Scholars, students gather to discuss sustainability in Latin America

Monday, December 4, 2017
meeting attendees

Attendees gather in Hamilton Smith Hall for the New England Council of Latin American Studies' Annual Meeting.

On November 4, 2017, UNH hosted the New England Council of Latin American Studies' Annual Meeting (NECLAS), this year devoted to the topic "A Sustainable Future for Latin America?" The gathering offered scholars, students and teachers a unique opportunity to advance interdisciplinary dialogue about current topics in Latin American studies.

Organized by faculty and staff in the department of languages, literatures and cultures, the event showcased the interdisciplinary work done at UNH by specifically addressing the grand challenges facing Latin America (and the world) in these times of volatile political divisions, the ravages of climate change and biocultural degradation, endemic poverty and pervasive inequality. The majority of the participants on the 25 panels addressed questions of sustainability in some way. Tom Kelly — the founding executive director of the UNH Sustainability Institute and the University's chief sustainability officer — delivered remarks to the full group.

The conference's focus on sustainability served not only to highlight one of UNH's strengths but also provided an opportunity to integrate sustainability into the conference. For example, organizers developed an app for iOS and Android operating systems that greatly reduced the number of programs printed, encouraged attendees to bring their own refillable water bottles (rather than providing bottled water), and made sure to recycle name tags and holders.

Eleven UNH faculty members participated in the meeting, either presenting or chairing panels, and the conference was attended by over 20 undergraduate and graduate students from different departments.

NECLAS announced at the meeting that UNH will be the new institutional and administrative home for the organization.

"We believe that our faculty interests and student outcomes will be greatly enriched by our role as the institutional host of this important interdisciplinary organization," says Scott Weintraub, associate professor of Spanish.

As an outcome of the 2017 meeting, a special issue of the refereed, interdisciplinary journal A Contracorriente will be devoted to the topic "A Sustainable Future for Latin America?" Edited by Professor Sasha Woolson of the University of Vermont, the issue will be published in spring 2019.

The NECLAS annual meeting at UNH was made possible by sponsorship from the Center for the Humanities; the Sustainability Institute; the Responsible Governance and Sustainable Citizenship Project in the Department of Classics, Humanities and Italian Studies; the Confucius Institute; Political Science; History; Anthropology; and Languages, Literatures and Cultures.

NECLAS is New England's only interdisciplinary organization devoted to Latin American Studies; founded in 1970, it currently has over 500 members from 49 institutions in New England and beyond.