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Grad Students Shine on the International Humanities Stage

June 7, 2018

UC Merced Interdisciplinary Humanities doctoral students made a splash in Spain this summer, presenting papers at the XXXV International Congress of the Latin American Studies Association (LASA) in Barcelona.

“They gave orderly, brilliant presentations that covered everything from the pre-classical pre-Hispanic Mesoamerica to the contemporary ecological crisis — all substantive presentations, all saying new and important things,” faculty advisor Professor Arturo Arias said. “Members of the audience said the students were better than the star panel on decolonial issues.”

Students Miriam Campos, Manuel Dueñas, Maria Arias-Zelidón and Ekta Kandhway presented on different aspects of Latin American indigenous cultures with the theme “Resistance and Continuity of Indigenous Knowledges in a Globalized World.”

“We were able to create a rich discussion on indigenous cultures and knowledges from varied disciplines such as archeology, material culture and literature, and from different regions of Latin America such as the Andes, Mesoamerica and Brazil,” said Kandhway, a first-year graduate student.

Kandhway, who hails from Jharkhand, a state in eastern India, presented a paper highlighting the centrality of nature in Andean culture through a collection of Quechua folktales. The paper argues that even though indigenous cultures and their knowledge have been undervalued in the modern Western world, they provide an important basis for understanding alternative worldviews.

Arias said opportunities like the LASA conference are important for graduate students to network and get feedback from other scholars.

“LASA is an important platform for the interchange of ideas and concepts,” Kandhway said. “Apart from my presentation, I also attended various sessions related to my field, and they further enriched my understanding of the subject.”

Like many of the student attendees, Kandhway took some time to explore Spain, but then headed back to India for the summer to continue working on her research into the representation of nature in the tribal communities of India and indigenous communities of Latin America.

Arias and his students are with the School of Social Sciences, Humanities and Arts , and Arias holds one of two John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur chairs at UC Merced.