Fall 2011 News News: Hispanic Studies

Prof. Regina Root presents her latest book at the Library of Congress

In March 2011, at an event sponsored by the Hispanic Division of the Library of Congress, Prof. Regina Root discussed and signed copies of her latest book Couture and Consensus: Fashion and Politics in Postcolonial Argentina (U of Minnesota P, 2010) at the Mary Pickford Theater.  Couture and Consensus, which was recently awarded the 2012 Arthur P. Whitaker Book Prize by the Middle Atlantic Council of Latin American Studies (MACLAS), analyzes the intersection of fashion and politics in nineteenth-century Argentina in order to understand how this nation forged its identity under the regime of Juan Manuel de Rosas (1829-1852).

Prof. Root is editor of Ecofashion, a special issue of Fashion Theory (2008), and editor of The Latin American Fashion Reader (Berg, 2005; 2006 Arthur P. Whitaker Book Prize, Middle Atlantic Council of Latin American Studies).

News News: Hispanic Studies

W&M Students in La Plata Feature in Local News

W&M students and the Comisión Provincial por la Memoria in Tandil, Argentina
W&M students and the Comisión Provincial por la Memoria in Tandil, Argentina

Year after year, several W&M students decide to spend a semester abroad with our program in La Plata, Argentina. The program’s articulation around the interdisciplinary study of human rights is, perhaps, one of the reasons why it attracts  students in Hispanic Studies, Latin American Studies, and several other fields.  During their semester abroad, W&M Students have the rare opportunity to intern with the Comisión Provincial por la Memoria in opportunities related to its work on the legacies of dictatorship and recent political history of “the disappeared.” Moreover, W&M students participate in extra-curricular activities related to the Comisión‘s work.

Recently, the Tandil-based newspaper El Eco Digital highlighted the experience of our students as they explored areas used as clandestine detention centers during the last military regime, and sites of memory. The article includes commentaries from W&M’s Emily Stevens, Alex Guzmán, and Katlyn Toylle.

The full article, in Spanish, can be found here.

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Alumni Updates: Hispanic Studies News News: Hispanic Studies

Hibbs ’10: Pregnancy, migrants and justice on the Eastern Shore

[Story by Soyoung Hwang ’11 and David Williard;
March 17, 2010;]

Kate Hibbs ’10 knew the many lessons of service before going to the Eastern Shore to serve as a migrant-health outreach worker last summer. Her experience as a stand-out Sharpe community scholar at the College prepared her academically; her experience serving migrant needs in Chicago gave her on-the-ground experience. Still, she felt she stumbled.

“If you’re not aware of your privilege, your service is patronizing,” she said.

Hibbs worked with pregnant women within the migrant community through an internship with Rural Family Development, one of two Eastern Shore agencies that maintains a memorandum of understanding with the Hispanic Studies department at William & Mary. Her primary tasks were to counsel women about pre-natal health practices and to help ensure their access to the medical resources available to them

Hibbs found that the need to acknowledge her own privilege relative to those she was serving became a theme underlying her work. Unknown to her at first, most of the women with whom she would work were from rural, southern Mexico and identified as part of an indigenous culture rather than as “Mexican.” Tensions arose due to the language barrier.

“We’re speaking Spanish with each other as our second language, so naturally there’s communication breakdown. … It’s hard to establish that legitimacy and trust,” Hibbs said.

Hibbs is the first to admit she was “not an expert in pregnancy,” and so being in a situation where she had come in as an “expert” to educate this woman forced her to evaluate her position in relation to that of the pregnant woman.

“I didn’t realize that my command of Spanish was better than hers, and, for her, that’s intimidating because, as an American, I represent the oppressor. … I’m in this privileged position,” Hibbs explained.

Despite what she calls her “folly and rudeness” in going into the woman’s home unprepared for this challenge, Hibbs found an effective way to bridge the gap by asking the pregnant woman to teach her some “Misteko,” the indigenous dialect.

“My interest in her culture, in her background, was huge because not even people from her country take an interest in her culture, and so to have someone do that is not only novel, but for her incredibly empowering,” Hibbs said. “That I teach her and she can teach me is empowering for her and humbling for myself. It’s not just understanding their perspective; it’s truly identifying with their needs.”

Hibbs’ ability to pro-actively navigate those tensions resonates with her faculty advisor, Jonathan Arries, associate professor of Hispanic Studies at William & Mary. “She is an amazing student and an incredible person,” Arries said. “The character of Kate that I keep coming back to is her generosity of spirit. It is the kind of thing we seek to cultivate in the humanities. She is the kind of person on whom you can rely to do what needs to be done, and more. She is a critical thinker who has amazing organizational skills.”

Back on campus, Hibbs continues to nurture the genuine bonds of identity forged with many of the women with whom she worked. She identifies with their struggles to secure health advice and care, as well as with their general struggles to nurture families in situations that seem, at times, unfriendly toward them.

“They call me all the time! I love it,” Hibbs said. “Pregnancy is such an important part of a woman’s life. The fact that I shared it with them, they want to share it with me.”

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News News: Hispanic Studies Uncategorized

W&M students contribute to classified document release

[Story by Erin Zagursky]

Research conducted by William & Mary undergraduate students has led to the recent release of formerly classified documents that shed new light on the impact of the detainment of one of Argentina’s most famous political prisoners, Jacobo Timerman.

Last spring [2009], 12 William & Mary students worked with Hispanic Studies Professor Silvia Tandeciarz and Southern Cone Specialist Carlos Osorio on an internship with the National Security Archive in Washington, D.C. They spent the semester researching hundreds of documents relating to the detention of Argentine journalist Jacobo Timerman more than 30 years ago.  The results of that research were published in a National Security Archive Briefing Book this month that confirm Timerman’s case caused the near-fracture of the Argentine military regime.

