Spanish, Latin American, and Latino/a Studies

Latin American Studies

The study of Latin America has a long and distinguished history in the department of Romance Studies, one that our faculty members maintain by constantly questioning and challenging its basic terms. We debate not only what “Latin America” is and how we may study it, but also if such a moniker aids or defeats our diverse intellectual projects. With a strong emphasis on multilingualism based in an awareness of the politics of language in the Americas, our faculty members are in conversation with the hispanophone, anglophone, lusophone, and francophone cultures of the region, and also reach out to indigenous universities and cultural producers now claiming their rightful place in the “Latin American” context. What is more, the “latinidad” of Latin America comes into view always in contact with the “latinidad” of Latino/a Studies (see link); in this department, the intellectual, historical and political borders between north and south are both porous and contested.

We approach Latin America, if we admittedly may never quite arrive there, in dialogue with other disciplines, beginning with literature and including history, philosophy, political theory, visual culture, performance studies, and mass culture. Equally diverse theoretical questions enliven our exchanges: how gender and sexuality are framed and lived, the political promise of decolonial thought, the nuances of history gleaned from fiction and poetry, the shape and sound of the trans-Atlantic sphere, the relationship between economies and expressive cultures, the historical and contemporary power of racial discourse and modes of surviving its violence, and the possibilities of artistic production beyond the logic of representation. These interdisciplinary and theoretical pursuits shape our pedagogy as well. Recent graduate seminars include topics ranging from theories of visual culture to decolonial aesthetics, from literature and democracy in 19th Century Latin America to civilization and barbarism in recent Latin American literature, to current discursive and cultural constructs in the Hispanic Caribbean. We have long encouraged students to mix practice with theory, beginning with Ariel Dorfman’s courses in fiction and essay writing and continuing with new interdisciplinary seminars on research as artistic practice.

Opportunities for research and study at Duke are enhanced by the Center for Caribbean and Latin American Studies, a Title VI funded center that fosters close ties with UNC-Chapel Hill, as well as institutional membership in the Hemispheric Institute of Performance and Politics ( We welcome applications for PhD students interested in working in these areas, and encourage interested applicants to contact directly the faculty members most relevant to their research.

Latino/a Studies

The Department of Romance Studies approaches the field of Latino/a Studies through a wide-ranging and innovative exploration of Latino and Latina literature, history, culture, and artistic practices. The Department configures a different and multifaceted mapping of Latino and Latina social and national identities, cultures, and networks by promoting comparative and interdisciplinary trajectories that engage with these transnational communities hemispherically and transatlantically. Our faculty’s scholarly endeavors urge a redrafting of the standard definitions of Latinoness and Latinaness in the United States, seeking broader connections and insights of Latino and Latina peoples, their intra-ethnic tensions and relations, diverse language experiences, and transcultural processes in the global borderlands of the United States, Latin America, and Spain. Latino/a Studies also integrates the local geography of Durham, North Carolina and the regional landscape of the U.S. South in the unraveling and production of knowledge that encompasses the incipient terrain of the recently denominated “Nuevo South.” Latino and Latina intellectual and cultural thought are fundamentally integrated to the larger oeuvres shaping Latin American and U.S. literature as well as discourses of the U.S. South, transamerican studies, and the emerging field of the global south.

Elvira L Vilches

Elvira L Vilches, Associate Professor of Romance Studies

Office: 218 Language Center, Box 90257, Durham, NC 27708

My teaching and research interests include early modern Spanish and Colonial Latin American literature, the rise of capitalism, economic thought, and the making of practical knowledge. I study how economics, science, and culture share a universe in the writing practices of Spanish...

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Liliana Paredes

Liliana Paredes, Professor of the Practice of Romance Studies

Office: 102 Language Center, Durham, NC 27708

Phone: (919) 660-3100

Current interests: second language acquisition of vocabulary; curricular implications of low, mid and high stakes activities to understand writing in a second language; development of intercultural competence, assessment. Full Profile »

Magda Silva

Magda Silva, Senior Lecturer of Romance Languages

Office: 02 Language Center, Box 90257, Durham, NC 27708

Phone: (919) 660-8436

Magda Silva is Director of the Duke Portuguese Language Program and the Brazil Summer Study Abroad Program in Rio de Janeiro and the Amazon, Brazil. Her interdisciplinary interest has reached a variety of fields including Environmental Studies, Latin American Studies, Law, and Business. She is...

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Esther Leah Gabara

Esther Leah Gabara, Associate Professor of Romance Studies

Office: 212 Language Center, Department of Romance Studies, Durham, NC 27708-0257

Phone: (919) 660-3100

Esther Gabara works with art, literature, and visual culture from modern and contemporary Latin America. Central issues in her research are the relationship between ethics and aesthetics, theories and practices of non-mainstream modernisms, and representations of race and gender. Her teaching... Full Profile »

Walter Mignolo

Walter Mignolo, Professor of Romance Studies

Office: 125B Friedl Building, Box 90670, Durham, NC 27708

Phone: (919) 668-1949


Mignolo’s research and teaching have been devoted, in the past 30 years, to understanding and unraveling the historical foundation of the modern/colonial world system and imaginary since 1500. In his research, modern/...

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Claudia Milian

Claudia Milian, Professor of Romance Studies

Office: 217C Language Ctr, Box 90257, Durham, NC 27708

Phone: (919) 660-3127

Claudia Milian, a scholar of Latino/a Studies, works in comparative and interdisciplinary studies and forges intersections among the vast intellectual traditions of Latina/o Studies, Latin American Studies, African American Studies, southern studies, and hemispheric American Studies. Her areas of... Full Profile »

José María Rodríguez García

José María Rodríguez García, Associate Professor of Romance Studies

Office: 214 Language Center, Durham, NC 27708

Phone: (919) 660-3113

Global Iberia/ Oceanic Americas; cosmopolitanism and autochthony; history of lyric forms and of literary translation; Galicia's political-intellectual history; Colombia's political-intellectual history; late/ belated Hispanic and transnational modernisms, esp. Zambrano, Tàpies & Paz Full Profile »

Antonio Viego

Antonio Viego, Associate Professor in the Department of Romance Studies

Office: Program in Literature/101 Ernestine Friedl Building, East Campus/Box 90670, Durham, NC 27708-0670

Phone: (919) 668-2687

Latino Studies; Ethnic Studies; Queer/Lesbian/Gay Studies; Twentieth Century American Literatures; Critical Race Theory; Chicana Feminist Theory; Comparative Ethnicities; Lacanian Psychoanalytic Theory Full Profile »

Joan Clifford

Joan Clifford, Assistant Professor of the Practice of Romance Studies

Office: 2122 Campus Dr., Room 206, Box 90269, Durham, NC 27708

Phone: (919) 684-0774

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