About the PhD Program
The LLILAS doctoral program is dedicated to providing flexible yet rigorous training for a select number of excellent students whose proposed doctoral program requires an interdisciplinary approach. Our doctoral students combine interdisciplinary training with a focus on practical applications, acquiring not only specialist knowledge of their subject, but also a range of skills and expertise in problem-solving and connecting ideas. On completion of the degree, our students frequently enter professions in which they apply theoretical and methodological knowledge to real-world problems. As part of this training, students will be required to participate in a professional placement before defending their doctoral dissertation.
The LLILAS Graduate Admissions Committee considers requests for admission to the doctoral program. In order to assist the committee’s decision-making process, candidates should outline their reasons for choosing an interdisciplinary doctoral degree and specify a proposed focus for the doctoral dissertation. The application should also specify one of the three tracks, outlined below, which the proposed program of study fits best. Each of these three tracks is linked to an area of strength among the LLILAS faculty:
Cultural Agency: We understand culture in the broadest sense, how distinct groups of people assign meaning to the world around them. We are interested in specific forms of cultural production—from literature and film to performance and the arts—especially as they relate to broad social processes—identity formation, education, political relations, and even economic strategies. How have these diverse forms of cultural production given shape to the Latin America we know today, and how do they serve as a resource for social change in the common interest?
Social Inequalities: Latin America is widely known as the “most unequal continent,” in standard economic terms; inequalities of race/ethnicity and gender only sharpen this image. Yet, especially over the past two decades, the region is also known as an arena of widespread debate and action that seeks to remedy these conditions, to empower those who have been marginalized, and to address the root causes of inequality. What are the root causes of social inequality in Latin America, in all its dimensions? What strategies yield progress toward the elimination of these enduring inequalities?
Sustainable Democracies: Latin America has a long history of authoritarianism, followed by fragile and incomplete processes of democratization. Today many parts of the region still suffer from a pervasive sense that institutions (both governmental and civil society) do not function efficiently or fairly, serving the interests of a few to the detriment of the common good. How can Latin Americans build durable, efficient, and just democratic institutions that enjoy widespread public legitimacy and confidence?
These areas of scholarship represent clusters of faculty strength, around which an interdisciplinary intellectual community has developed. Dialogues among faculty members with shared scholarly interests often take place at LLILAS research events such as conferences, lectures, and roundtables. Students are encouraged to attend and participate in these productive exchanges.
The principal criteria for acceptance into the PhD program of LLILAS are:
- A truly interdisciplinary program of study, that is, one that draws on multiple areas of disciplinary knowledge or combines them in ways that could not easily be achieved within the confines of a discipline-based program.
- Degree of fit between the applicant’s research interests and one or more of the tracks listed above.
- Proposed doctoral topic of clear theoretical and empirical importance within Latin American Studies.
- Evidence of communication with at least two UT faculty members who express strong interest in working with the applicant on the specified project.
- A proposed doctoral research topic that, in addition to academic excellence, has potential for applications outside the academic world.
A master's degree is required for admission to the PhD program (although students may submit requests before the degree is formally granted).
In the first year after admission, the student will work to select a supervising professor for his or her dissertation committee. The supervising professor will serve as chair of the dissertation committee and will be responsible for coordinating the program of study with the student and the LLILAS graduate adviser. Coursework (interdisciplinary to the extent feasible) and other requirements for the degree will be decided on jointly by the student, the dissertation committee, and the graduate adviser. Normally, the student will be expected to develop a high level of competence in reading and speaking either Spanish or Portuguese. He or she must also attain reading-level competence in the other language or some alternate language appropriate to the program of study and approved by the dissertation committee and graduate adviser.
In the social science fields, the student is also expected to become proficient in the appropriate methodologies (e.g., statistics, quantitative data analysis, ethnography, discourse and textual analysis, etc.). The student is required to take comprehensive exams and to defend his or her dissertation prospectus by the end of the third year in residence. These exams will be determined by the dissertation committee in consultation with the student.
The student enrolled in the doctoral program in Latin American Studies must submit a dissertation of an interdisciplinary nature. A dissertation committee of at least five professors will be selected by the student, and approved by the Graduate School, in order to advance to candidacy.