Graduate Students

Updated: September 30th, 2008

Sharada Balachandran-Orihuela

English Department

Currently, Sharada’s research focuses on the triangulated relationship between the U.S., Mexico, and Cuba from mid-19th century to late 20th century Hemispheric American literature. More specifically, she is examining the role of borders and the Global South as a particular location for national anxiety. Her project seeks to fill in the gaps of mid-19th to 20th century literature by examining the multiple articulation of border regions and geographies in the Americas with a specific focus on terror, sovereignty and national (and academic) security and territoriality. The research will also examine the very significant ways in which the border regions along the U.S.-Mexico border (U.S. South and Southwest) are interconnected with Cuba, specifically, and Latin America, more broadly, through a discussion of how borders have been symbolically and literally constructed throughout this time period. Her project benefits from the Latin American Cultural Studies Research Cluster because of her research interests in Hemispheric American literature and theory, as well as her continued approach to literature through a comparative and transnational lens.

Consuelo Cervantes

Spanish Department

Consuelo’s research interests are contemporary Latin American Literature productions with an emphasis on queer studies, body politics, aesthetics, psychoanalysis, eroticism and ways of desiring, and theories of subjectivities in general. His current research focuses on the perception of obesity and its sociopolitical implications through literature, the Mexican picaresque novel in dialogue with contemporary literary productions, and the insertion of different art disciplines in literary works such photography, painting, film, and architecture. This cluster compliments his research through exploring different disciplinary perspectives. At the same time, the cluster promotes an intellectual environment lead by scholars and students that redefines and broadens the frontiers of his discipline.

Claudia Darrigrandi

Spanish Department

Claudia has a degree in history from the Catholic University of Chile and is a PhD candidate in Latin American Literature. Her dissertation is on the representations of figures and urban cities of the South during 1880-1935. Among her publications are an article, “Storni and Borges: Experiences of flânerie in Buenos Aires” which was published in the Journal of Literary and Cultural Research (2005-2006) and a piece in the fifth volume edition of Compass: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Latin American Studies (2006) which was dedicated to the study of cities. Claudia also works with Brújula, an interdisciplinary journal with a focus on Latin American literary studies published by graduate students at UC Davis . This journal seeks to foster a dialogue between established academics and a new generation of scholars, while including original essays from a variety of fields such as linguistics, anthropology, history, Native American studies, comparative literature, art, music, Spanish, and sociology. With each issue, Brújula highlights a theme of relevance in current debates and to create a forum that explores transnational perspectives to critical approaches.

Brian Davisson

Comparative Literature Graduate Group

Brian is interested in the study of Central American literature with respect to the transnational borrowings which have been frequent and yet often overlooked in academic circles, particularly in the United States. The transnational influence of Central America could be explored both in the context of an inter-Central American context or between Central America and the rest of Latin America. Such an approach permits the study of Central American literature in a proper context, focused upon the historical realities of Panama’s connection to Colombia and the United States, the cross-border cultural influence of southern Mexico with Guatemalan and Honduran literature and the strong connections between the five traditional ¨Central American States.¨

Nicholas D’Avella

Anthropology Department

Nicholas’ dissertation research project, “From Banks to Bricks: Architecture, Finance, and Neighborhood Life in Buenos Aires, Argentina,” examines the changing significance of the building as a cultural object in contemporary Buenos Aires. Since the Argentine financial crisis of 2001/2002, real estate has emerged as one of the most important forms of investment — not only for large investors, but for an increasing number of smaller investors as well, who are eager to find alternatives to a banking system which they no longer trust. The flood of interest in real estate has had a significant impact on the day-to-day work of architectural production, as architects develop new means of financing construction projects that both provide investment opportunities to smaller investors while also recuperating for themselves a greater degree of artistic control over the projects in which they are involved. The boom in construction has also significantly altered the material landscape of Buenos Aires and the social geography of neighborhood life for many of the city’s residents, some of whom have begun to protest against the transformation of their lives at the hands of what they see as unbridled development. His project traces the collisions and coalescences between different ways of imaging what a building should be — on behalf of investors, architects, and neighborhood residents — and the power-laden processes and struggles through which material interventions are made into urban space. First, it is intended as an examination of a contemporary financial culture in which people may seek alternatives to global capital flows rather than increased participation in them (i.e. a financial culture in which the local stickiness of real estate is preferred to the flowy gobalesque of banking systems). It is also intended as a study of urban visionary practices in which the large-scale, state-driven modernist urban planning projects typically studied in the social sciences are of limited relevance for understanding the large and diverse number of actors operating in a free-market idiom that are responsible for the changing landscape of contemporary Buenos Aires. Finally, such a diffuse (if powerful) pattern of urban change raises important political questions for neighborhood residents, who cannot pinpoint one main plan, one state body, or one developer against whom to direct their advocacy, but rather must map new geographies of power and knowledge and develop new tactics of intervention if they are to make their voices heard.

