I am pleased to be considered as a candidate for vice president and president-elect of the Latin American Studies Association. I have served on the Executive Council, and participated in the most recent LASA strategic planning workshop convened in New York. My research has focused on gender-based and sexual violence, transitional justice, human rights and post-conflict reconstruction. More information about me can be found at www.kimberlytheidon.com; here I wish to say a few words about the issues that drive my research and political commitments, and to which I would dedicate my time serving LASA.
From the odious politics of United States President Trump to the right wing reactionaries coming to power in various countries in this hemisphere, I imagine many of us are reeling in the face of assaults on virtually everything we care about. If elected, I would focus on the following issues, encouraging LASA to be a vocal advocate for: sexual and reproductive rights; asylum-seekers and immigrants; and environmental justice. I would recommend we have a speaker’s bureau of scholar-practitioners ready to respond quickly and insightfully to the barrage of reactionary propaganda being generated throughout the region. One goal is to drive the narratives and policy responses on these issues rather than merely conduct triage. The role of public intellectuals in Latin America is something scholars situated in the Global North should emulate, and LASA can more effectively harness both the media and social media to the cause of social justice.
On the issue of sexual and reproductive rights, I would suggest LASA take a stand on “gender ideology” and the ways in which this concept is being used to restrict women’s rights, exacerbate homophobia, and use “sex panics” to generate and deploy a politics of fear. The gender-based violence that plagues the region — and I most certainly consider the forced recruitment of boys and young men into armed groups and gangs to be a form of GBV — requires alliances across regions and borders to mount a progressive response.
Alliances across regions and borders are also necessary to address the plight of asylum-seekers and immigrants. LASA members have already been speaking out forcefully about the crisis in Venezuela, and about the brutal politics of the US along the border with Mexico. If elected, I would suggest LASA use its networks to work with other organizations throughout the region that are conducting policy-relevant research on this issue. LASA can serve as a conduit for furthering collaboration and using the strength of numbers via its membership.
Finally, I think the environmental humanities are one of the most exciting areas of inquiry. From climate refugees to the “developmentally displaced,” from lead leaching into waterways to extractive industries and their detritus — I advocate that LASA address not only political and criminal violence, but also the slower forms of violence that distorts lives and livelihoods throughout the region.
I think of Dr. Ford sitting across from all those white men, who have the power to judge her credibility — which they will attack. So let’s imagine a tenure case in which senior white males send in secret poison letters, fearful of junior faculty who have already demonstrated they will speak out about professorial sexual misconduct. These men have long considered sexual access to students as part of their compensation package — and they are determined to be rid of a junior colleague who does not go along to get along. She is not a dutiful daughter, and would never counsel another woman to be one either. These men have far too much power to determine a woman’s fate, be it in the courtroom, the boardroom, the hallowed halls of the Ivy Leagues, or on the Supreme Court.
Retaliation is real and this is an important case. It points to why it matters that we are heard before a jury of our peers and not a judge in private proceedings. Senior professors have the power to sink a tenure case with a poisoned letter, a pernicious phone call, or a biased and vindictive appearance before an ad hoc committee. I press on with my lawsuit against Harvard because certain people should be held accountable for what they did—- and others for what they failed to do.