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Celebrating 50 Years of Latin American Studies

Since 1963, faculty, student, and staff have dedicated themselves to developing, maintaining, and adapting Latin American Studies to the changing academic, political, and economic times. Click here to view see slide show recounting CLACS' history.

Come learn, share, and contribute to this history by participating in CLACS events, taking part in our various interdisciplinary programs,and take classes in Haitian Creole, Quechua, and Yucatec Maya.


CLACS History

This brief history of CLACS represents only a few of the key individuals who have worked with and advocated for CLACS over our 50-year history. From outreach volunteers and interim directors to graduate assistants and allies in other departments and institutions, CLACS would like to express its debt to all of them. To see a full history in slide form, please see above. For a list of references, please click here.

1963-1968

The Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies, formerly the Latin American Studies Program (LASP), was founded in 1963 by the Latin American Studies Committee. Although Indiana University previously offered classes about Latin America, the committee’s chairman, History Professor Robert E. Quirk criticized the courses as “offer[ing] the student in the Latin American area, not realism, but a candy-cotton view of the world’s problems as though Fidel Castro, the Argentine and Peruvian militarists, and the political leaders of Brazil were in some fanciful fairyland,” instead proposing a “program anchored in the departments of History, Government, and Economics, and in the School of Business.”

Quirk served as LASP’s first director from 1963 to 1965, successfully applying for $800,000 from the Ford Foundation and hiring Emma Simonson as IU’s first Latin American bibliographer and librarian. He left the directorship to fellow historian James R. Scobie in 1965 to become the Chief Editor of the Hispanic American Historical Review. From 1963-1967, LASP worked closely with the Latin American Music Center (founded in 1961), instated and then discontinued a PhD program because it “could not be defended in academic terms” (September 1964-December 1965), and received its first federal funding through the National Defense Foreign Language Fellowship program (now Foreign Language Area Studies, or FLAS). In 1965, the program also proposed expanding to include an Institute in Latin American Ethnomusicology and a Latin American Arts Institute with the support of the IU Foundation.

1968-1977

Paul Doughty, then Assistant Professor of Anthropology, took over LASP from 1968 to 1971. Doughty reapplied for funding through the Ford Foundation and received a $5 million dollar grant to further develop Latin American Studies at Indiana University. History Professor John Lombardi replaced Doughty as director, serving from 1971-1976. As the program developed over this period, both Doughty and Lombardi focused on incentivizing faculty and students to stay at Indiana University by developing the program’s academic and library resources, and directly participating in the founding of the Latin American Studies Association. In a recent interview, Professor Lombardi stated, “Among the most important services the Latin American Studies program provided was support for and engagement with the Library. The role of Emma Simonson, Latin American bibliographer and Librarian was essential in developing a superb collection as well as assisting faculty and students with their projects.” Simonson regularly travelled to gather rare acquisitions related to Latin America, even travelling to the Soviet Union in the early 1970s to “study their research collections on Latin America” after mastering Russian. Emma Simonson retired during the 1975-6 academic year and was replaced in 1977 by Glenn Read.

1978-1991

LASP faced its first crisis in 1977 when no director was named after Lombardi’s term ended. Now funded principally by National Defense Education Act (NDEA) fellowships, former director Robert E. Quirk served as interim director until 1978. Anya Peterson Royce, currently Chancellors’ Professor in Anthropology and Comparative Literature, took over the directorship in 1979. During her directorship, Peterson Royce successfully solidified LASP’s presence, pedagogy, and structure within a university administration that questioned the “viability and contribution of the Latin American Studies Program as a separate entity.” She successfully expanded LASP’s language course offerings to include Haitian Creole, previously taught by Albert Valdman in the French department. CLASP also offered FLAS funding for studying Zapotec, Quechua, and Nahuatl.

The program was further expanded by Jack Hopkins, director from 1983-1985, and Dennis Conway, director from 1985-1988. Hopkins, a Professor at the School for Public and Environmental Affairs, oversaw the creation of the Caribbean Basin Initiative in 1983 and its integration into LASP in the 1984-5 academic year. It was during this integration that the name of the program was changed from the Latin American Studies Program to the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies (CLACS). Additionally, Hopkins facilitated the relocation from 311 Lindley Hall to 313 N. Jordan Avenue. The integration of Caribbean scholarship into LASP/CLACS was a result of Professor Conway’s drive to integrate his research on the British Caribbean into the center’s academic profile along with other affiliated faculty. During this period, CLACS secured funding from the College of Arts and Sciences for academic research and graduate assistantships.

Spanish Professor Russell Salmon took over CLACS’ directorship from 1988-1994, focusing his efforts on addressing the library budgetary crisis. Starting in the 1988-1989 academic year, the decline of the “once-strong Latin American collection [had…] reached the point where the holdings [were] unable to meet our research and teaching needs.” Despite increasing course enrollment and faculty critical mass and significant accomplishments, CLACS’ library budget had been decreased from 2.23% of the library’s total budget to 0.91%. In order to save the collection, some of the CLACS’ holdings were transferred to other funding sources. However, this did not save one-third of the newspaper, magazine, and academic journal subscriptions from being cancelled in 1991.

1995-2007

Jeffrey Gould, Rudy Professor of History, then served as director of CLACS from 1995 to 2007. During his tenure, Gould reinvigorated CLACS by strategically using outside grants to expand CLACS’ programming and course offerings, culminating in the first successful solo Title VI grant application in 2006. Gould largely attributed this success to the formalization of less commonly taught language course offerings into CLACS – creating the Minority Languages and Cultures Project and integrating direct outreach to Central American K-12 institutions into CLACS initiatives in 2002. The Brazilian Studies Project was added to CLACS’ official programming with the 2006 Title VI grant application. Another reason for his success as director was investing in connecting affiliated faculty and student research interests in order to create an academic and social community outside of official events. Another important event during his directorship was the move from 313 N. Jordan to our current location, 1125 East Atwater after 313 N. Jordan was razed to build the Neal-Marshall Black Culture Center.

Latin American Librarian Glenn Read retired in 1998 after 22 years on the job. He was replaced by Julie Nilson, who held the position form 1999-2002. Luis González, current Latin American Librarian, started the position in 2003

2008-2014

After 13 years as Director, Gould passed the directorship to Bradley Levinson, Professor of Education, who served from 2007-2011. Levinson added the Sustainable Development Initiative to CLACS’ programmatic strategies, invested in capital improvements to 1125 East Atwater, created the Academic Secretary position, and restructured L501 to introduce MA and PhD Minors to Latin American Studies research and resources at IU. Finally, under his administration, he successfully reapplied for Title VI funding for 2010-2014.

CLACS’ current director, Shane Greene, Associate Professor of Anthropology, started his tenure in 2011. He has further increased the interdisciplinary presence of CLACS by emphasizing working across academic departments and programs. He also empowered CLACS graduate assistants to start the Graduate Student Conference in 2011. The conference reaches across disciplines and allows MA and PhD candidates from various institutions to present their research. He is currently leading the integration of CLACS into of the School of Global and International Studies.

Other Administrators

Needless to say, all of CLACS’ work has been supported by the energy and insights of administrative staff. Before Melissa Britton, currently the Associate Director, the position was filled by Matthew Van Hoose, Andrea Siquiera, Eduardo Brondizio, and Diana Pritchard. Katherine Hopkins, Judy Lucas, Carol Glaze, and Ricardo Valdez have all served as Administrative Secretary at various points over the years. Michael Dauro is currently in the position. William (Bill) Tilghman, Sarah Bosk, and Katie Novak have worked as Academic Secretary. Lisa Scott is the only individual to have served as Administrative Assistant.