Jonathan Dettman

Spanish Department

Jonathan studies the aesthetic representations of political and economic life in Latin America (focusing on Cuba) and Critical Theory. He has published work on contemporary Latin American narrative, especially novela negra, a socially conscious, “hard-boiled” variety of detective fiction. His current research centers on value, social form, and ideology in post-Soviet Cuban film, poetry, and narrative. Specifically, he attempts to ground, from a critical-theoretical perspective, representations of time, space, and labor in the socio-historical features of the so-called “Special Period”.

Nathaniel Freiburger

Sociology Department

Nathaniel is interested in questions of knowledge production in relation to modernity and the ways in which these processes of knowledge production intersect with questions of subjectivity and organizational forms in autonomous politics. His research focuses on autonomous political projects and populist politics in Bolivia.

Milagros Gómez

Spanish Department

Milagros is interested in the representation of feminine corporal identity in writing by Mexican woman writers of the latter half of the twentieth century. In her dissertation project, she explores issues of self definition with regard to sexuality and gender identity and how women’s representation of women has changed over time. She interrogates the role of the female body as a vehicle to express “transgressive” ideologies, relating these questions to political movements (feminism, gay rights) and to trends in academic analysis (feminist and queer theory).

Bárbara A. Gunn

Spanish Department

Bárbara is a Latin Americanist who specializes in contemporary Mexican narrative literature. Her particular research focus involves the intersection between fiction and Mexican popular music: how this music helps create and maintain the narrative thread and how it permits a popular or subaltern voice to enter into, shape, and provide a running commentary on the plot/action narrated. In her dissertation project, she plans to apply a cross-disciplinary approach (traditional literary theory, cultural studies theory, popular music theory) to the analysis of iconic literature of the Latin American “boom,” as well as more recent Mexican and Chicana novels.

Mela Jones Heestand

Comparative Literature Graduate Group

Mela’s research is focused on indigenous literature and performance in South America. In particular, she’s interested in struggles to gain control over dominant and dominating modes of representation that have typically been denied to indigenous subjects (modern, “high”, written) as well as the ways in which indigenous subjects affirm the value of marginalized modes of representation (traditional, popular, oral). She is also interested in looking at how indigenous groups in South America, characterized by distinctive symbolic patterns of interaction between people and nature, have articulated social and political movements.

Ingrid Lagos

Cultural Studies Graduate Group

Ingrid’s research is focused on the formation of national identity in transnational spaces in El Salvador. Specifically she is interested in how the circulation of ideas, objects, and cultural practices across El Salvador and the United States create new spaces where national identities and subjectivities in El Salvador are reformulated in contestation to a hegemonic definition of national identity formed in the first quarter of the twentieth century.

Erik Larson

Spanish Department

Erik studies contemporary Latin American and Spanish literature. He focuses on the post dictatorial novela negra from Argentina and Spain in relation to issues of memory, identity, and aesthetics. He is also interested in interdisciplinary approaches, analyzing the contemporary hispanic novela negra in terms of its cinematic antecedent, classic film noir. In addition to literature, Erik is interested in music, specifically jazz, and is an up and coming upright bassist. He has played the local club scene including Ludy’s, Fox and Goose, Davis International House, and Red Lyon lounge.

Timothy Eugene Murphy

Anthropology Department

Timothy’s research focuses on cosmopolitan belonging among people who do not cross borders and more specifically, those residing in ordinary, middle-sized cities. Through ethnography, his research examines a group of local cosmopolitans considered to be the cultural vanguards of an out-of-the-way city in the Brazilian Northeast. He is interested in how men and women construct lives connected to the wider world in such a place and how dominant regimes of power of race, class, and gender/sexuality shape and are shaped by the daily practices of these men and women as they interact with their urban landscape in unconventional ways.

Jesús Ortiz-Díaz

Associate Instructor, Spanish Department

Moisés Park

Spanish Department

Moises is persuing his PhD in Spanish Literature with an emphasis in Critical Theory. He grew up in Bolivia, Chile and Brazil, and is of Korean heritage. His research interests include: Latin American literature and culture, film studies, critical theory, comparative literature, East Asian and Spanish poetry, pop culture, liberation theology and human rights ethics.

Adriana Elisa Parra

Geography Graduate Group

Adrian was born in Quibido, Choco, Columbia, within the rainforest. Her master’s degree was in Latin American Social and Economic Development. She finished another master’s degree at UC Davis in community Development and is currently pursuing her doctoral degree in Geography. She has co-founded and directed NGOs focusing on social problems in Columbia, education and family issues.

