Forum on Trans-Atlantic Explorations
A forum on "Trans-Atlantic explorations" took place at Brown University, April 9, 1999, with colleagues from a number of universities. This is a summary of the contributions:
Julio Ortega (Brown): Trans-Atlantic studies is a new area of inquiry that focuses on difference and heterogeneity in a period of intense globalization. It explores the need for transdisciplinarity and cross-departmental conversation. It looks to move beyond the limits and fatigue of departmental monologues.
Djelal Kadir (Inter-American Studies Chair Professor; chair of Comparative Literature at Penn State): A Project on Trans-Atlantic Studies should be part of the current effort to open new spaces within the American Civilization’s old monological model. It coincides with UPenn’s Council on Inter-American Literary Cultures as well as with the School of Theory in the Humanities in Santiago de Compostela, both ongoing cross-departmental and international organizations for studies of the current cultural, linguistic and ethnic heterogeneity.
Beatriz Pastor (Dartmouth College): After teaching in the departments of Spanish, Comparative Literature, and Latin American Studies, and team-teaching on Science and the Humanities, she would like to explore the convergence of language and culture, linking Spain, the U.S., and Latin America. Her focus would be the political dimension of such an inquiry. Migration and Latino studies should be the central topic to start this new approach.
Alicia Borinsky (Chair, Latin American Studies, Boston University): Thanks to the Mellon Foundation, her Seminar on the Americas is in its third year. It has been dedicated to exile and literature and it has included some interactions among Europe, the U.S., and Latin America. It will now move on into topics on memory and displacement, and writing across borders. This Seminar was originated in collaboration with colleagues from Brown and Harvard.
Paul Julian Smith (Chair, Department of Spanish and Portuguese, University of Cambridge): The main difference between Spanish departments in the U.S. and the U.K. is that in the U.K. faculty usually teaches literature from both Spain and Latin America. Cambridge and Brown already have a productive exchange project in trans-Atlantic topics. Latin American and Spanish cultural studies have common but also diverse theoretical and practical issues to deal with.
José Luis Vega (Dean of Humanities, Universidad de Puerto Rico): One of the leading trans-Atlantic figures of Hispanism in Puerto Rico was Federico de Onís, an exiled Spaniard who lived in Puerto Rico and New York and was crucial in defining the area of Hispanic Studies. He also was one of the first to put together Spanish and Latin American poetry as part of a common tradition. His example stands beyond borders.
Jose Antonio Mazzotti (Romance Languages, Harvard University): Colonial literature proves to be determinant in the notion of a Latin American subject made in trans-Atlantic as well as inter-American migration. This exploration should also include the trans-Pacific experience as complementary field.
Blanca Silvestrini (History, University of Connecticut): Historians have discovered that national narratives should be placed in larger contexts in order to be better understood. XIX Century Puerto Rican history has to be situated in the Latin American context. Slavery is not only a Caribbean case but a Trans-Atlantic trade within our modernity.
Alexis Márquez Rodríguez (President, Monte Ávila Publishers, Caracas): We need to discuss also the critical situation of the book in the trans-Atlantic interaction, that is, it’s unique situation of marginal history in front of the editorial production of the metropolis, as well as the need to support a larger network of communication in the Hispanic world.
Jorge Pinto (Ambassador, Consul General of México in New York): The Web, the Internet, today’s instant communication and available information, have transformed the trans-Atlantic routes in a temporal, not only spatial, reality. Still few users are taking advantage of the Internet in the Latin American world; but the technology of communication is a growing reality that will demand from us a role in its larger map.
Carlos Fuentes (Brown): Multidisciplinary communication in Latin America was made possible by the Spanish exiled after the Civil War. In Mexico, modernity was first a dialogue advanced by Spaniards who were capable of moving beyond constraints, into an open field of communication. Brown University could be a new center of debate and dialogue for the current international nature of a culture produced from the margins. Women, minorities, migrants, and the post-colonial are part of the new space of creativity that comes back to the centers in order to transform and recreate them.