Mellon Seminar To Spark Latin American Studies

April 11, 2002

Arthur Nead
Phone: 865-5714

While Latin American studies have always been strong at Tulane, they will be cast in even higher relief next year as a seminar series funded by a Mellon Foundation grant hosts 24 prominent Latin American scholars at Tulane. Organizing the seminars are associate professor Anthony Pereira and assistant professor Brian Potter.

Both are in the political science department and are core faculty of the Latin American studies program. The year-long seminar series will spotlight recent major shifts in economic policy throughout Latin America. Potter and Pereira have a long-standing interest in this issue, and both have done considerable research on the topic.

"We agreed that, though there had been huge changes, there didn't seem to be a consensus in the literature about why the changes had occurred," says Pereira. "This is a significant issue because gauging what's going to happen to economic reform partly depends on what you think happened in the first place."

Each seminar will feature two speakers with contrasting views. They will be followed by a discussant who will critique what the speakers said and add his or her own expertise. Normally, the Latin American studies program features from four to six speakers per year.

"This is a quantum leap for us," says Pereira. "It's going to be very intense with 24 speakers," says Pereira. "We are going to have a lot of synthesizing, a lot of absorbing to do."

The first several seminars will focus on historical case studies of Mexico, Chile and Argentina. "Latin America, from the time of its independence (1800-1820) up until a little after World War II, was fairly open in terms of foreign economic policy," says Potter. "During the initial period, they were open to foreign investment and to trade. Then, after World War II, the countries turned inward. They decided to restrict trade, restrict certain types of foreign investment and encourage other types. Then in the late 1980s, the countries turned back again toward free trade and open financial flows."

A portion of the series will address why these latter changes took place, and the final sessions will track some consequences of these changes. "This is a major issue in Latin American studies," says Pereira. "Everybody, whether they're in public health or law or business, a trade union or NGOs (non-governmental organizations), has been affected by these economic reforms because of the drastic turn from a kind of economy with a lot of state-owned enterprises to be-ing much more market-oriented."

Pereira and Potter applied for Mellon Foundation funding because its requirements fit their vision perfectly. "The foundation wanted a sweeping historical issue," says Potter, "and they wanted outside speakers."

The Mellon grant goes beyond the seminar to funding several year-long fellowships. "In addition to bringing to the university a postdoctoral fellow and some graduate funding, I'm confident that the seminar will add to the level of teaching and scholarship here at Tulane," said Potter. Pereira and Potter are planning to publish the best of the seminar lectures as an edited volume, making the results of the seminar available to a broader audience.

Arthur Nead may be reached at

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