- Ph.D., Yale University, 2004
- M.A., Yale University, 2003
- M.A., University of Tubingen, 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 such as anthropology, looking at the ways in which ideas about culture and race have evolved over time. My interest in media and sound studies has also led me to 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 “dissident” surrealists 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. Latin American Anthropology and Literature between the Wars (2016) tells the story of the interconnected scientific and literary networks that established Latin American anthropology as a key discipline in the Americas from the 1920s onward. My book reconstructs two decades of scientific and literary collaborations in the service of anti-racist theories of Latin American culture. Yet even there, I argue, the persistence of biological notions of race and mestizaje has haunted Latin Americanists until today. Still, this Americanist network of the interwar years was transnational and driven by deep, both intellectual and political concerns, as my study of 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—and their networks of scholars in France, Spain, and the United States shows.
Recent publications of mine have focused on the one hand on German cultural philosopher Oswald Spengler’s longstanding interest in Latin America as well his outsized impact on Latin American intellectuals (see my editions, in German and in Spanish, of Spengler’s posthumous drama Moctezuma). As director of the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies here at Indiana University (2015-2019), I have learned immensely from working with my Latin Americanist colleagues at IU and further. One important outcome of such interdisciplinary collaborations was the volume, edited by me, of Caribbean Migrations. The Legacies of Colonialism (2020). 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, television, and podcasts.
“Televising the Revolution: Cuba in Film and Fiction.” Conversation with Douglas Storm, Interchange Producer. WFHB. February 28, 2017, 5:30-6:30 pm.