Decolonizing Global Geographies

Yomaira Figueroa (Michigan State University), Paula Park (Wesleyan University), and Ana Paulina Lee (Columbia University). Introduced and moderated by Laura Torres-Rodríguez (NYU)

Thursday, November 17, 2022, 7:00 pm

KJCC, 53 Washington Square S, NY 10012

Yomaira Figueroa

Title: “Intimacies to Apocalypso: Afro-Atlantic Studies in Relation”

Abstract: “How do we map relations across the Afro-Atlantic? How do the diasporic cultural productions of the sole Spanish-speaking nation in Subsaharan Africa connect with works emerging from the Spanish-speaking Caribbean? What insights do we gain by reading these contemporary works alongside each other? This talk, “Intimacies to Apocalypso” will examine the long history of Atlantic crossings between Equatorial Guinea and the Latinx Caribbean and engage in a robust discussion about race, colonialism, diaspora, feminisms, decolonization, literature, and the human. By centering the often-peripheralize Afro-Atlantic through a set of diasporic texts we can come to understand how they not only reveal violence, forms of resistance, and the radical potential of Afro-futurities.

Yomaira C. Figueroa-Vásquez is an Afro-Puerto Rican writer, teacher, and scholar from Hoboken, NJ. She earned her M.A. and Ph.D. in Comparative Ethnic Studies at the University of California, Berkeley and her B.A. in English, Puerto Rican and Hispanic Caribbean Studies, and Women’s and Gender Studies at Rutgers University, New Brunswick. She is Associate Professor of Afro-Diaspora Studies at Michigan State University and the author of the award-winning book Decolonizing Diasporas: Radical Mappings of Afro-Atlantic Literature (Northwestern, 2020). Her forthcoming book, The Survival of a People, examines the disappearances and excesses of Afro-Puerto Rican island and diasporic peoples through the study of archival histories, photography, visual art, and film from the late 19th century to the present. Her published work can be found in Hypatia, Decolonization, CENTRO, Small Axe, Frontiers, Hispanofilia, Post 45 Contemporaries, and SX Salon. She is a founder of the MSU Womxn of Color Initiative, #ProyectoPalabrasPR, and Electric Marronage and is a 2015-2017 Duke University Mellon SITPA Fellow, a 2017-2018 Ford Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow, and a 2021-2022 Cornell University Society for the Humanities Fellow. She is the PI for the 2022-2024 Andrew W. Mellon funded “Diaspora Solidarities Lab,” a $2M Higher Learning project focused on Black feminist digital humanities initiatives that support solidarity work in Black and Ethnic Studies (

Paula Park

Title: Centering the Pacific in Hispanic and Latin American Studies

Abstract: For centuries, the Spanish Empire declared itself owner of the Pacific Ocean or Mar del Sur. The Manila-Acapulco galleon trade, which lasted from 1565 to 1815, supposedly solidified the Spanish claim to the world’s largest ocean. This talk will explore the question of how we might approach the Pacific from Hispanic literary/cultural studies without inadvertently glorifying the extents of the former Spanish Empire or the comparable expansionist aspirations of Latin American nation-states. It will offer an overview of recent Latin Americanist research on the impact and legacy of the transpacific galleon trade and then turn to some examples of Pacific-centered literature.

Paula Park is an associate professor of Spanish and the chair of the Latin American studies program at Wesleyan University in Connecticut. Her research and teaching interests are modern Latin American literature and culture, Philippine literature in Spanish and English, and US Latinx studies. Park’s book Intercolonial Intimacies: Relinking Latin/o America to the Philippines, 1898-1964 (University of Pittsburgh Press 2022) reexamines the geographically bound and ideologically charged definitions of Latinidad and Hispanidad by analyzing the work of twentieth-century Filipino and Latin American writers, cultural critics, and diplomats. Her current research project centers on Latin American and Caribbean literature about Rapa Nui, Easter Island, from the middle of the nineteenth century to the present.

Ana Paulina Lee (Columbia University)

Title: Extraterritorial Topics in Luso-Hispanic Asia

Abstract: Portuguese imperialism was a central, yet often overlooked, chapter in the history of globalization and the making of the modern world order. Over the past few decades, historians and literary scholars have begun to recuperate histories of the Spanish and Portuguese Pacific, establishing many avenues for future research. The Portuguese overseas empire was not a coherent or consistent entity, and Portuguese colonial history in Asia resembled a hydra more than a leviathan. Ambiguous territorial statuses and borders are characteristic of Iberian Asian histories, and in this talk, I’ll focus on Macao, an extraterritorial space and Special Administrative Zone to discuss the hydra of Portuguese-China relations.

Ana Paulina Lee is Associate Professor of Latin American and Iberian Cultures at Columbia University. She is the author of Mandarin Brazil: Race, Representation and Memory (Stanford University Press, 2018), winner of the 2019 Antonio Candido Prize for Best Book in the Humanities, awarded by the Brazil Section of the Latin American Studies Association. Mandarin Brazil examines the way that Brazilian cultural institutes constructed ideas about China and the Chinese to strengthen nationalism and racial whitening ideologies. The book examines the cultural histories of Brazil and China through bringing together a multigenre archive that maps the circulation of trade, labor, and material culture to reveal the connected histories of Chinese and Portuguese expansion and globalization to the hemispheric Americas.

Co-sponsors: PASSO, Global Philippine Studies Forum, Department of Spanish and Portuguese, CLACS