The Society for Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology is moving, for the first time, to a new Spring Conference format.  These meetings will be held every two years, beginning in Mérida, Mexico in 2013, following the city of Oaxaca, Mexico, in 2015.  We are calling for abstracts that respond to the theme selected for the conference. 

Conference theme:

Post-National Transformations: Culture and Politics in the Greater Latin America and the Caribbean.  In the second half of the twentieth century, politics, economics and culture lead societies into what theoreticians have called the post-national condition. On the one hand, nation-states had been forced to let go, or at least to understate, the unifying vision of a single ‘national’ culture, and to admit inter- and multi- cultural diversity; on the other hand, economic and political entities transcending the nation-state, such as the UN, NATO, NAFTA, the EU, the WB, the IMF, the OECD, and transnational corporations, impose internal rules and conditions to the everyday workings of people in nation-states.  The development of communication and media technologies that make it possible to have instant communication, and to move financial capital across great distances, has supported both the expression of difference and the enforcement of general trans- and supra- national policies.  Within this general context we have seen a resurgence of regional, national and minority identities (ethnic, cultural, religious, gendered, age-based and body-centered), and witnessed how in the end of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries governments struggle to re-draw state boundaries and gain control over the flows of goods, capitals and people.  This conference brings together anthropologists working in Latin America, the Caribbean, or with groups of Latin American and Caribbean origin anywhere, to look at the politics surrounding culture at this stage of our common post-national and postcolonial condition, and at the forms, strategies, tactics, and practices of negotiation, resistance, opposition and transformation that emerge under this global condition.


We invite SLACA members in all sub-disciplines of anthropology to propose sessions within this broad theme, reflecting the different sub-disciplinary understandings of related issues.

Go to conference website


SLACA 4th Spring Conference

Post-National Transformations:
Culture and Politics in the Greater Latin America
and the Caribbean

Mérida, Mexico

March 20 - 22, 2013

Society for Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology

Unruly Crowds and Black Feminism

The Society for Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology (SLACA) will sponsor two invited sessions for the 112th AAA Annual Meeting in Chicago, with its theme of “Future Publics, Current Engagements.” We received a stimulating number of proposals of remarkable quality. For the 2013 meeting, SLACA aimed at selecting panels that frame outstanding academic discussions, which can contribute to ongoing debates and cutting-edge research in the anthropology of the Latin American and Caribbean region.

The panel “Crowds and Citizenries in Latin America” (session #8122) examines the ambivalent oscillations between crowds and (liberal) citizenries in a range of national contexts, including Argentina, Cuba, El Salvador, Mexico, Paraguay, Peru and Venezuela. The papers analyze (neo)liberal discourses that define citizenship and the governance of masses in the urban space. The panel is organized by Rihan Yeh (El Colegio de Michoacán) and Rafael Sánchez (Amsterdam UC). Rosalind Morris (Columbia U) and William Mazzarella (U Chicago) will serve as discussants.

The session consists of eight papers. In his piece “Unruly Crowds and the Military: Mexico, 1913,” Claudio Lomnitz (Columbia U) debates on the military fantasy that shaped the Mexican public sphere during the counter-revolutionary regime of Victoriano Huerta. Sarah Muir (Columbia U) discusses in her paper “Citizen Networks: Solidarity and Class in Post-Crisis Buenos Aires” the voluntaristic relations of intimacy, spontaneity, and transparency among piqueteros, unemployed workers in Argentina. Alejandra Leal (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México) looks at parking meters as the materialization of urban modernity in an upper middle class neighborhood in her contribution “Parking meters, informal workers and anxieties about urban (dis)order in Mexico City.” The paper “El Zapatazo Limpio: Late liberal outrage in El Salvador” by Ellen Moodie (U Illinois at Urbana-Champaign) examines the rise of social movements in digital media and the dynamics of power among generations. Daniella Gandolfo (Wesleyan U) investigates in her piece “Crowds and Fire at Mesa Redonda in Lima” the neoliberal understanding of informality and social order in a Peruvian marketplace. The paper “Monuments and Crowds” by Rafael Sánchez (Amsterdam UC) explores the monumentalization of politics in the public space in Venezuela. Cross-border mobility, automotive traffic and modernity at the Mexico/US border are the topics of the Rihan Yeh’s (El Colegio de Michoacán) paper “Two Types of Traffic in Tijuana.” Joao Goncalves (U Chicago) analyzes the nationalistic rituals in Cuba’s urban space in his piece “Sovereignty and Carnival in Havana’s May Day.”

