Latin American Studies Draws Attention with New Series

By Allen Lin, Staff Writer-

A new series focuses on raising awareness of the issues and dynamics of Latin Americans and growing interest in this demographic. 

Dr. Edward Brudney and Dr. Emma McDonell, with support from the anthropology and history department, hosted the virtual “Latin American Dialogue: You Are What You Wear” on Feb. 25. 

The purpose of the Latin American Dialogue series according to McDonell, an assistant professor from the department of social, cultural, and justice studies, was to start a conversation at UTC about Latin American Studies.

“We’ve found that there’s a lot of interest on campus about Latin America, in part because a growing number of students at UTC are part of the larger Latin American diaspora, and we wanted to build energy and enthusiasm around this,” McDonell said. 

The first talk for this series is named “You Are What You Wear.” It featured Dr. Brooke Persons, the director of UTC Jeffry L. Brown Institute of Archaeology, who is an expert in the archaeology of the Caribbean in the early colonial period. 

Persons discussed ways we can learn about the belief systems of societies without a written language. 

The key is by studying adornments through the science of iconography, which is the study of the relationship between visual imagery and its meaningful referent. By studying the pendants prehistoric people wore, we can have a better understanding of their belief systems. 

Persons focused on western and eastern Taino culture and their love for frog pendants and plaques. 

According to McDonell, studying clothing and adornments is important because it marks their identity and position in society. 

“In some contexts, what one wears can reflect positions of authority, like the business suit. Likewise, adornments can do this symbolic work. Just think of the patches of honor decorated military officials have, or the special robes the Chancellor wears at the graduate ceremony, or a large piece of expensive jewelry,” McDonell said. “While clothing is both symbolic and practical in keeping a wearer warm and covering body parts deemed taboo, adornments are purely symbolic decorations”. 

The Latin American Dialogue will have two more talks, which will feature McDonell and Dr. Pablo Palomino, an assistant history professor at Emory University. 

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