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Undergraduate Symposium Call For Papers (Apply by December 15)

December 15, 2020 @ 8:00 am - 11:30 pm

Call for Papers

The UNC Latina/o Studies Program Undergraduate Symposium

February 9, 11, & 16 of 2021, 4-6PM

UNC Chapel Hill, NC

“Contamination and Containment”

The UNC Latina/o Studies Program will host its inaugural undergraduate symposium this coming spring of 2021, and we invite UNC-CH undergraduate students working on LatinX-related content from any discipline to submit abstracts for consideration.

The COVID-19 pandemic has become a global health crisis. In the US alone, as of the end of October 2020, there have been over 9 million confirmed COVID-19 cases with more than 229,347 confirmed deaths associated with the virus. The pandemic has both exposed our shared vulnerabilities and deepened existing social inequalities. It has disproportionately impacted already vulnerable populations including the elderly, those with underlying conditions, and socio-economically disenfranchised as well as minoritized groups, among them LatinX communities.

Daniel Lopez Zevallo, a professor of Latina/o/x Studies, Ethnic Studies, and Health Equity at Oregon State University, has noted various structural factors that have contributed to these high numbers of COVID-19 cases and deaths among LatinX people. Their disproportionate representation in essential workforce has spiked the number of cases among LatinX laboring populations, and their lower rates of health insurance, coupled with a distrust of the federal government as well as other institutions, have deterred many LatinX people from seeking medical care for the virus. The structural issues preventing LatinX communities from responding most effectively to the pandemic, then, help us see that discourses and strategies for combating COVID-19 must expand beyond a search for a vaccine to account for the particular needs of LatinX people.

Such efforts to eradicate the virus must also include immigrants at the Mexico-US border. Because of the high numbers of people within confined spaces and Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) improper execution of guidelines, US detention centers, according to critics like Dr. Scott Allen, are at risk of continuing to be COVID-19 hot spots. Similarly, thousands of immigrants seeking asylum in the US are currently living in close quarters in Mexican border cities, which US health care workers and officials worry will also create new hot spots for the COVID-19 virus. To make matters worse, these populations are trapped in these spaces indefinitely as their hearings continue to be postponed to later dates without their receiving notification of that delay (for a variety of reasons, including notifications being sent to the wrong address).

These few instances alone demonstrate how the pandemic has aggravated and highlighted existing inequalities. They begin to reveal the network of institutional, legislative, and social nodes informing LatinX experiences of the pandemic and underscore that discussions surrounding “contamination and containment” are complex and fraught. They press us to consider Who is served with medical and State responses to COVID-19 and why? What is preserved and recovered in the process? What risks are taken in these choices of containment? What are the dominant discourses on contamination?

LatinX narratives about the pandemic are also necessary interventions in establishing LatinX healthcare needs specific to COVID-19. Without these LatinX pandemic narratives, LatinX people’s experiences and needs can easily be erased, dismissed, or even distorted as in North Carolina where some politicians have suggested that LatinX people’s high COVID-19 rates are a result of their failure to wear masks, despite LatinX people’s comparatively higher likeliness to wear them. This symposium seeks to amplify LatinX experiences of and responses to the pandemic.

In this remote undergraduate research symposium, we encourage students to consider how Latina/o Studies and intersecting disciplines offer privileged perspectives on this current time of crisis; and how these questions of containment, spread, and contact may be employed as useful lenses through which to engage with questions of LatinX culture, history, and identity. We also invite students to consider how themes of containment and contagion inform LatinX cultural and artistic production, including but not limited to the visual, literary, and performance arts.

We are also broadly interested in (interdisciplinary) work that explores the relationship between LatinX identity, culture, history, labor, and migration in relation to the environment, climate change, illness, and disability. Sub-topics addressing mental health, public policy, city planning, medical care, and environmental justice are welcome.

Please send abstracts of no more than 250 words and a short bio to and by December 15, 2020 for consideration. Include “Undergrad LSP symposium abstract” in the subject line.

Abstract submissions should address the above and other related questions and topics. Additional topics or areas of interest related to LatinX studies may include:

  • Border studies

  • Immigration

  • (Hyper)surveillance

  • Essential labor, labor activism, and workplace safety

  • Environmental studies and environmental health & justice

  • Cultural hybridity, cultural fluidity

  • Settler colonialism

  • Land loss and reparations


December 15, 2020
8:00 am - 11:30 pm

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