Leiden - Latin America and the Caribbean
As a priority area of Leiden University, the current objective of the Region Group LAC is to map Latin America and the Caribbean at the University, to develop a more focused approach, to set up and implement new research projects, and to increase student and staff mobility.
Leiden University has been promoting studies on Latin America and Caribbean for a long time. Its relations with these regions date back to the 17th century, when Leiden's Alumnus, Georg Markgraf, was one of the scientists accompanying Maurits van Nassau-Siegen during his mandate as governor of Dutch Brazil from 1637 till 1644. Markgraf was an astronomer and he was the first to study the sky of the southern hemisphere. In Recife, he built a copy of the Leiden Observatory of that time. He was also an excellent cartographer and was able to draw extremely accurate maps. Moreover, he wrote the part on Brazilian fauna and flora in Historia Naturalis Brasiliae (1648, Leiden: Franciscus Hack; Amsterdam, Ludovicus Elzevier).
The university is home to the department of Latin American Studies (LAS) which attracts a robust number of students every year. The Latin American Studies programme represents the largest teaching platform on Latin America within Leiden University and in the Dutch academic world at large. This teaching platform includes a full bachelor and master programme entirely dedicated to the study of the Latin American region from a multidisciplinary approach, including modern history, cultural studies, linguistics and language acquisition (Spanish and Portuguese). In addition to this, LAS offers the only 2-year research master programme on Latin American Studies in The Netherlands. It also is the only study programme in the country to offer a track specifically for Brazil.
Moreover, each academic year, LAS hosts two visiting chairs on Brazilian and Chilean Studies, occupied by eminent scholars from these countries. The initiative aims to provide a wide range of courses open to the entire Leiden student community and strengthen the links with the institutions in these regions. More information on cooperation can be found in the menu on the left.
Within its academic body, LAS has a Chair in Modern Latin American history, held by professor Patricio Silva, who supervises a great number of PhD students currently carrying out research on a variety of themes related to Latin American socio-political development and cultural topics. Still within LAS, dr. Marianne Wiesebron has been very active in fomenting the study of Brazil and has strong links to Brazilians institutions such as the Federal University of Santa Catarina and the Brazilian embassy in Haia.
Aside from LAS, the University of Leiden has a strong tradition in the study of Pre-Columbian Amerindian societies. Prof. Maarten Jansen (Faculty of Archaeology) holds the Chair in Meso-American Archaeology and History. Jansen is head of the department of Archaeological Heritage and participates in the Research MA & PhD tracks ‘Archaeological Heritage in a Globalising World’ and ‘Religion and Society (in Native American Cultures)’.
Leiden also has a Professorial Chair in Archaeology of the Caribbean Region, which is held by Professor Corinne Hoffman. In the (Circum-)Caribbean, large-scale archaeological projects have been carried out over the past 30 years under her direction. A considerable number of academics and PhD candidates are engaged in the study of Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean and the Amazon region.
Within the field of indigenous languages, Professor Willem Adelaar (Faculty of Humanities) is a specialist in several Amerindian languages, alongside Dr. Eithne Carlin, who teaches and researches threatened languages from Indo-America.
Leiden University is also the host institution for the ERC project “The Linguistic Past of Mesoamerica and the Andes: A search for early migratory relations between North and South America” under the leadership of Prof. Willem Adelaar and Dr Søren Wichmann. Through an interdisciplinary approach, the project seeks to identify both linguistic similarities due to common descent from the languages of the earliest migrants who moved down through the Americas, as well as similarities due to secondary contact.
Because of the long presence of the Netherlands in the Caribbean region, Leiden has a long tradition in the study of the Caribbean in general, and of the Dutch Antilles in particular. This ranges from the field of history to anthropology and public administration. Professor Gert Oostindie, Director of the Royal Netherlands Institute for South-East Asian and Caribbean Studies KITLV) holds the Chair in Caribbean History. Prof. Oostindie is one of the main experts in the Netherlands in the field of Cuban, Dominican and Puerto Rican history, as well as a specialist on the Dutch Antilles. Also at the KITLV, Dr. Rosemarijn Hoëfte works on Caribbean history, particularly on Suriname. Dr. Peter Meel, Director of Research of the Department of History, is also a specialist in the Caribbean region.
In the Faculty of Social Sciences, Dr. Rivke Jaffe (Cultural Anthropology) works on several urban anthropological and sociological topics related to the Caribbean and the spatialization of power and inequality within cities.
At the National Ethnological Museum at Leiden, Dr. Laura van Broekhoven is Curator for Central and South America.
At the main University Library, Drs. Isabel Brouwer is the specialized Librarian on the Latin America collection (acquisition, collection building, scholar support, etc.).
Henceforth, through this website foreign students and scholars who wish to know more about the studies of Latin American and the Caribbean within the University of Leiden will be able to obtain information on all programmes and activities, in addition to details on staff members and departments involved in the teaching and research on this particular region.