Institute of the Americas

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Latin American Studies

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It is said that Brazil is the country of the future, and will always be. While the same might be said of the region as a whole, according to many observers, Latin America has turned a page... the future is now.

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As Europe, North America and large parts of Asia plunge deeper into recession, most Latin American economies are booming. This economic success is matched by good news in the social and political spheres: throughout the region, the middle classes are expanding and with one notable exception, formal democratic processes are now the only game in town. Many Latin American societies have also made important strides in recovering from their violent pasts and are in many cases in the vanguard of progressive developments in international human rights law. Furthermore, as issues related to climate change and biodiversity loss continue to gain traction, South America’s status as the most densely forested continent on the planet and Brazil’s world-leading expertise in the production of green energy are establishing the region as an important player in global environmental governance.

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Despite these success stories the region continues to suffer from many of the problems that have chequered its history since colonisation: Latin America remains a region marked by fragile political institutions, deep inequalities structured by class, gender and race, acute poverty, clientelism, and state repression. Drug-fuelled violence criss-crosses the continent from Tijuana to the favelas of Rio and the villas miserias of Buenos Aires, while the commodity-based export boom continues to wreak environmental destruction and pit multinational corporations against campesinos and indigenous communities in struggles for control over natural resources. Throughout the region, cities divide into highly segregated spaces, where people live in fear of each other, yet the capacity of Latin American states to respond to these multiple challenges remains weak and uneven.

Making sense of the region’s complex history and current situation is a challenging task. At the UCL Institute of the Americas, this is a challenge we relish and we are able to draw on the expertise of our faculty, affiliate members, and associate and visiting fellows, to create one of the world’s foremost centres of learning on Latin America and its numerous and complex hemispheric and global articulations.

In addition to three Masters programmes (MA in Latin American Studies, MSc in Latin American Politics, and MSc in Globalisation and Latin American Development), the UCL Institute of the Americas provides a world-leading PhD programme, which attracts students of Latin America from around the globe.

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With particular expertise in social policy and gender rights (Molyneux), democratisation and labour politics (Middlebrook), environmental issues and agroecology (Woodgate), human rights (Engstrom), and social and economic history (Drinot, Lewis), the UCL Institute of the Americas operates as a hub for interdisciplinary research and comparative analysis of Latin America.

Its fellowship programmes, its research networks, and its extensive links with UK Government institutions (such as the FCO and DfID), Latin American embassies, civil society groups, NGOs, and business organisations, as well as its extensive events programme, make UCL’s Institute of the Americas a major point of reference for teaching and learning on Latin America in the UK, Europe, and indeed the world.