- Ph.D., Yale University, 2004
- M.A., Yale University, 2003
- M.A., University of Tbingen, Germany, 1998
Professor, Spanish and Portuguese
Professor, Spanish and Portuguese
I am a scholar of modern Caribbean and Latin American literature and culture, and in studying these areas I have two major foci. I study literature in relation to other discourses about culture such as anthropology, looking at the ways in which ideas about cultural difference and blending have evolved over time. I also explore the ways in which the novel has entered in competition with other communication media, especially in the digital age.
My book on Alejo Carpentier, Alejo Carpentier y la cultura del surrealismo en América Latina (2006) presented an analysis of the little known early years of Cuban writer Alejo Carpentier, when he engaged with what I call the dissident avant-garde in Paris in the 1930s (Robert Desnos, the Collège de Sociologie, Antonin Artaud), and worked for the radio and advertising industry. I argue that Carpentiers cycle of American novels, written after his return to Latin America, was profoundly influenced both by the experience he gained as a sound engineer and by the creative potential of surrealism, despite his famous later denial of the movement.
My second monograph, The Specter of Races (2016) tells the story of the interconnected scientific and literary networks that helped establish Latin American anthropology as a key discipline in the Americas for defining common notions of culture and race between the two world wars. My book is a work of intellectual and scientific history that aims to reconstruct a specific historical moment and its importance to our contemporary understanding of Latin America; yet it also reflects on the contradictions of those same theories of culture that have haunted Latin Americanists through today, such as the persistence of concepts of biological race and mestizaje. Focusing on four key figures Cuban intellectual Fernando Ortiz, Haitian scholar and novelist Jacques Roumain, French anthropologist and museum director Paul Rivet, and Brazilian scholar Gilberto Freyre--I trace the transnational networks of scholars in France, Spain, and the United States to which they were connected. My next project is called, The Latin American Novel in the Digital Age, and it will allow me to explore further the ways in which Latin American writers of the 20th and 21st century have engaged with electronic media of mass communication, such as the telephone, the radio, and the internet.
Throughout my research and in my teaching, such as in classes on Violence and Literature in Latin America, Caribbean Avant-Gardes, and Returns to Realism in Latin America. I have emphasized the importance of local knowledge, and yet the impossibility of separating out national or even regional currents of thought from the rest of the world. Finally, as director of the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies here at Indiana University (since 2015), I have profited immensely from working with Latin Americanist scholars in other fields and am a firm believer in the vibrancy of Latin American studies and their absolute relevance today for anyone studying contemporary issues such as populism, migration, the environment, and much more.
“Televising the Revolution: Cuba in Film and Fiction.” Conversation with Douglas Storm, Interchange Producer. WFHB. February 28, 2017, 5:30-6:30 pm.