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WashU Hosts Mid-America Conference on Hispanic Literatures

On Oct. 26 - 28, WashU welcomed the Mid-America Conference on Hispanic Literatures. The MACHL conference is a joint undertaking of several Midwestern universities, and this year’s conference was hosted by WashU’s Department of Romance Languages and Literatures and focused on “New Cartographies in Iberian and Latin American Literatures.” As an event with great interdisciplinary appeal, the conference was co-sponsored by the Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Center for the Humanities, Latin American Studies, and International and Area Studies.

The organizing committee, comprised of Ignacio Infante, an associate professor of comparative literature and Spanish, Tabea Linhard, a professor of comparative literature and Spanish, and Gabriella Martin, a doctoral student in Hispanic languages and literatures, sought proposals for individual presentations on any aspect of the literatures and cultures of the Iberian Peninsula or Latin America, written in Spanish, English or Portuguese.

Infante says, “The conference had more than 250 participants from across the country and beyond, covering a wide range of topics of Iberian and Latin American literatures and cultures from different historical periods and included some of the most important scholars in the field today. Moreover, our colleagues and graduate students in the Spanish section of the Department of Romance Languages & Literatures participated in the conference, either as chairs/ moderators of panels, as well as giving their own research papers, and helping with the organization of the event. The success of the conference was the result of a great team effort of the entire Spanish section of the Department of Romances Languages & Literatures, and the different academic units in Arts & Sciences that generously sponsored the event.”

The keynote speakers included Bruno Bosteels of Columbia University, whose lecture titled “Was There Such a Thing as a Cartographic Turn?” introduced the program on Thursday. Friday’s program highlights included a plenary session on “Publishing in the Age of Crisis” sponsored by WashU’s award-winning academic journal Revista de Estudios Hispánicos, and the conference concluded with a keynote lecture by Susan Martin Márquez of Rutgers University on “Traveling Theories, Traveling Praxis: Latin American Nodes and the Cartography of Militant Film History.”

In gathering such an exemplary group of scholars, students had the opportunity to interact with a variety of accomplished academics. Martin says, “The MACHL conference drew a huge variety of scholars to St. Louis, which was particularly exciting for graduate students; it gave us the opportunity not only to forge meaningful connections with some of our favorite academics, who we had read in and admired from the classroom, but also to exchange ideas with grad students working on similar topics at other universities, and to engage with scholars whose work we hadn't before encountered.”

Given the significant turnout and the wide range of research methodologies and topics spanned in the conference, the event undoubtedly had a real impact on all who attended. Linhard spoke to the takeaway of the conference, saying, “For two and a half days, we discussed and defined new cartographies of Latin American and Iberian Literatures and Cultures. We did so from a Mid-America that fiercely refuses to be monolingual, a Mid-America that is home to students and scholars at all ranks, and working at very different institutions.”

“More than anything, the contributions of participants still in graduate school or just starting their careers showed us that even in these precarious times, our field of inquiry has great cultural and political relevance,” she concludes.

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