Michael Baptista Lecture explores inequality in Latin America and the Caribbean


York University’s Centre for Research on Latin America and the Caribbean (CERLAC) will present the Michael Baptista Lecture Series 2021-22 on March 24 at 6 p.m. The lecture will be presented in a virtual format and will consider the theme “Uprooted: Race, Land and Dispossession in Latin America and the Caribbean.”

Inequality in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) cannot be addressed without questioning existing land distribution schemes and their relationship with the rights of the most excluded population groups in the region – Indigenous and Afro-descendant communities. For two centuries, this issue has caused more wars, population displacements, social conflicts, hunger and inequality than any other. This conversation highlights the importance of addressing the challenge of deep-seated inequalities through land redistribution and the resurgence of social movements in response to the intensification of violence and the undermining of democracy in the region.

Panellists participating in this event are Stephen Perz, University of Florida, Lottie Cunningham Wren, CEJUDHCAN, and Yaroslava Avila Montenegro, York University. The panel will be moderated by Tameka Samuels-Jones and Miguel Gonzalez, York University. The discussant will be Kimberly Palmer, York University.

Register in advance for this webinar by visiting: https://yorku.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_tSv0-c4rQom9pc6s1Rf-wg. All registrants will be sent a personal link for the webinar.

More about the panellists:

Stephen Perz received his PhD in sociology with a specialization in demography from the University of Texas at Austin in 1997. He is an affiliate of UF’s Center for Latin American Studies and UF’s School of Natural Resources and Environment. He has conducted research in the Amazon on migration into frontier regions, socio-economic drivers of land use and land cover change, socio-spatial processes of road building, the social-ecological impacts of infrastructure, and the political ecology of environmental governance. He has received more than $17 million in funding from NASA, NSF, USAID, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and other sources, for research as well as applied conservation and development work. He focuses primarily on the southwestern Amazon, specifically the tri-national frontier where Bolivia, Brazil and Peru meet. His work features collaboration across disciplinary, national and organizational boundaries. He has more than 100 peer-reviewed publications in scholarly journals and books. In 2016, he published his book on the challenges and strategic practices of spanning boundaries in research and environmental management, Crossing Boundaries for Collaboration: Conservation and Development Projects in the Amazon. In 2019, he edited an international volume on the topic, Collaboration Across Boundaries for Social-Ecological Systems Science: Experiences Around the World. In addition to serving as a member of nearly 40 graduate committees, he has chaired over 30 PhD dissertation and master’s thesis students in the Department of Sociology and Criminology & Law, the Center for Latin American Studies, and the School of Natural Resources and Environment. In 2014, he was named a UF Foundation Preeminence Term Professor. In 2015, he was selected as the UF International Educator of the Year for Senior Faculty. From 2016-19, he was named a UF Term Professor. He won a CLAS Teacher of the Year Award in 2018-19.

Lottie Cunningham Wren is a lawyer from the Miskito indigenous group in Nicaragua, defending the rights of Indigenous and Afro-descendant peoples to their land and resources. She has been instrumental in ensuring legal protections, including initiating the process of demarcation and titling of indigenous lands. Cunningham has fought to uphold the human rights of Indigenous Peoples and Afro-descendants, protecting them and their livelihoods from armed settlers. Through the use of international and domestic law, Cunningham has secured Indigenous land rights in Nicaragua, pioneering legal strategies that have been successfully used by Indigenous communities around the world to demarcate their lands. Cunningham has also shown that the protection of Indigenous land is instrumental to the protection of local ecosystems. A fierce advocate for her people, Cunningham has also advanced the rights of Indigenous women, including establishing programs to reduce domestic violence and pushing to create space for them in decision-making bodies. She also works to educate youth on how to formally demand respect for their human rights and report violations. Despite threats and intimidation, Cunningham remains unwavering in her commitment to empower and protect indigenous communities from external forces engaged in the exploitation of their lands.

Yaroslava Avila Montenegro is a Mapuche Indigenous doctoral researcher in the Department of Political Science at York University and a member of the Toronto-based Women’s Coordinating Committee for a Free Wallmapu. Her research focuses on state securitization and criminalization of social and Indigenous liberation movements in Turtle Island and Abya Yala, currently exploring the involvement of hemispheric security organizations under the U.S.-led Operation Condor. She has also explored the development of the Chilean Anti-terrorist law against Mapuche Land Defenders throughout democratic transition. Other areas of research include exploring Indigenous thought in connection with radical social and political thought (Marxism, post-colonialism, etc.), and exploration into the intersection between state securitization and far right politics. She is the daughter of refugees, a lifelong activist for political prisoner and Indigenous rights in Wallmapu, Chile, as well as across Abya Yala and Turtle Island.

More about the moderators:

Tameka Samuels-Jones is an assistant professor at York University and a CERLAC Fellow with research interests in legal pluralism and environmental regulatory law in the Caribbean. Her current work focuses on the socio-legal implications of land dispossession among Jamaica’s Maroons. Samuels-Jones has received numerous awards for her work in this area including the American Society of Criminology’s Ruth D. Peterson Fellowship for Equity and Diversity. She currently teaches Justice, Governance and Accountability in the Global South and Corporate Social Responsibility.

Miguel Gonzalez is an adjunct faculty in the International Development Studies program at York University. In recent years Gonzalez has taught both in the undergraduate and graduate programs in international development at York. His current research relates to two broad themes and projects: FIndigenous self-governance and territorial autonomous regimes in Latin America; and, the governance of small-scale fisheries (SSF) in the global south, with a particular geographical concentration in the Nicaraguan Caribbean Coast.

Sebastian Oreamuno (land acknowledgement) is a Chilean-born, Toronto-based artist and academic and a PhD candidate in the Dance Studies program at York University. Oreamuno’s doctoral research explores the relationship between memory, place-making and cueca (the Chilean national dance). Other interests include the participatory body, popular culture, men and pointe and multi-media artistic practices.

More about the discussant:

Kimberly Palmer was born and raised in St. Vincent and the Grenadines in the West Indies. She recently graduated with a PhD in environmental studies from York University. Her doctoral research was built upon her involvement with Garifuna grassroots in her home country. Her dissertation was a critical ethnography of two contemporary Garifuna organizations struggling against dispossession and displacement in Honduras. Palmer has published articles on Garifuna social movements and struggles across the circum-Caribbean in Caribbean InTransit, Caribbean Quarterly, and Nómadas. She received the Michael Baptista Essay Prize in December 2019 from the Center for Research on Latin American and the Caribbean (CERLAC) at York for a chapter of her dissertation centered on Garifuna land recuperations in the Bay of Trujillo Honduras.