The other SLACA 2013 invited session will be “Engaging Black and Feminist Anthropolog(IES): Questions of Methods, Theory, and Practice Within and Outside the Discipline” (session #8348). It is organized by Riche Daniel Barnes (Smith C) and has Rachel J Watkins (American U) as discussant. This session commemorates the publication of the volume Black feminist, Black anthropology, feminist anthropology, and all three, Black feminist anthropology by Johnnetta B Cole (2001), and it seeks to explore the discourses, methodologies, epistemologies, and pedagogical practices within the discipline in relation to Black feminism. The participants further the discourse on feminist anthropology through ethnographies of Black women in the Caribbean and US. The case studies include Jamaica and the Dominican Republic.

The session consists of four papers. In “The Making of a Legacy: The Story Behind ‘Black Feminist Anthropology: Theory, Politics, Praxis, and Poetics,” Irma McClaurin (McClaurin Solutions), editor of the book Black Feminist Anthropology: Theory, Politics, Praxis, and Poetics, will talk on the conceptualization of the publication, the challenges it faced, and the response to it. Corliss D Heath (U South Florida) presents the paper “The Contributions of Black Feminist Anthropology in HIV Research,” arguing that the HIV risk for Black women is shaped by the social and cultural context of their lived experiences. In her piece “Global Black Feminism and Red De Mujeres: An Afro-Latin American and Caribbean Women’s Network and Agenda,” Kimberly Simmons (U South Carolina) explores the organization of a network representing several Black women’s groups in Latin America, the Caribbean, and the United States. Bianca Williams (U Colorado, Boulder) debates on what it means for Black feminists to make anthropology and conduct fieldwork in her presentation “‘I Am Telling You, You’re Gonna Love Me!’: Black Feminist Anthropologists Still Braving The Field.”

For detailed information about the day and time of the SLACA invited sessions, please check the meeting’s final program on the AAA website.

SLACA also wants to encourage its membership to keep on presenting proposals for invited sessions for the 2014 meeting, and particularly to look for possibilities for co-sponsorship together with other AAA sections. We encourage members who are interested in sending a proposal to make contact with the program editors at an early stage. Co-sponsorship is a great way to ensure that members from different sections are able to meet and discuss their mutual research areas.

SLACA wishes everyone a productive and exciting meeting in Chicago!

José Carlos G. Aguiar

SLACA Program Editor

Helen I. Safa passed away November 4, 2013 just one month shy of her 83rd birthday. Safa was a congenial colleague, excellent mentor to other faculty, students, and staff and a consummate organizer and leader. Born and raised in New York, she had retired a mere 16 years prior to her passing, from University of Florida’s Department of Anthropology. She also was retired as a member of the Latin American Studies Center, where from 1980-85 she served as Director. Helen continued to do the things she loved, mentor, advise and attend Latin American Studies Association and American Anthropological Association meetings. But, most of all, she took tremendous delight to travel to places that were dear and very meaning to her: Puerto Rico, Spain, Cuba and Germany and different locales in the United States where she visited friends, colleagues, and family.


