New World Languages and Cultures and Latin Amer...

    October 16, 2018
    By: Ana Ugarte, Ph.D.

    Although I was born and raised in Madrid, Spain, my teaching and research focuses on twentieth and twenty-first century Latin American literature with a primary focus on Hispanic Caribbean fiction and Indigenous cultures and languages from Mexico. I earned my licenciatura in Spanish Philology from the Universidad Complutense de Madrid, and my Ph.D. in Romance Studies from Duke University. My research interests also include Postcolonial Studies, Disability Studies, and the emerging field of Medical—or Health—Humanities. In my dissertation, I examined the representation of illness, disability, and healing processes in contemporary works of fiction from Cuba and Puerto Rico. I explored how authors from the early twentieth century to the present expose the historical functioning of tropical territories as laboratories for political, economic, and scientific experimentation. I looked into landmark Caribbean novels, such as José Lezama Lima’s Paradiso, but I also examined the tropes of paranoia and hypochondria in pop culture and recent works of science fiction.

    This fall I am very excited to teach a course deeply connected to these topics, entitled “Fictions of the Body.” In this class, students use a wide variety of materials that include short stories, art works, films, graphic novels, and reality shows to examine discourses of illness, monstrosity and contagion in Latin and Latinx America. We explore creativity and artistic practices shaped by the experiences of disease and disability, while also discussing how these representations intersect with issues of gender, sexuality, migration, race and class.

    During my Ph.D., I became very interested in indigenous healing practices. I, therefore, learned Yucatec Maya, an indigenous language spoken in the Yucatán peninsula, in Mexico, which reminded about the hardships of studying a new language from scratch, and —I would like to believe—made me a more empathetic language instructor. Acquiring a deeper knowledge of Yucatec Maya also helped me understand indigenous conceptualizations of the body, disease and cure and the struggles these communities face to translate some of these concepts to Western biomedical practices. In the future, I look forward to teaching classes on indigeneity in Latin America, as well as service-learning courses. I am also working on a syllabus for a class on the 1959 Cuban revolution through its films, texts, and visual arts. 

    Ana Ugarte, new faculty member in the Department of World Languages and Cultures
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