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Introducing: Randal Sheppard

Randal Sheppard recently joined the Institute for History as a lecturer in International Relations. He introduces himself.

Growing up in Melbourne, Australia I became interested with Latin America and particularly Mexico from an early age. This seems to puzzle a lot of people and I will concede that Latin America is not a traditional focus of interest in Australian universities! I was fortunate, however, that La Trobe University in Melbourne housed the Institute for Latin American Studies which had a particular historical expertise in Mexico. I was therefore able to undertake a BA at La Trobe majoring in Latin American Studies and Politics, completing my PhD in History at the university in 2013.

I have since reworked my PhD thesis into a monograph published by University of New Mexico Press entitled A Persistent Revolution: History, Nationalism, and Politics in Mexico since 1968. This book focuses on nationalism’s role in shaping how economic and political crises and reforms were communicated, understood, and implemented during the neoliberal era. At Leiden, I have drawn on this research about how international waves of neoliberalism and democracy were filtered through a Mexican lens. I have developed a global post-Cold War history of democracy elective for the MAIR programme and a research methods seminar on Political and Democratic Transitions for the BAIS programme.

After completing my PhD, I worked as a postdoctoral researcher on the European Research Council project “Left-Wing Exile in Mexico, 1934-1960” at the University of Cologne, Germany. I am currently finishing the book based on this research tracing the life and work of Cuban-born furniture designer Clara Porset, who arrived in Mexico as an exile in 1935. Following Porset through archives in Mexico, Cuba, the United States, and Russia proved an enjoyable and immensely fruitful way of writing a new history of exile in the mid-twentieth century Western Hemisphere. The intertwining topics I am writing about include the development of transnational activist and exile networks, hub cities as sites of political cross-pollination and ideological transformation, the politics of cultural production, and Cold War cultural diplomacy. I recently published a journal article based on this research in The Americas.

I am interested in pursuing cultural aspects of politics and international relations in Latin America in my future research. In particular, I hope next to study the politics of consumer culture in Cold War Latin America. These interests also inform my teaching plans. I am currently developing new thematic seminars for the BAIS programme examining consumer culture and tourism in their international and historical contexts.

I am also very interested in strengthening ties with Latin American students and scholars. In 2017, I was part of a delegation to Mexico led by the Rector Magnificus during which we signed MoUs with Mexico’s most important universities and funding bodies. So, I am very keen to now promote the possibilities this opens up for students and staff here and in Mexico for collaboration!

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