CLAS Working Groups

Latin American Music Working Group members perform at a CLAS event.Latin American Music Working Group members perform at a CLAS event.

Every academic year CLAS sponsors several working groups comprised of UC Berkeley faculty, staff, and students who gather regularly to discuss and share research on topics of mutual interest. CLAS provides funds to support costs related to group meetings, speaker series and small conferences. Groups can be formed based on any given country, topic, or discipline related to Latin America.

Current Working Groups at CLAS

Chile Seminars
Colombian Working Group
Latin American Art and Literature
Latin American Music
MexASB Working Group
National Association of Hispanic Journalists Working Group 

Past Working Groups at CLAS

In the past, CLAS has supported working groups on a wide variety of topics, ranging from the Afro-Latino diaspora to Globalization in Literacy and Language Development to Social Movements and Neoliberalism in Latin America.

Working Group Proposals

CLAS is accepting working group proposals for students, scholars, and faculty to encourage continued research and dialogue about the region.  Funds provide support for discussion groups, small conferences, guest lectures, and other activities. The maximum awarded per group is $750 for one year. Proposals for new working groups or renewed support should include the following information:

  • Brief description of the project, including:
    • Activities planned for 2017-18 academic year
    • A description of the activities you have carried out in the past year (for renewal requests only)
    • Names and background information of potential members (department, research interests, expected graduate date)
  • Name of group leader (s)
  • Name of the group's faculty advisor (student groups only)
  • Itemized budget for proposed activities.


Please note that a maximum of $250 of the annual budget can be used for food/entertainment expenses. CLAS provides meeting space for groups who wish to meet in our conference room.

Please send inquiries and completed proposals to:

Isabel Silver Nogueira (inogueira (at), Program Coordinator, Center for Latin American Studies.

Working Group Descriptions

Chile Seminars 

Over the past 5 years, Chilean PhD students and postdocs have organized monthly meetings to introduce and discuss broadly the different research topics of the members of the Chilean community on campus.

In each meeting two speakers present a 45 to 60 minute seminar about their research, with a special emphasis on its relevance to issues pertinent to Chile. They are encouraged to strike a balance between technical elements and intuition to appeal to a broader non-expert audience.

The main purpose of these meetings is to promote interaction between students and postdocs from a wide array of disciplines and stimulate the development of ideas at the interface of different fields. The multidisciplinary character of the group generates a unique environment where people from different academic fields learn about and discuss a wide variety of research topics. This activity has helped the participants to share and complement the opportunities they have encountered in their different departments and research groups within UC Berkeley. These meetings also help the participants to envision, as a community, how Chile can benefit from the work of Chilean students at UC Berkeley.

The majority of the speakers are Chilean graduate students and postdocs. However, we occasionally organize special presentations with Chilean professors visiting the area whose work is of interest to the Chilean researchers at Berkeley. We have also benefited from a few presentations from non-Chilean researchers that are doing their dissertation research related to Chile. The goal of these meetings is to generate linkages between young scholars at Berkeley and established researchers.

Contact: Juan Pablo Carvallo (carvallo (at), Mayra Fedderson (mfedderson (at)

Colombian Working Group

In the past few years, Colombia has enjoyed a more resilient economy, re-appropriation of territory by citizens, an influx of foreign investment and sound policy changes regarding human rights, taxation, and land management among others.

Today, Colombia is going through major change; the government has made a peace agreement with the most prominent leftist guerrilla organization (FARC). This agreement has to be ratified by society through a plebiscite that will take place on October 2nd. Regardless of this outcome, the prospect of peace and the agreements made so far will impact society in an unprecedented way. Upcoming scenarios call for detailed attention to various aspects of development in Colombia including economic development, rural development, education, macroeconomic and fiscal policy, investments in infrastructure, and environmental issues, among others.

In the wake of this scenario, Colombian students at UC Berkeley gather to share and discuss the future of our country and our possible contributions. We have four type of activities:

•Student Presentations: students share their academic and professional work with each other to create interdisciplinary views on present issues.
•Expert Presentations: academic and professional experts share their expertise applied to the Colombian context.
•Yearly Academic Forum: various academic and professional speakers discuss crucial issues regarding Colombia.
•Socio-cultural Events: group members and guests socialize in order to strengthen the Colombian community and share with the wider UCB community.

Contact: Silvia Laserna slaserna ( at ), Juan Manuel Ramirez juan.ramirez (at), Juliana Londoño j.londonovelez (at )

Latin American Art and Literature

The goal of the Latin American Art and Literature Working Group is to encourage conversation between graduate students, faculty, and other scholars of Latin American Art and Literature, with specific emphasis on the intersections of visual culture/artistic production and textual/literary production. The group welcomes scholars working in all time periods and geographic locations within Latin America. The working group aims to help students contextualize their research questions within non-canonical, interdisciplinary concerns of Latin American studies in order to conduct research and produce scholarship that integrates methodological approaches and primary source material across temporal periods and disciplines.

