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Department of Latin America

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The history of the Department of Latin America dates back to 2001 when the Chair in Latin America Studies was established at the Institute of Regional Studies of the Jagiellonian University, with Professor Władysław Miodunka as its head. Since 2004, the unit has functioned as a part of the Institute of American Studies and Polish Diaspora. The activities of the Department are associated with the introduction of Latin American Studies as a new specialization in the Master of Arts program in Culture Studies in the 2002/2003 academic year. In the 2012/2013 academic year, it was transformed into the specialization “Latin America”, within a new program of studies – American Studies. The specialization, whose subject is the entire Latin America (South America, Central America, the Caribbean), is of an interdisciplinary nature. The scholarly and didactic interests of the scholars of the Department focus on social and political problems specific to the region as well as on diverse cultural phenomena – from the pre-Columbian period to the contemporary era.

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Main research areas

  • history and politics of Latin America
  • development and transformation of Latin American societies
  • contemporary social problems and phenomena
  • international relations in the area of Latin America and the Caribbean
  • migrations and migration policy in the Americas
  • comparative studies of migration from Europe to the Americas
  • Hispanics/Latinos in the United States
  • transculturation in Latin American literature
  • transnational problems
  • nationalism and nation-forming processes, transformations of Latin American identity
  • human rights, rights of indigenous peoples of Latin America
  • heritage studies

Academic interests of the scholars focus on:

  • Mexico in historical and contemporary perspectives, democratization processes, public security, organized crime;
  • language-identity relations, language policies in the US and Latin America, Latin America languages;
  • hybrid and heterogenic literature created in the areas of merging of two or more languages; transnational issues in literature, history reconstruction and the search for identity in ethnic literature;
  • national / ethnic / cultural identity; transnationalism;
  • immigration policy of the US regarding Hispanics/Latinos, American immigration law, migration of children from Central America to the United States, problems of contemporary Cuban refugees;
  • Jewish Diaspora in Latin America, North American integration;
  • cultural policy and cultural pluralism in Latin America, rights of indigenous peoples, political, social, and legal aspects of the protection of the cultural heritage of Latin America, religious diversity and processes of syncretism in Latin America in the past and today.

Current research projects

Visegrad Studies on the Americas. Past and Present

Description: The main goal of the project is to publish a collection of papers on the broadly defined American studies, carried out in scholarly centers of the Visegrad Group countries. The specificity of defining, understanding, and conducting American studies in each of the Visegrad Group countries (regarding both the issues of North and South America) is presented in the project.

Effect of the project: The publication will be the first work that will present the achievements of American studies centers in the Visegrad perspective. It is supposed to give readers knowledge and information concerning selected political, social, and cultural issues, as well as to provide guidelines and inspirations for further studies and research. This joint publication will result in the integration of scientific community and development of cooperation between the American studies scholars of the Visegrad Group. It will also contribute to enrichment of curriculums with new topics and information.

Source of financing: Jagiellonian University, “Bratniak” Foundation
Members of the project team: Dr Anna Bartnik, dr Agnieszka Małek
Duration of the project: 2016-2017

Unicidad, pluralidad y comunidad. Debates sobre el Estado latinoamericano desde los pueblos indígenas (s. XXI)

Description:  El proyecto busca contribuir al estudio crítico de América Latina desde el enfoque interdisciplinario y latinoamericanista propio de Estudios Latinoamericanos. Una de las hipótesis es que la movilización indígena en América Latina ha desembocado en una de-construcción del concepto de Estado nación clásico, al postular las formas estatales plurales, fue determinante en la derrota política y simbólica del neoliberalismo, y sigue siendo la fuente de proyectos societales alternativos al sistema capitalista. Nos guiarán las siguientes interrogantes: ¿Cuál es el balance de la movilización indígena-popular de las últimas dos décadas? ¿Existe un proyecto indígena alternativo al capitalismo enraizado en la realidad vivida? ¿Cuál es la condición del proyecto pluralista frente a la “vuelta del Estado” durante los gobiernos “progresistas”? ¿Cómo pensar la lucha indígena más allá del Estado desde el enfoque comunitarista?