As valedictorian of her high school class, Safa applied to two universities and chose Cornell so that she could live away from home. At Cornell, Safa earned a BA (1952) in Political Science and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. Following graduation, she returned to New York City and landed a job as a research assistant for the Puerto Rico Study sponsored by the New York City Board of Education. This position was the genesis of what would become her renowned relationship with the peoples of Puerto Rico, both in New York and on the island. For the next couple of years, Safa worked for the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. It was during these projects related to Operation Bootstrap that she developed her interest in anthropology. When she decided to pursue graduate work in anthropology, however, there was no program at University of Puerto Rico. UPR sent its graduate students abroad, so Helen Safa became an honorary Puerto Rican and part of her tuition at Columbia University then was paid, by the Commonwealth.


At Columbia, she worked with primarily with Conrad Arensberg and Charles Wagley, and was also a student of Margaret Mead who was supportive of Safa’s studies. According to an interview published by Kevin Yelvington in Caribbean Studies (2010,13), some of Safa’s friends from Columbia were Zandy Moore, Sydel Silverman, and Gloria Levitas. Safa earned her MA in 1958 and the Ph.D in 1962 based on work in Puerto Rico with the Urban Renewal and Housing Administration.


Helen Safa’s first academic job was at Syracuse University where she was the first urban anthropologist on faculty. In 1967, she joined the faculty of Urban Planning at what was then an experimental program at Livingston College at Rutgers University. Between1967 to 1972, she was an Associate Professor of Anthropology and Urban Planning. She was also Director of the Latin American Institute at Rutgers. In 1974, Helen Safa moved her faculty line from Urban Planning fully into Anthropology, was promoted to full professor, and became the department Graduate Director (1974-76). Also with that move, Helen Safa became the New Brunswick Chair: she was chair of the anthropology department at Livingston and for all those throughout the Rutgers University system.


During her days at Rutgers, her book The Urban Poor of Puerto Rico (1974) was published. Considered a pioneering classic urban ethnography, The Urban Poor debunked the myth of “the culture of poverty” on both empirical and conceptual grounds (Duany 2010, 41). At the core of this work was her emphasis on how social inequality is fostered and maintained by institutions rather than by individuals. With that book, Safa, according to Jorge Duany, became the most prominent ethnographer of contemporary Puerto Rico.


When Helen Safa joined the faculty at University Florida, her work in progress would become The Myth of the Male Breadwinner (1995). That comparative study was based on research in Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Dominican Republic. The book argues that, contrary to popular and common academic stereotypes at the time, women’s work outside of the home has impact on family life and marital relations as well as on household economies. The importance of women’s work in the international division of labor scale fostered by foreign investment in those local economies was partly influenced by this book. This work followed Safa’s co-edited publications with both June Nash and Eleanor Leacock. Helen Safa’s publications are extensive and continue in classroom use.


Helen Safa was President of the Latin American Studies Association and guided that organization from a male centered one to a more inclusive professional group. She and the late Elsa Chaney founded the Gender and Feminist Studies Section that helped in that institutional transformation.


In 1996, the Puerto Rican Association of Anthropology and American Ethnographical Society presented Helen Safa with honors as a pioneer of Puerto Rican anthropology. During the 1996 AES meetings, there was a panel honoring Helen Safa. The proceedings were published in the 2010, Vol. 38, No. 1 issue Caribbean Studies edited by A. Lynn Bolles and Kevin Yelvington. Other honors Helen Safa received include, most fittingly, the 2003 Conrad Arensberg Award from the Society for the Anthropology of Work and the University of Florida’s Center for Women’s Studies and Gender Research 2006 “Uppity Woman Award.”


Perhaps most telling of the tremendous impact Helen Safa’s career as a scholar, mentor, organizer, leader, networker, colleague and friend was being presented the 2007 Kaman Silvert award of the Latin American Studies Association. Bestowed to Helen Icken Safa at its international Congress in Montreal, the Silvert is truly a distinguished lifetime achievement award that was well deserved.


Helen Safa is preceded by Manu Safa and is survived by her husband John Dumoulin, her children, and grandchildren. She is remembered with admiration and fondness by hosts of colleagues, friends and former students.


A. Lynn Bolles, November 11, 2013

In Celebration of Helen Icken Safa