The Latina/o Studies Association Holds its Biennial Conference at Notre Dame, Looks Toward the Future

Lsa 2022 University Leadership Panel 2

After two years of delay, the Institute for Latino Studies at the University of Notre Dame hosted a gathering this past summer for one of the most important academic organizations in ethnic studies.

Hundreds of scholars and artists flocked to the Duncan Student Center over the course of four days in July to attend the Latina/o Studies Association's biennial conference, held for the first time at Notre Dame.

More than a hundred panels were offered, including plenary talks, film presentations, literary readings, roundtables, workshops, and paper presentations.

Originally, the LSA conference was to take place during the summer of 2020. But the pandemic erupted in spring of that year, so it was pushed back. 

In the interim, scholarly and personal discussions around policing, particularly in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death, led LSA’s leadership to change the theme of the conference to “Centering Blackness, Challenging Latinidad.” Poet and professor Mayra Santos Febres and artist Juana Valdés were among a revamped lineup of speakers.

Mayra Santos Febre
Mayra Santos Febres gives a keynote address

The topics covered at the 2022 gathering spanned the gamut: curriculum studies; migrant farm work; anti-black bias; US Colombian studies, Afro-latinidad; Central American politics; mestizaje and brownness; brujería and spirituality; eroticism and coloniality; digital humanities: Puerto Rican Chicago; Latinx Los Angeles; self-care; drag and trans performance; social activism and many more. The overall focus on blackness and Latinidad was included in most panels.

To keep members engaged between the original date and the resechduled conference, the Latina/o Studies Association’s executive council held a series of three, timely webinars that drew hundreds of scholars and activists together. The executive council — composed of four faculty from different universities from across the U.S. — also launched a new website for the organization. 

At Notre Dame, the Institute for Latino Studies was intimately involved in the event’s planning. Paloma Garcia-Lopez, associate director of ILS, was one of two chairs on the Notre Dame site committee. The other was ILS faculty fellow Marisel Moreno, the Rev. John A. O’Brian Associate Professor in the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures.  

M Moreno Dean Mustillo L Fraga Lsa Day 1
From left to right: Marisel Moreno, Dean of Arts and Letters Sarah Mustillo, and ILS Director Luis Fraga

Behind the line of vendors on Duncan's eight floor LSA "plaza" were contiguous windows overlooking the inside of the football stadium. Against this backdrop, conference attendees perused the latest offerings in Latino Studies and related subjects. In the north and south corners of the concourse, a variety of events relevant to life in academia took place — roundtables, workshops, readings. 

A lounge area with armchairs offered participants a more informal space to chat, with coffee, tea, and small snack items at hand. The spatial arrangement of vendors and workshops was christened “la plaza” by organizers — an attempt to build community formally and informally.

La Plaza 2022 In Full Swing
La plaza in full swing

A variety of academic presses were present at the conference. Several community groups and artists, both local and form out of state, attended, too. In total, more than two dozen exhibitors participated.

Lunch and dinner were held in the Danke Ballroom on Duncan’s seventh floor. A nighttime reception featured the band Dos Santos, a quintet spearheaded by vocalist Prof. Alex Chávez of Anthropology. 

The weather was agreeable on all four days, providing the upper floors of Duncan plenty of natural light. Duncan’s first two floors and various classrooms in DeBartolo Hall hosted most of the panels in the program. The conference came off without a hitch.

Yelaine Rodriguez Presenting Tatiana Reinoza
Scholar Yelaine Rodriguez presents in DeBartolo Hall. Credit: Tatiana Reinoza

The Latina/o Studies Association is relatively new. It was founded in Chicago in 2014 by a group of faculty members from across the country. They felt there was a need to create an academic organization focused on the experiences of Latinos in the U.S. 

Previously, scholars in the field had attended the Latin American Studies Association’s conferences and pursued Latina/o studies as a specialty within that circuit. Or, they worked in nationality- or diaspora-specific disciplines, such as Chicano/a Studies or Puerto Rican Studies, or even American Studies. 

Once a critical mass of Latinx scholars arrived on the scene in the 2010s, they found it made more sense to create an autonomous space dedicated to studying this emergent panethnic group.

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The band "Dos Santos," featuring Prof. Alex Chávez of Anthropology, performs at LSA 2022

At that first, three-day meeting in Chicago, attended by hundreds of people, the leadership decided the conference should be a biennial gathering. The second took place in Pasadena, California, and the third in Washington, D.C. The fourth conference was the Notre Dame conference.

Members of LSA are currently voting on a new executive council, with the results to be announced later in February. Francis Aparicio, a professor emerita of Spanish and Portuguese and director of the Latina and Latino Studies Program at Northwestern University, is running uncontested to be president. She is to replace current president Rafael Perez-Torres, a professor of Languages in English at UCLA, who took over in 2019 as part of the third executive council. 

Aparicio is a seminal figure in Latino Studies, having worked to establish the Latino Studies Association back in 2014, as well as co-founding the Latino Studies journal in 2003. 

There are three candidates for the position of vice president: Jorge E. Cuéllar, assistant professor in the Department of Latin American, Latino and Caribbean Studies at Dartmouth College; Belinda Linn Rincón, an associate professor of Latin American and Latinx Studies and English at John Jay College; and Maria Josefina Saldaña-Portillo, a professor of Social and Cultural Analysis at New York University.

Lsa Attendees
Attendees at LSA 2022

The position of secretary is also being contested by three people: Monika Gosin, associate professor of Sociology at the College of William and Mary; Renee L. Hudson, assistant professor of English at Chapman University; Marci R. McMahon, professor of Literatures and Cultural Studies at the University of Texas in the Rio Grande Valley.

Julie Avril Minich, an associate professor in English at the University of Texas at Austin, is running uncontested to become treasurer.

The next conference will be held in 2024.


Originally published by Oliver Ortega at on February 06, 2023.