Effect of the project: Se propone la profundización de la reflexión teórica acerca de los fenómenos resultantes de los estudios de casos particulares, y la elaboración novedosa de teorías útiles para la interpretación de las realidades latinoamericanas.

Source of financing: Programa de Apoyo a Proyectos de Investigación e Innovación Tecnológica, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, grant numer IN300617
Head of the project: dr Gaya Makaran
Members of the project team: dr Marta Kania (inter alia)
Duration of the project: 2017-2019

Completed research projects:

Transculturation in Native American and Latino/a Fiction

Description: Comparison of selected novels of Native American and Latino/a fiction, from the angle of the use of conquest and colonization history. The polyphonic structure allows the authors to employ two or more culture codes, often taking into consideration two languages and religious syncretism.

Effect of the project: Publication of Between Reconstruction and Myth. The Roles of History on the Contemporary Native American and Latino/a Fiction, Księgarnia Akademicka, Kraków 2016. The book concerns the ways of using history in ethnic literatures, starting with the deconstruction of stereotypes such as the Noble Savage, the Native American Warrior, the Latino Macho, Malinche, and St. Mary. The comparative analysis places an emphasis on history as a discourse in which marginalized groups are able to contest the power of the Center, taking into consideration not only the context of conquest and colonization of America, but also neocolonial practices.

Source of financing: JFK Research Grant
Members of the projects team: Dr Agnieszka Gondor-Wiercioch
Duration of the project: 2015-2016

Latin American Thought

Description: The term “Latin American thought” allows for the better accommodation of the broad spectrum of intellectual activities that can find their expression in literature, religion or art. It also seems to be the most accurate equivalent of the Spanish notion “pensamiento”. By using the term “Latin American thought” it would be possible to accommodate the thinkers that created works that contain philosophical elements, but are not pure philosophy (created and motivated by the love of wisdom). There are multiple voices claiming that one of the specific and distinctive elements of Latin American philosophical inquiry is its unphilosophical nature, in terms of the form in which it expresses itself. For that reason, philosophical examinations are performed within the domain of history, religion or literature.

Effect of the project: The publication of Latin American Thought – Problems and perspectives. Three Case Studies (Księgarnia Akademicka, 2015).

Source of financing: Faculty of International and Political Studies of the Jagiellonian University.
Members of the project team: Dr Karol Derwich, dr Magdalena Modrzejewska
Duration of the project: 2014-2015

U.S. - Latin American Relations

Description: Relations between the United States and the Latin America region have been traditionally described as exceptional. This is due to a variety of factors, including geographical vicinity. Latin America has been viewed as a natural partner for the United States, both in political and economic terms. The history indicates, however, that the relations between the US and Latin American and Caribbean countries have been and still are very complicated. They included both periods of cooperation and mutual aversion as well as conflicts.

Effect of the project: Publication of U.S. - Latin American Relations (Wydawnictwo Uniwersytetu Jagiellońskiego 2014), a selection of source texts concerning the issues of relations between the United States and Latin American countries. The collection offers a cross section of these relations, based on international documents and other legal acts, relevant for the mutual relations between the US and the Latin American region.

Source of financing: Faculty of International and Political Studies of the Jagiellonian University.
Members of the project: Dr Karol Derwich
Duration of the project: 2013-2014

Estados Nación y movimientos indígenas en el sistema mundo, una mirada latinoamericanista

Description: The aim of the project was a critical reflection on the contemporary model of state and the realization of multiculturalism policy in the context of the dynamic development of indigenous movements in Latin America.

