Year in Review, 2016-17


Thanks to all of the members of our CLAS community. We'd like to share with you some of the happenings at the Center that you may have missed in the past year.



CLAS is a vital resource for researchers and policymakers grappling with today’s most pressing issues.

Research conducted by CLAS Chair Harley Shaiken continues to play an important role in discussions about Nafta. He recently co-authored a blog with Rep. Sander Levin and contributed his thoughts to The New York Time’s “Room for Debate” and the Boston Review.

Berkeley Review of Latin American Studies, Spring and Fall 2016

The cover of the 2016 edition of the Berkeley Review of Latin American Studies.


Read the latest edition of the Berkeley Review of Latin American Studies! Highlights include:

- Examining the peace process in Colombia;

- CLAS Chair Harley Shaiken looks at trade and jobs after the TPP;

- René Davids analyzes the interaction between topography, geography, and Latin American cities.



Program Highlights


Denise Dresser speaks for CLAS, February 2017. (Photo by Peg Skorpinski.)
Denise Dresser speaks for CLAS, February 2017. (Photo by Peg Skorpinski.)

This past semester, CLAS organized a full program of lectures that addressed issues of human rights, literature, politics, music, film, and national development. Prominent Mexican public intellectual and academic Denise Dresser spoke at Berkeley about U.S. President Donald Trump’s leadership in the U.S. and impact on Mexico.

CLAS also hosted Claudia Paz y Paz, Guatemala's first female attorney general and a leader in reforming that country's justice system. Paz y Paz spoke about the disappearance of 43 students in Guerrero, Mexico, and her role in the subsequent investigation by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. 

Claudia Paz y Paz speaks at Berkeley. (Photo by Peg Skorpinski.)
Claudia Paz y Paz speaks at Berkeley. (Photo by Peg Skorpinski.)

Supporting Faculty Research


In the beginning of 2017, Chile experienced devastating wildfires, mirroring the damage that occurred in California in 2016. CLAS is helping to reduce these tragedies by supporting research on forest fires. Researchers from the Universidad Técnica Federico Santa María and UC Berkeley are working in a binational team to study forest fire ignition processes. CLAS brought 19 binational research teams together over the past four years as part of a research competition with funding from Chile's National Commission for Scientific and Technological Research (CONICYT). The grants offer seed funds for early-stage collaborative research projects.  See the full list of grant recipients from 2013 and 2014.

Fires burn outside Santiago, Chile. (Photo by Pablo Trincado.)
Fires burn outside Santiago, Chile. (Photo by Pablo Trincado.)

Student Support

The Southern Border Course

Every fall, CLAS Chair Harley Shaiken teaches an undergraduate course called “The Southern Border” to about 350 students. Students examine the U.S. Southern border from California to Florida as a cultural mosaic that brings together diverse experiences from the North and the South. Students learn about larger social, economic, and political processes at work on both sides of the boundary through the lens of the border zone. The border is used as a point of departure to explore the relationship between the United States, Mexico, and countries of the Caribbean and South America. After putting this relationship in its historical context, students look critically at key contemporary issues each of these countries face, including immigration, free trade, climate change, security, and politics as well as music, art, literature and new cultural and political identities.

The Southern Border, a large lecture course supported by CLAS. (Photo by Jim Block.)
The Southern Border, a large lecture course supported by CLAS. (Photo by Jim Block.)

“As a fourth year student, I genuinely can say that I have never learned more from an instructor, nor felt so engaged by the material.  I have raved about your course to all of my friends and family.  You have inspired me to pursue a career in aiding Latin American communities after I graduate next spring, either in the US or abroad.  Only time will tell as to where that passion leads me!” - Alexandra Wayne, 2016 Southern Border Student

Working Groups

CLAS sponsors working groups comprised of UC Berkeley faculty, staff, and students who come together to share research on topics ranging from music to urban planning. CLAS provides funds to support costs related to meetings, speakers, and small conferences. In 2016-17, CLAS provided funding to five groups. The groups’ research explored the political leverage of Mexican-American voters, contemporary issues in Latin American music, Colombian economic and rural development, Latin American Art and Literature from pre-Hispanic to contemporary periods, and the promotion accurate and fair treatment of Hispanics by the news media.

