Greetings from Natalia Brizuela, Class of 1930 Chair

August 17, 2021
Natalia Brizuela, Professor and Class of 1930 Chair, Center for Latin American Studies, August 2021.

The Center for Latin American Studies has a major role to play in our university and community given the historical planetary crossroads we find ourselves in. The accumulation of ecological catastrophes generated by decades, if not centuries, of accumulation-driven politics grounded on colonial histories and legacies of dispossession, genocide, and racism quite literally brought the planet to a sudden halt in early 2020, offering spatial and temporal possibilities for re-imagining a future different from the one where the planet was headed. The global rise in violence against Black, brown, Indigenous, Asian, female, queer and trans* people in recent years has intensified social movements and the ever-growing scale of these has begun to slowly effect some much-needed structural changes inside and outside universities.

Latin America and the Caribbean are bringing forward other ways of creating a planetary commons that is inclusive of all life forms, offering worldly configurations that are not only different but counterposed to neoliberal democracy. We witnessed some of these new forms of demanding and building other commons in mass mobilizations such as the ones seen in Argentina in 2016, Nicaragua in 2018, Chile and Puerto Rico in 2019 or Colombia in 2020 - to name but a few - which made evident the connection between capitalist extractives exploitation, debt, land dispossession and violence on gendered and racialized bodies. Indigenous practices of living-in-common, in reciprocal relationships with animate and inanimate liveliness, have in recent years gained a wider visibility in non-Indigenous spaces as vital proposals for inhabiting the planet otherwise.

Latin America and the Caribbean are crucial for our present contexts - not only is the region the site of emergence for the development of racial capitalism, holding histories that the world at large needs to continue to study, but it is also the site of epistemologies and social movements that have been fighting against predatory capitalism for centuries. Latin America and the Caribbean have a wealth of knowledge to offer the rest of the world as to how to make and live in ethical equilibrium in this planet, with all its beings. In these coming years, CLAS will foster these Latin American and Caribbean knowledges and practices, and in turn bring these epistemologies and social movements to bear on the scholarship produced at UC Berkeley

To ensure that CLAS continues to be an outward-looking institution, built on the desires of its constituents, it will be holding open forums, or asambleas at the beginning of each semester, inviting students and faculty to attend, to collectively build a form of horizontal, popular democratic governance and vision. It is our hope that these gatherings will facilitate students and faculty taking collective ownership of the Center for Latin American Studies.

Please check out the year-long series that CLAS will hold during 2021-2022!