Do we still need area studies in a globalized world? The parochialism often associated with traditional area studies seems antiquated in the face of our increasingly interconnected globe. Educated citizens today require cosmopolitan skills that equip them to engage in global conversations and set human problems in a broad comparative perspective. Still, despite exaggerated claims that we now live in a flat and homogeneous world, profound cultural, social and political differences persist and emerge anew across and within regions. Grasping these differences and their implications, in turn, requires the nuanced, place-based knowledge produced by area studies. Globalization thus creates a dual demand for knowledge that is broad and deep, alert to cross-regional patterns and commonalities yet also carefully attuned to contextual specificities.
To meet the challenge of fostering broad and deep knowledge, the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies is setting a new agenda of Globalized Area Studies at Brown University. We aim to promote teaching and research on Latin America and the Caribbean that (1) explicitly sets the area in comparative, multi-sited, and cross-regional perspective, (2) self-consciously engages with disciplinary knowledge and debates, thereby contributing both to disciplines and to Latin American and Caribbean area studies, and (3) centers on humanly important questions of pressing public and policy concern, from climate change, to urban violence, to poverty and inequality. Based at Brown's Watson Institute for International Studies, CLACS advances these goals by collaborating closely with faculty from the Institute, our sister area studies programs, and departments in the humanities, life, physical and social sciences.
As part of the Center's work in this direction, CLACS recently hosted a conference on "Federalism and Inequality in the Global South: Latin America in Comparative Perspective" later this semester. The event, which took place on May 22 and 23, was made possible by LASA/Mellon funding. In addition to the conference, organizers Richard Snyder and Lorena Moskovich (Universidad de Buenos Aires) will publish a volume drawing on a cross-country set of the papers presented at the conference and organized a panel at the 2013 LASA Congress in Washington, D.C.
Recent CLACS initiatives and events that highlight Globalized Area Studies in action include:
"Violent Cities: Challenges of Democracy, Development and Governance in the Urban Global South"
This international conference paired practitioners from Latin America, including former mayors of two of the region's most violent cities, Medellín, Colombia and Juarez City, Mexico, with their peers from other world regions, such as the former Commissioner of Police of Mumbai, India. By bringing together practitioners and scholars from Africa, Asia, the Middle East, Latin America and the Caribbean who face similar problems of urban violence, the conference sparked a novel cross-regional dialogue that provided a wealth of fresh insights about the causes and potential solutions to the problem of violent cities.
"Innovative Approaches to Poverty and Inequality Reduction in the Global South"
This event brought scholars and policymakers from across the Global South to Brown to engage in a cross-regional dialogue about best practice in anti-poverty policies. Participants included high-ranking government officials involved in the design and implementation of social policy in Brazil, India, Mexico and Turkey. The conference was co-sponsored by Brown's Graduate Program in Development (GPD), the Middle East Studies Program, the South Asia Program, the William R. Rhodes Center for International Economics and Finance, and the Watson Institute.