our words make worlds

Latina/o American Studies Initiative

In this blog post, Elisa Sampson Vera Tudela writes about the Latina/o American Cultural Studies Initiative. 

King’s College's Latina/o American Cultural Studies Initiative, organized by Laura Lomas (Rutgers University, NJ) and Elisa Sampson Vera Tudela (King’s College London) hosted a one day workshop inspired by the methodology of the Change Laboratory on the theme of Latin American and Latina/o Studies in the World: Discipline and Pedagogy on 21st May 2018 in the beautiful Council Room at King’s College London.

We were joined by participants internal and external to King’s (list of attendees below) and via video and audio testimonies by past and present KCL students and faculty.

The Change Lab is a participatory intervention method used to transform all kinds of organisations. We took a crafty approach to it, drawing inspiration from some of its methods in order to try to make sense of our current practices as educators and students, identify tensions and contradictions, and jointly think forward to designing our future practices.

Very broadly, we looked at the problems and possibilities involved in reading Latina/o and Latin American cultures from our various ‘insides’, ‘outsides’ and ‘in-betweens’. Imagining what we do to be cultural exchange, we wanted to consider in what senses our work is possible, and what its limits are. In future iterations of this discussion, we would like to involve more and other stakeholders (professional services staff, language teachers, secondary school teachers, school students etc.) in order to really bring the notion of institutional and disciplinary transformation to the fore.

During the day, we established that we could not ignore global cultural and political issues but that the local politics of the various institutions we work for, the politics of the theoretical and critical practices we use, and the politics of the teaching we do were central to our project. Our strong conviction was that we could articulate a positive agency in our teaching, research and in the public diffusion of our work.

The day opened up multiple possibilities for asking more questions; at its heart an understanding that our research and teaching practices should communicate an approach that allows dialogue with Latina/o and Latin American culture whilst preserving difference. We are there to acknowledge barriers, sometimes to build or defend them, but never to be stopped by them, since the word lives, as it were, on the boundary between its own context and another, alien, context’. (M. Bakhtin, The Dialogic Imagination: Four Essays. Translated by Caryl Emerson and Michael Holquist Austin: University of Texas Press, 1992, p.284).

Thanks to Carlos Montoro for introducing us to the Change Lab and supporting the organisation of the workshop and to Language Acts for hosting these pages.


Laura Lomas, Rutgers

Elisa Sampson Vera Tudela, KCL

Milagros Lopez-Pelaez Casellas, Coventry

Peter Hulme, Essex

Leila Gomez, UCB Boulder

Maria Blanco, Oxford

David Treece, KCL

Vinicius Carvalho, KCL

Jeff Garmany, KCL

William Luis, Vanderbilt

Karen Salt ,Nottingham

Luis Medina, KCL

Camila González Ortiz, KCL

Almiro Andrade, KCL

Ella Martin, KCL

Carlos Montoro, KCL