With support from a QEP-Mellon Undergraduate Research Grant, the students researched hundreds of documents in order to select those that best captured Timerman’s story. The students then compiled short summaries of each of the documents and created an introduction for the briefing book.  View the video of this project here.

“I have done a great deal of research during my time in college, but nothing compared to the research we undertook with this project — there is something so much more intriguing, so much more real about reading actual government documents,” said Erin Maskell ’10. “Nothing had been processed, no one else had read it first and decided what was important and then presented this to you in a watered down version. You got to read the story; you got to decide what was important.”

In the course of their research, the students reached out to fellow students on William and Mary’s study abroad program in Argentina to compare the American version of accounts with that found at the Comisión Provincial por la Memoria. The coordinator of the Argentine Archive, Laura Lenci, invited two William and Mary students to create a companion briefing book with the Argentine documents. The students also used their research to compile a timeline, detailing important events in the Timerman story and providing information on the documentation for those events.

“It is our hope that the chronology and the briefing books will be of interest to human rights scholars of all disciplines, as well as to the general public,” said Tandeciarz, Class of 2011 Associate Professor of Hispanic Studies. “It is with great pride that we present to the public the results of this collaboration, which brings together three institutions for the first time: the College of William and Mary, the National Security Archive, and the Archivo de la DIPBA, Comisión Provincial por la Memoria. And it is particularly gratifying to know that the College has played a small part in making this collaboration possible.”

David Culver ‘09 said that the opportunity provided him and the others a rare experience.

Wi&M students listen to Carlos Osorio describe what work the archive does in its research library on the students’ first visit there.
Photo courtesy of Prof. Silvia Tandeciarz

“As undergraduate students we’re often limited to studying the work and research done by professionals in the field, whether it be through textbooks or other published materials,” he said. “Rarely are the students themselves put at par with those professionals and given the resources to do their own firsthand research and, as a result, create their own narrative of history. This course allowed us to do just that.”

Culver hopes that the work that the students did during the internship and the resulting briefing book will allow others to “learn yet another aspect to the very complex story that is Jacobo Timerman.” He said he’d also like to see more opportunities like this one made available to students.

“This was a course where the professors — the experts in the field — turned to the students as peers and relied on their intelligence, their drive and their dedication,” he said. “Professor and student were discovering and learning together. It takes maturity on part of the student and humility on the professor’s part. The result of this unique and rewarding approach speaks for itself.”

Maskell said that the project taught her a lot about “what it means to do research.”

“When we first began this entire project we went into it rather blindly- we weren’t sure exactly what we were looking for or what our goals were,” said Maskell, an economics major and Hispanic studies minor. “There were thousands of documents, and it felt overwhelming at times. However, the more we learned the more we were able to refine our research goals, and the project changed enormously over the course of the semester. I am much more comfortable with the entire research process now, and have acquired skills in reading and interpreting primary source documents that are transferrable to so many other fields of study.”

The experience impacted Maskell so greatly that she decided to continue interning at the archive through the summer, finishing the briefing book and compiling documents to be used in an Argentine court case.

“I am still working on this project now, and I love every moment of it because I feel that I am doing something that truly matters,” she said. “I love to learn just for the sake of learning, but to be able to take all the history I have read about or learned in a classroom and apply it to a current day situation in a way that actually has an impact makes me feel like all my hard work in school is worth it.”

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News News: Hispanic Studies

Borderlands: Students Research Immigration Issues over Spring Break 2009

[By Steve Otto]

On the Mexican side of the Nogales border fence, an art installation titled Paseo of Humanity

Over spring break 2009, Professors Bickham Mendez (Sociology and Latin American Studies) and Tandeciarz (Hispanic Studies) led a research team of eight students to the Tucson/Nogales region  of the U.S.–Mexico border. The pilot project combined interdisciplinary field research, course work, and civic engagement to focus on “border issues”: the political, social, and cultural effects of immigration from Mexico/Central America to the United States.

Participating students co-enrolled in either Hispanic Studies 361 or Sociology 440 and received 1 credit for their work. Borderlinks, a bi-national organization “bringing people together to build bridges of solidarity across North and Latin American borders and to promote intercultural understanding and respect,” acted as institutional host and provided delegation leader Lilli Mann ’07. The project was funded through the Charles Center’s QEP/Mellon grant.


The project team hiked a migrant trail near Arizona’s Lake Arivaca. Along the trail they found evidence of migrants’ night-time passages, including discarded clothes and water bottles.

The Tucson/Nogales region has become one of the most heavily trafficked and perilous crossing points between Mexico and the United States. The W&M group met with humanitarian organizations, customs/border and courtroom officials, and immigration attorneys to gain an understanding of the complexities of immigration issues as they play out on the border and beyond.

On the Mexican side of the border, students and faculty shared meals with migrants who had recently been deported from the United States, and they interviewed migrants preparing to make the treacherous journey across the desert. They learned about the militarization of the border and its human cost, and were guided along one of the desert trails frequented by migrants on their way to the United States. Several of the students posted their field notes to blogs:

This poster, distributed on both sides of the Nogales border by Mexico’s Commission of Human Rights, asks, “Has an authority mistreated you?”

On returning to Williamsburg, the students presented their findings at a community event titled “Crossing Borders in Our Communities: Latino/a Migration and Border Issues.” Included in the audience of about 100 were representatives from area social services, the Network for the Latino People, and various other organizations that work with the local Latino/a community.


Isabelle Cohen ’11 and Amanda Potter ’10 created a photo essay [pdf] about the project. Sewon Chung ’09 and and Katherine Schaller ’11 produced a two-part video documentary and posted it to YouTube.

The professors explore their experiences with this project in another related video.

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