Isabel Porras

Cultural Studies Graduate Group

Isabel is particularly interested in the performance of radical political identities amongst transnational youth, especially as it relates to Zapatismo in Mexico or autonomist movements in Argentina. By investigating these transnational movements, her work seeks to gain a more detailed perspective on contemporary Latin American Social movements and their relationship to the United States.

Iliana Portaro

Spanish Department

Magalí Rabasa

Cultural Studies Graduate Group

Magalí’s research analyzes the current political transformations in Latin America through a multi-sited ethnographic study of alternative presses involved in the production of books by and about popular social movements. These new social movements are part of the current “turn to the left” in Latin America, and her research seeks to understand the complexity of this political transformation by examining how political theories, practices, and experiences travel through the publication of books. Her ethnographic study examines the material production and circulation of books by collective-presses to analyze how a transnational intellectual-political network of books, writers, publishers, activists, and social movements is formed. She is particularly concerned with the reorientation of power/knowledge in the contemporary “lettered city” through the significant emergence of indigenous and feminist collective political actors. As a doctoral student in Cultural Studies, she is also pursuing a Designated Emphasis in Feminist Theory and Research.

Nicholas Sanchez

Comparative Literature

Nicholas’ research focuses largely on the cultural connections that are enabled and propagated by the expansion of science and technology in Latin America and the United States. He is particularly interested in the relationship between socialist movements in Latin America – especially the Allende government of Chile – and the mutual impact of science and literature on Latin American culture – more specifically, the development of the biological concept of “autopoiesis” in Socialist Chile and its relationship to the broader cultural movement of democratic socialism of the early 1970s.

Silvia Soto

Native American Studies Department

Silvia is interested in examining other ways of knowing, learning, and writing that breaks away from the traditional structure of disciplines that follow a western based philosophy. Her research interest is in indigenous peoples’ struggles for autonomy and self-determination that (re)emerged with the uprising of the EZLN in 1994. She is also interested in studying the way people are practicing these rights and the way issues of identity and gender relations are addressed in the process. Though her research departs from the mobilzation of the EZLN in Chiapas, I am also interested in the histories of struggle in Oaxaca and Michoacan. The teachers’ movement in Oaxaca that reached a whole new level of organizing in May 2006 for instance created one of the largest indigenous mobilization in the state, and the establishment of autonomous communities in Michoacan in early 2004 following the EZLN inspired agenda expanded the practice of autonomy beyond Chiapas. She is interested in researching the way indigenous peoples are looking inside their communities to create spaces for change and autonomous self-management that reconceptualizes indigenous peoples’ lives. The relevance of these movements on this side of the border has to do with the continuously growing immigration of indigenous peoples from these regions to the United States that strengthens bridges of solidarity across politically created borders. This solidarity is also reinforced with the growing number of organizations established by civil society in solidarity with these movements.

Daniela Suarez

Spanish Department

Arturo Vargas

Spanish Department

Arturo’s interests lie in the literature, culture, history and politics of Mexico, particularly with regard to how they interact with those of the United States. His work to date has explored the resurgence in recent years of certain aspects of the ideology of “manifest destiny” with regard to protectionist and nativist strains of contemporary immigration debates, the importation of the French flaneur archetype to Latin American, as well as mechanisms of transculturation in the work of Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz. His interests for future study include themes of migration, borders, multilingualism, multiculturalism and globalization. He hopes to master French and Portuguese so that he may possess the capacity to work in the four major (western) languages of the Americas as a “panamericanist.”

Valentina Velázquez

Spanish Department

Valentina specializes in Mexican literary and cultural studies. She is interested in studying the representation and self-representation of foreign women in Mexico against the background of national identity and subjectivity, focusing primarily on concepts of gender and cultural marginality. Her research also includes work on foreign women’s interventions in Mexican national cultural production (visual arts, literature, film) during the postrevolutionary period (e.g. Tina Modotti, Elena Poniatowska, Angelina Beloff, Libertad Lamarque, and Miroslava Stern).

Karina Zelaya

Spanish Department

Karina’s research interests focus on the Central American community, both in national and diasporic contexts, an area in which cultural production beyond testimonio writing and/or the Nicaraguan armed conflict has generally been marginalized by academia. She specifically works with the Salvadoran and Salvadoran-American communities, focusing on how their culture developed through the various historical processes that were (and continue to be) directly linked to the United States foreign policy that dates back to early 20th century. The study of the different historical (social, political and economic) events that have shaped the Salvadoran community is crucial to understand their transnational character. Furthermore, this interdisciplinary approach allows us to see how Salvadorans are or become transnational subjects even before they come to live in the United States.