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SLAS-SSLAS Workshop II: Languages of Sustainability in Indigenous Cultures and Societies: Resistance and Resilience

Image of a poster advertising the conference.
Conference poster (c) Maria Fernanda Miño

In August 2023, I had the pleasure of participating in the workshop titled “Languages of Sustainability in Indigenous Cultures and Societies: Resistance and Resilience”, organized by the Society for Latin American Studies (SLAS) and the Swiss School of Latin American Studies (SSLAS). This event marked the second workshop organized through the SLAS-SSLAS collaboration focusing on the theme of “Languages of Sustainability in Latin America,” supported by a UKRI-SNSF funded partnership. Hosted at the University of Zurich, it coincided with the 2023 Annual Conference of the Latin American Centre, resulting in two days packed with stimulating panels and discussions. Without hesitation, I can say that these events provided one of the most generous and enriching academic experiences I've had the fortune to attend.


Our SLAS-SSLAS workshop opened the first day of events. Following a short walk from our accommodation to the UHZ Zentrum, enduring the high temperatures typical of European summers, we started the panel with presentations delivered in English, Spanish, and Portuguese. This immediately set the tone for the ease of understanding among the three languages and between participants. My fellow panellists - Erica, Kássia, and Anneli - presented on diverse topics: the Garifuna musical heritage in Guatemala, contested hydro-social territories in Brazil’s Amazonia, and ecological Indigenous worldviews in contemporary Peruvian cinema, respectively. I found common threads with my own research related to the Indigenous concept of Buen Vivir and onscreen mediations of the 'rights of nature'.


Another delightful surprise was the breadth and depth of research, extending beyond the arts and humanities to include disciplines like palaeontology, anthropology, archaeology, and biology. These disciplines were showcased in two subsequent panels appropriately titled “Cultural Diversity and Transformations in the Indigenous Peoples of South America I & II”. The day concluded with a casual pizza dinner and an impromptu city tour through Zurich’s Altstadt, guided by Dr. Rocío Robinson from the University of St. Gallen. A sense of camaraderie among the participants was already emerging, further enhanced by Dr. Robinson’s generous supply of authentic Swiss chocolates.


Image of a group of people sitting by a lake in the middle of the day with the bright in the sky.
A break between panels (C) Maria Fernanda Miño

Day two opened with two fascinating keynotes about early population settlements in South America, followed by a third panel dedicated to Swiss and German exploration in the continent.  Prof Thea Pitman (University of Leeds) and Dr Paul Merchant (University of Bristol), two key people in organising this partnership, led our final activity - a practical workshop about publishing in English.  Our closing remarks underscored the success of the event, with interventions from fellow attendees and a special acknowledgment to Dr. Elena Rosauro, coordinator at the Latin American Centre in Zurich (LZZ). With research discussions concluded, we couldn't resist the opportunity to take a dip in Lake Zurich, a local tradition.


I extend my personal gratitude to Thea, Paul, Rocío, and Elena for making this collaboration possible, and to my fellow panellists Erica, Kássia, and Anneli for their inspiring and ground-breaking research. I sincerely hope that this SLAS-SSLAS partnership paves the way for similar exchange initiatives in the future.


Dr Maria Fernanda Miño

Lecturer (Fixed Term)

Department of Film Studies

University of St Andrews

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