Contact: Carlos Macias Prieto (unmacias (at), Maria Veronica Munoz-Najar Luque (vmunoznajar (at)

Latin American Music

In forming this group, members aim to develop a breadth of knowledge of Latin American musics, and to refine our understanding of the shifting racial, ethnic, gender and regional identities that are shaping musical production and consumption throughout the continent. In a moment where rapid technological development is dramatically altering musical and cultural circulation, we hope to remain attentive to the nuanced histories and traditions of each region while also engaging with networks and affiliations of musical practices that extend beyond boundaries of fixed territories. Also, as music has been deeply intertwined with politics throughout the history of Latin America, we further seek to understand how current musical practices might inform or be informed by contemporary political and social movements.  Throughout our meetings, we will encourage conversation among PhD students and faculty working in Latin American music scholarship, and will seek opportunities to connect with the vibrant and diverse Latinx community in the Bay Area through attending classes, workshops, and concerts. 

Contact: Christina Azahar (cmazahar (at)

MEXASB Working Group
The MEXASB Working Group is directly linked to the Mexican Association of Students at Berkeley (MEXASB). The purpose of our association is to actively promote communication and collaboration among the Mexican community at UC Berkeley and other students who might share common cultural backgrounds and academic interests. Our ultimate goal is to recognize issues of importance on different scientific and social fields and discuss the best ways to address them. In line with this, our immediate objective is creating spaces to exchange ideas and facilitate cohesiveness among our community. We want to debate on issues related to Mexico and reflect on what could be done to achieve the most significant impact towards its improvement and the wellbeing of its citizens.
Beyond academic exchanges, on Fall 2016 our working group will focus on the political leverage of the Mexican-American voters, the general proposals from US presidential candidates regarding Mexico and Mexican immigrants, and the Mexican Government’s position vis-à-vis the electoral scenario in the United States.
Contact Octavio Navaez-Aroche cnaar (at), Ana Sofia Tamborrel atamborrel (at)
National Association of Hispanic Journalists Working Group
The National Association of Hispanic Journalists - UC Berkeley Student Chapter is dedicated to the recognition and professional advancement of Hispanics in the news industry. As part of the national organization, the chapter's goals include providing support for Hispanic journalists, encouraging the study and practice of journalism by Hispanics, promoting accurate and fair treatment of Hispanics by the news media, furthering employment and career development for Hispanics in the news media, and fostering greater understanding of the unique cultural identity, interests and concerns of Hispanic journalists.
Contact: Angelica Casas (angelicacasas48 (at)



Latin American Cities

Latin America is currently the most urbanized continent in the world after North America, with 79% of the population living in urban areas (UN 2011). The high urbanization rates that the continent experienced since the 1940s have come along substantive political changes. For instance, not only have decentralization processes in the last three decades in the region drastically changed the role of local governments in economic development and policy decision-making (Falleti 2010, Grindle 2007, Montero and Samuels 2004), but also the impact of urban planning in the everyday life of populations (Brand 2009, Irazábal 2008, Baiocchi 2005). All these changes have deeply modified not only the way urban planning is done in Latin America but also the way the state, the private and non-profit sectors, and civil society are operating to influence planning outcomes and the distribution of public resources. In this context, the project of governing and planning in Latin America is becoming less grandiose—less about national plans, comprehensive planning, and macro-economic data—and more about local and regional concerns, participatory techniques, and strategic planning (McCarney and Stren 2003, Campbell 2003).

With the explosion of new strategies like participatory planning in Latin America, the Latin American Cities working group believes there is a new state-society relationship in the region that has deeply modified the way the state, the private and non-profit sectors, civil society and social movements are operating to influence public policy/planning and the distribution of public resources. Under the rubric, this working group seeks to investigate the trends and prospects of recent urban planning practices that have emerged in Latin America in recent decades, uncover their convergences and divergences, and discuss whether the former gather sufficient grounds to constitute—now or potentially in the near future—a new paradigm. For this, we focus on the following key empirical areas of investigation: (1) participatory planning and urban governance; (2) urban mobility and accessibility; (3) trans-local activism and the search for spatial justice; (4) transnational mobilization of urban policy and planning ideas; (5) environmental sustainability and environmental justice; and (6) urban conflict, policing, and criminal justice systems.

Latin American Leadership Society

Latin America is a rich and complex region filled with political issues and economic challenges. Problems in Latin America range from corruption, an undiversified economy based on natural resources, profound socio-economic and spatial inequalities; and a deficiency in the supply of quality urban public services. In this context, Berkeley students interested in Latin America have realized that discussing issues and debating policies in relation to leadership in both private and public spheres are of great importance to develop the skills and motivation necessary to become leading professionals for Latin American countries in whatever paths of life they may choose for the future. This Working Group has been inspired by the idea of putting this realization to practice and helping form and connect future Berkeley leaders in Latin America, generating a network for supporting student projects and for allowing alumni to stay connected. Our goals:

(1) Organizing student-led forums with invited leaders related to Latin America who are shaping the future of the region. 
(2) Fostering debate and a greater understanding of the issues in Latin America, providing a voice for students and expanding general interest in Latin American culture, business and politics on campus through forums, debates and eventually, a conference. 
(3) Connecting leaders of Latin America and providing a starting point for motivating interdisciplinary research and dialogue.