Caficultores de las ZRC, Colombia, CERLAC

Caficultores de las ZRC, Colombia | Photo courtesy of Kyla Sankey


CERLAC is Canada's oldest and largest LAC research centre. Our current mandate is hemispheric, grounded in deep engagement with the LAC region and those identified with it, but emphasizing in transnational processes, ties to local LAC communities, and thematic collaboration with scholars working outside LAC alongside traditional area studies.

As an organized research unit, CERLAC offers LAC scholars in departments and units across York an important cross-cutting axis of intellectual engagement. Our mandate encompasses 1) pursuing and supporting timely, excellent, and socially engaged research on the LAC region; 2) providing an advanced interdisciplinary education on the LAC region for York University students;  3) sharing knowledge grounded in rigorous scholarship on the region with Canadian and international academic, governmental, and non-governmental organizations as well as community partners; 4) creating pathways between the university and other constituencies.

CERLAC fosters research intensification at York University by providing support services for fellows' projects and collaborations, training new generations of regional scholars, mobilizing knowledge to media, policy-makers, and broader communities, and programming events and other opportunities for scholarly exchange.

Over nearly four decades, CERLAC Fellows have published critically lauded works in a broad range of disciplines, from economics to fine arts. Our major conferences and lecture series have informed the Canadian public about the critical issues facing Latin America and the Caribbean. With our institution-building projects in the region, we have also forged a remarkable breadth of linkages with universities, research centres, and non-governmental organizations that provide opportunities for York faculty and student research and bolster York's reputation for research excellence throughout the hemisphere.

Recently, CERLAC has also increased its focus on Latin American and Caribbean communities closer to home.

Thematic clusters

As a community of communities, CERLAC welcomes research and researchers representing all the thematic, geographic, and disciplinary diversity of contemporary LAC scholarship. During its 2015-2020 charter, CERLAC especially seeks to advance collaboration in the following five areas:

1. Critical studies of extractive industry

The LAC mining sector is a key site of investment for Canadian capital, generating $19.4 billion of revenue in 2012 (North-South Institute). Increasingly Canadian foreign aid priorities are aligned with this sector, while NGOs and community groups increasingly demand reliable information about its activities. CERLAC pioneered the critical study of extractivism in Canada with its 2009 “Rethinking Extractive Industry” conference.

2. Precarities in the Americas

In much of the LAC region, the global rise in precarity after the 2008 crisis compounded the effects of earlier Washington Consensus neoliberal policies, dramatically reshaping labour and local economies while generating new flows of migration, new strategies of policing, and new rights claims. Contextualizing precarity and resistance to it in the region where neoliberalism was pioneered provides important insight into its workings around the globe.

3. Popular performance as critical research method

Critical LAC scholarship has long valued the knowledge and practices of subaltern social groups as a source of insight into and contestation of colonialism and capitalism. Strong cultural repertoires of music, dance, theatre, and visual art make performance a rich site for elaborating and engaging with this knowledge. CERLAC invites projects examining performance as a method for collaborative and community-engaged research on our hemisphere.

4. Food sovereignty, community environmental governance, and indigeneity

Throughout the Americas, globalization and the expansion of extractives have imperiled the livelihoods, environments, and cultures of indigenous and peasant communities. Self-defense for these communities is increasingly seen to lie in sharing best practices for local environmental governance, solidarity economies, and collective rights across national and linguistic boundaries. CERLAC encourages collaborations in this area.

5. Sexuality studies

Much recent work across many disciplines in the social sciences, sciences and humanities has turned on questions of sexual identities, experiences, behaviors, and communities in Latin America, the Caribbean and their diasporas. At York University, an informal network of scholars has taken up topics within Sexuality Studies ranging from health and reproduction to human rights.