1, 2009
Students interested in Latin American Studies may have more opportunities to supplement their coursework with social activism after the University named anthropology professor Charles Hale, the new director of the Teresa Lozano Long Institute of Latin American Studies. His appointment begins today.
“As the premier institute for the study of Latin America in the United States, we need to make sure our reputation is grounded not just in the size of the faculty and the library, but also in activities and programs we generate, support and conceptualize,” Hale said.
The institute is an interdisciplinary center under the College of Liberal Arts that focuses on Latin American issues.
Hale said his past tenure as president of the Latin American Studies Association from 2006 through 2007 provided the experience needed for leading a large organization.
The Latin American Studies Association holds an international congress every 18 months that brings together scholars who study the region.
Neil Harvey, director of Center for Latin American and Border Studies at New Mexico State University, is a former program co-chair who has worked closely with Hale in the Latin American Studies Association.
“He has a great knowledge of Latin America and a strong commitment to the area he studies and its people,” Harvey said.
Hale and Harvey collaborated on a project approved by the association called “Otros Saberes,” which focused on indigenous and Afro-descendent people and is a favorite of Hale’s.
“Sometimes Latin American studies has been focused on the elites, and it is important that voices at the margins of Latin American society are also brought to the center,” he said.
Since the 1970s, Hale has studied indigenous peoples in Latin America, particularly their relationships with state government.
UT anthropology professor Brian Stross has read Hale’s writings on Guatemala and Nicaragua.
“It is really good for anthropology that Hale is director of the institute,” Stross said. “He is part of the new avant-garde movement of people who do not make assumptions about other cultures, but who are fully aware that there are multiple voices for almost any proposition.”
Hale brought together activism and scholarship during his tenure as president of the Latin American Studies Association, according to Jennifer Mendez, a sociology professor at the College of William and Mary who knew Hale at the University of California Davis.
“Hale has devoted his career to indigenous peoples in Central America and Mexico and has also contributed his career to their struggles of autonomy and self-determination,” Mendez said.
Hale said one of the most exciting things in his field of study is creating partnerships between scholars and social actors.
“Collaboration between indigenous intellectuals trying to achieve their rights and academic scholars shows you that academic work can address real problems,” Hale said.
During Hale’s four years as director, he hopes the institute creates more opportunities for students to combine studies with practical experience in Latin America.
Hale sees collaboration as a key principle for his tenure as director of Latin American Studies, which employs 14 permanent staff members and a faculty team.
“I see myself as coordinating and leading but not doing it myself,” he said. “This is not a one-person show at all.”
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