Past Working Groups

Past Working Group Descriptions

For more information about these groups, please contact Julia Byrd (julia.byrd (at)

Amazon Forest 

Amazon Forest is a working group devoted to studying and discussing a wide range of topics related to the Amazon Forest. The group understands the Amazon in an extensive way: 1. As a multilingual and multicultural place. 2. As a socially and ecologically complex zone 3. As an area historically marked by colonial and modern violence and 4. As a biologically and geographically intricate region. Under this general definition –which is open to all possible ways to understand the Amazon Forest- the aim of the group is to join different academic and scientific visions, as well as humanistic and ecological approaches, to the understanding of the forest. The broad challenge of the group is to share and connect ideas, to link notions and experiences, and to comprehend –as far as possible- the complexity of the social, biological, and political processes in the Amazon Forest. The group assumes that the best way to achieve this objective is through an open and wide dialogue that helps members think from diverse perspectives about how they can relate to this complex and strategic place in South America in an academic context.

Blackness in Latin America and the Caribbean

The Blackness in Latin America and the Caribbean (BLAC) working group envisages an interdisciplinary close reading of the Afro-diasporic experience across the region and its interpretive manifestations in the humanities and social sciences. While open to all graduate students, this group is comprised principally of doctoral students in the qualifying or thesis/dissertation-writing stage who are working through a distinct set of questions including but not limited to everyday cultural production, identity, performance, ecology, policy, inequality, and state violence, followed by an even vaster array of methodological approaches. 

Brazil Working Group

Through events that bridge academic and activist spaces, the goal of the Brazil Working Group is to support a thriving community, raise awareness, and act in solidarity with Brazil during a time of political and social turmoil. Actions of the group encompass the following themes: Social, cultural, and political dynamics; Historical and contemporary violence, experiences, and resistance marked by race, ethnicity, gender, social class, and territory; Production of knowledge, articulation, and collective actions between the local and the transnational, between the street and the state/institution; (De) constructions of democracy and citizenship; Audible and visible political articulations in music, film, and the arts.

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.

Colombian Working Group

The Colombian Working Group brings together Colombians students at UC Berkeley, as well as scholars working on Colombia, in an academic space to share their research. The group's main activities include talks given by professors, visiting scholars, and Ph.D., masters, and undergraduate students who currently work on Colombia. In addition, the Working Group also promotes cultural activities. 

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 from all academic disciplines, focusing on 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.

Latin American Cities

The Latin America Cities Working group examines the complex processes through which Latin American cities have been constructed and imagined. It also explores the respective challenges cities face in the current age. Participants do this through an interdisciplinary approach that takes into account first, the various policies and infrastructures, and their effects on these urban spaces, and second, the literary and film archives that have helped shape the imaginaries surrounding the cities in the region. The group seeks to create an environment in which multiple perspectives come together to deepen our understanding of urban spaces throughout Latin America. Furthermore, the working group hopes to broaden the dialogue that exists between Latin America and the other regions in the Global South.

Link to the Latin American Cities Working Group website:

Latin America Energy and Environmental Focus 

LEEF seeks to be community of UC Berkeley students, alumni and faculty members of different departments that, together with experts and advisers, connect on their shared interest in energy development and environmental protection in Latin America. The group works to build a multidisciplinary network and platform that promotes discussion towards achieving a cleaner and sustainable future within the Latin American region.

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.

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. 

MEXASB Working Group
The main purpose of this working group is to create communication spaces, for MEXASB scholars and other people interested in Mexico at UC Berkeley, with the goal of fostering the exchange of views and ideas that address issues of interest surrounding the current development of the country. We expect that the discussions spurred from the proposed events will promote cohesiveness among its participants, trigger social awareness and motivate their joint collaboration towards the improvement of Mexico along with their careers.
Migration Working Group
Although irregular immigration along the U.S./Mexico border has received renewed attention following the 2014 influx of unaccompanied minors and the 2016 presidential election, the plight of migrants and refugees in Mexico on their way to the United States is rarely discussed.  Over 90% of undocumented people entering Mexico each year are from the Northern Triangle of Central America, comprised of Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras.  To alleviate pressure on the U.S./Mexico border, the Obama administration implemented Plan Frontera Sur (Southern Border Plan) in 2014, which intensified migration enforcement and militarized the Mexico/Guatemala border. The Southern Immigration Working Group seeks to draw attention to the plight of Central American migrants and refugees in Mexico with particular emphasis on humanitarian issues, asylum in Mexico and American involvement.  Through meetings, guest speakers, movie screenings and an immigration forum, we hope to promote awareness of these issues and connect interested Berkeley students to research and work opportunities related to immigration in Mexico.  

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.

Peace and Justice in Wallmapu Working Group

One year ago, a group of Chilean and Argentinian graduate students from UC Berkeley, concerned about the complex and increasingly tense relationship between the Mapuche people and the institutions of the Chilean and Argentinian State, created the Peace and Justice in Wallmapu Working Group. The group's activities, including student meetings, conferences, exhibitions, and documentary screenings, have aroused great interest in the UC Berkeley community. The information about what is happening in the Mapuche communities is scarce and hard to find, even in Chile and Argentine. The group's intention is to continue having discussion meetings and organizing events and exhibitions that can create more awareness about an increasingly tense conflict. 

Social Impact Bonds Working Group
We, the members of the Social Impact Bonds Working Group, are working to address the steep rise in gang activity in the Northern Triangle of Central America -- Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras -- in recent decades. Instability and rampant gang violence are the primary causes of northward migration from Central American countries. We are creating a financial mechanism to reduce gang-related crime in El Salvador. Most bilateral and multilateral aid currently funds heavy-handed security measures, though these initiatives have proven to exacerbate violence. Some community organizations have successfully piloted violence prevention initiatives, but do not have the funding to scale further. Through a 'pay for success' model we will bring investment to those initiatives. We will focus on assessing the feasibility of this model. Through in-depth interviews with different stakeholders, focus-groups and panel discussions about migration with other on-campus groups, we will have better insights and collaborate to a better understanding on what is needed to reduce gang-violence.