Skip to main content
Loading Events

« All Events

  • This event has passed.

LatinX Studies Approaches to Flourishing Cultures in a Pandemic: Spring 2021 Graduate Symposium

April 6, 2021 @ 4:00 pm - 6:00 pm

**REGISTRATION IS REQUIRED TO ATTEND. To register, fill out the form at the bottom of this page**

The UNC Latina/o Studies Program 3rd Graduate Symposium

Tues. April 6, 2021, 4 – 6 PM

UNC Chapel Hill, NC

“LatinX Studies Approaches to Flourishing Cultures in a Pandemic”

 “Digging today: A Pedagogical Approach to Digital Ethnography and Latina/o Poetry Culture”

Nikki Roulo


“I dig because today my shovel / struck a clay bowl centuries old, /the art of ancient fingers/ moist with this same earth, /perfect but for one crack in the lip,” Martin Espada wrote, juxtaposing a current culture with a historical artistic antecedent that–while not perfect within time–nonetheless lends a purpose to the current form and voice. An anthropological study of causation, Espada’s verse underscores the layers of tradition. Teaching students to untangle these layered artistic representations and tease out their cultural importance takes time and often teaching the students to immerse themselves within the culture itself as researchers. Yet ethnographic approaches, pre-Covid, offered its own challenges: How do we teach students to emerge themselves in Latino/a culture without becoming voyeurs? How should we demonstrate avoiding cultural generalizations? At what point does recording become mimicry? During the Covid pandemic, teaching students to use ethnographic approaches to Latina/o culture seems tantamount to impossible. Yet I argue in this presentation that the digital interactions actually ease some of these issues, especially when working with an oral driven poetry culture, when using ethnography as a lens to study Latina/o culture. The opportunities to join live readings, the digital material settings of interviewing and the need to protect sources force students to recognize the moral dilemmas, discretion and tact of ethnographers. Building upon discussions of digital pedagogy, my presentation asks how might a digital platform call attention to the disparities and offer students more opportunities to engage with Latina/o poetry communities?


I’m a Ph.D. Candidate in the Department of English and Comparative Literature at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. My research focuses primarily upon early modern literature and in particular, the intersections of poetics and performance, the fool figure, ballads and politics. My dissertation, “Changeling Humorists: The Speech Acts of the Early Modern English Fool,” traces the intellectual history of the fool figure through the seventeenth century. It explores how the fool democratizes an access to public voice and transfers a form of sovereignty to its audience.

“Dancing Cumbia in the Time of COVID: New Approaches to Collaborative Ethnography”

Daniel Reyes


I will share excerpts from my thesis research and podcast that builds upon my collaborative ethnography work with the Durham-based dance group, Takiri Folcloric Latino. This timely research studies how the current pandemic has disproportionately impacted the North Carolina Triangle Latinx community. Through this research and my interest in documentary storytelling and public folklore, I will produce a series of podcasts that is educational, engaging, and

accessible to both academia and the public. The themes in the series are framed around identity, community formation, and performance expression, and the impact of COVID.

With the closing of many small businesses and public gatherings last March, Takiri canceled all dance rehearsals. To maintain community and emotional support during the challenging times Takiri’s director, Pilar Rocha-Goldberg, began hosting rehearsals via Zoom. The member’s communal experience transcended into a ritual space for members to support one another, heal, and build resilience.

Just as the members adapted to online rehearsals at the beginning of the pandemic, I also adapted my research methods to meet the group where they were at: participating in their online dance rehearsals, interviewing members via Zoom, and joining their WhatsApp group. This collaborative ethnography with Takiri contributes to this changing fieldwork, and offers possibilities and opportunities that folklorists have in adapting their methods during times of crisis and unforeseen circumstances.


Daniel Reyes, a UNC Master’s student in Folklore, is a filmmaker and writer with interests in documentary film, Latinx diaspora of the South, and the diverse traditional music genres of Texas and Mexico. As an emerging performance artist, Daniel frames his work through an auto-ethnographic lens, investigating and interviewing material culture, archives, and other personal artifacts.

“Slow and Sensational Violence in Ana Castillo’s So Far from God”

Amelia Shein


Ana Castillo’s So Far from God has been the subject of much critical attention in the past two decades, lending itself to Chicana feminist resistance, queer environmentalist, and many other compelling readings. However, there is a dearth of scholarship that takes as its focus the novel’s unique representations of slow environmental violence and exploitation. Drawing from the critical framework Rob Nixon develops in Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor, I demonstrate that in Castillo’s descriptions of the “slow” and “fast” acts of violence her characters suffer, she strategically subverts expectations her readers have for each mode of harm. In simultaneously softening and tangling the demarcation line between slow violence and explosive violence, Castillo presents a planetary ethic that demands we interrogate existing narratives about environmental harm and insists upon empathy and accountability. Considering this imperative seriously will be vital to the flourishing of LatinX communities during the remainder and in the enduring aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic.


Amelia Shein is a PhD student in English at Duke University. Her research interests include environmental humanities, contemporary fiction, and waste studies.

“Visual Pedagogy: LatinX Studies and the Digital Classroom”

Jo Klevdal


Adjusting to remote teaching, and learning, during the pandemic has presented a series of pedagogical curveballs and questions. While this adjustment has brought about its fair share of pain––wifi woes, the looming, silent “room” of digital faces, the inability to read body language and facial expressions of our students––it has also brought pedagogical pleasure––streamlining lesson plans, rethinking assignments and projects, and fostering connection and community among students and instructors. In this talk, I will walk through my experience in designing and implementing an arcGIS mapping unit in my classroom and the ways in which this unit’s focus on LatinX and border studies helped to foster community and generate critical discussion in the digital classroom. To do this, I will first walk through my unit design and the way I set my students up to think critically about issues of race, immigration, language, belonging, history and the role of language and visuality in all of these. Here, I argue that this project sharpens students’ research and writing skill while also allowing them to participate in the collaborative process of knowledge-production by working closely in groups to choose their topics, identify sources, build an arcGIS story map, and present their findings. In addition to my pedagogical framework, I will share examples of projects to illustrate how students took ownership over their own scholarly processes and utilized their diverse sets of strengths and areas of knowledge. Finally, I want to think through how this pedagogical approach could be further improved––both for in-person and digital classrooms––as we continue to ask students and instructors to think in complex and nuanced ways about questions of borders, belonging, mapping, and the importance of the interplay of language and images in our increasingly digital world.


Jo Klevdal is a doctoral student in the Department of English and Comparative Literatures at the University of North Carolina. Her research focuses on the intersection of language and the photographic image in U.S. American literature between 1930 and 1960. Jo has been teaching since 2012 at various levels––from high school, to culinary school, to the university––and is deeply grateful for the opportunity to get to interact with such a broad range of students who teach her just as much as she teaches them.


April 6, 2021
4:00 pm - 6:00 pm



Leave a Reply