Tinker Summer Research Grants

CLAS received a grant from the Tinker Foundation to support pre-dissertation field research in Latin America. In 2017, CLAS awarded funding to 22 graduate students. From “The Afro-Mexican Racial Moment in Mexico City” to “Conceptualization and Linguistic Encoding of Spatial Concepts in South Bolivia Quechua” to “Intraspecific Morphological Variation as a Function of Climatic Gradients in Two Broadly Distributed Cloud Forest Epiphytes,” Tinker recipients are pursuing truly fascinating topics this summer. (List of 2017 recipients and topics). To see reports from the projects supported in 2016, click here.

Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS) Fellowships provide funding to students for the study of critical and less commonly taught foreign languages. In 2016-2017, CLAS provided academic year funding to 6 students, and summer funding to 15 students. Click here for a list of current FLAS recipients.

“The funding provided by the FLAS award was crucial to further improve my advanced Spanish language skills and understanding of the region and enabled me to successfully carry out my dissertation research. This language intensive research—drawing on extensive interviews with politicians and leaders of different social movements in Bolivia, Ecuador, and Mexico as well as survey research—would not have been viable without the support provided by the award. Furthermore, the award helped prepare me further for an academic career that will involve continued research and teaching on Latin American politics.” – Mathias Poertner

New on the CLAS Blog! 


Ignacio Escalante doing field work, supported by a Tinker Research Grant. (Photo courtesy of Ignacio Escalante.)
Ignacio Escalante doing field work, supported by a Tinker Research Grant. (Photo courtesy of Ignacio Escalante.)

The CLAS blog is an informal space to let our community know what is on the minds of graduate and undergraduate students, faculty and others with expertise on Latin America and issues that impact Latin America. 

In our latest posts, two students who received Tinker Summer Research Grants write about their experience in the field. In “The Bitter Cost of Sweet: Peru’s Nutritional Transition,” Shane Fallon writes about the dynamic between nutrition and non-communicable diseases in Peru. In “Tropical Biology and Ships: Animal Behavior Research with Background Whistles,” Ignacio Escalante writes about the history of the Barro Colorado Island in Panamá, one of the foremost sites for tropical research in the world 

Meet our Current Visiting Scholar


Carlos R. S. Milani is an Associate Professor at Rio de Janeiro State University’s Institute for Social and Political Studies (IESP-UERJ). He is also a Senior Research Fellow with Brazil’s National Research Council (CNPq) as well as the Rio de Janeiro State Research Foundation (FAPERJ), and Associate Editor of the Brazilian Political Science Review.  His research agenda focuses on Brazilian foreign policy, international development politics, and comparative foreign policy.  During his stay at Berkeley, he will be writing a book, provisionally titled, South-South Cooperation and Foreign Policy Agendas: Comparing the Cases of Brazil, China, India, Mexico, South Africa and Turkey.  More information on his research, teaching and publications can be found at

Carlos Milani.

"I have been at CLAS as a visiting scholar since January this year, and the working experience has been of great relevance to my research agenda. CLAS seminars and meetings, the whole atmosphere at Berkeley, its libraries, the new museum, seminars on international relations and comparative politics... all this has so far not only allowed me to conclude articles and a book, but has also given me fruitful ideas that I will keep on exploring until December!”  - Carlos Milani

Support CLAS! 


CLAS provides opportunities for ground-breaking research and life-changing education. With your support, we will continue to ensure that Cal students and faculty continue to reach higher, dream grander, and imagine farther, maintaining our position as the No. 1 public university in the world.

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