The effect of the project: Publication of ¿Estado Nación o Estado Plural? Pueblos indígenas y el Estado en América Latina (s. XXI), ed. Gaya Makaran, Colección Política, Economía y Sociedad en América Latina y el Caribe, vol. 29, CIALC, UNAM, México 2017.

Source of financing: Programa de Apoyo a Proyectos de Investigación e Innovación Tecnológica, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, grant numer IA300315
Head of the project: Dr Gaya Makaran
Members of the project: Dr Marta Kania (inter alia)

Scholars of the Department have written  several monographs that have been published as a part of the “Latin American Studies of the Jagiellonian University”, covering many topics in the field of social science and the humanities: Anna Kaganiec-Kamieńska, Tożsamość na pograniczu kultur. Meksykańska grupa etniczna w Stanach Zjednoczonych (2008), Karol Derwich (ed.), Meksyk w XXI wieku. Polityka - Społeczeństwo – Gospodarka (2009), Marta Kania, Prekolumbijski image Peru. Rola archeologii i dziedzictwa inkaskiego w kształtowaniu peruwiańskiej tożsamości narodowej (2010), Marta Kania, Machupicchu. Między archeologią i polityką (2013); Karol Derwich, W krainie Pierzastego Węża. Historia Meksyku od podboju do czasów współczesnych (2014).

Academic activities:

The organization of the highly-respected Kraków Conferences of Latin American Studies (KKL) which have evolved from a regional forum to an important international event. Four editions have been organized so far:
2016 – Migraciones y diasporas de la América Latina contemporanea
2013 – Derechos humanos en América Latina. Teoria y práctica
2010 – Ruchy społeczne i etniczne w Ameryce Łacińskiej
2007 – Doświadczenie demokracji w Ameryce Łacińskiej

As a part of their academic activities, the scholars of the Department have organized, for several years, regular seminars and teleconferences with the goal of meeting and discussing with experts in many fields of Latin American studies as well as interacting with representatives of the world of culture, media, and diplomacy.

  • Pentecostal, Politics, and Religious Equality in Argentina (April 2017)
  • Cultural Heritage and the New Religious Phenomena in the Americas: the Past and the Present (April 2017)
  • Pensamiento latinoamericano (January 16, 2017).
  • Meeting with Ambassador of Mexico in Poland (October 2016).
  • Mexico en el siglo XXI (October 25, 2016).
  • Meeting with Jacek Hinz, Former Ambassador of Poland in Caracas (Venezuela) (2016).
  • Meeting with Ambassador of the Republic of Peru in Poland (June 2016).
  • Working with My Own Language: Research and Revitalization of the Nahuatl Language and Culture (June 9, 2016).
  • Political Crisis in Brazil: Impeachment or Coup d’État? (May 19, 2016).
  • Religious Diversification of the Americas: Myths, Traditions, Contemporary Phenomena (March 18, 2016).
  • Cuba in the Post-Hegemonic World (December 11, 2015).
  • Student Movements in Mexico, 1968-2015 (October 23, 2015).
  • Latin America in the Contemporary International Relations (April 28, 2015).
  • Latinos in Kraków (April 29, 2015).
  • Indigenous Peoples of the Americas – Yesterday and Today (March 19, 2015).
  • Latin American Literature since the Times of Boom: Regional or Global? (November 19, 2014).
  • Cuba in the Contemporary World (October 28, 2014).
  • What’s Going On in Venezuela? (March 4, 2014).
  • Peligros para la democracia en America Latina (March 27, 2014).
  • Fuel Revolution in Latin America (January 16, 2014).
  • Protección del medio ambiente en America Latina – amenazas y soluciones (December 12, 2013).
  • America: a Meeting or a Discovery? (October 14, 2013).


  • Participation in academic conferences organized by the members of the Academic Circle of Latin American Studies, including moderation of conference panels and presentation of papers.
  • Participation in discussions with students, including the regularly scheduled “Fireside Chats”, dedicated to the current socio-political problems of both Americas.