UCL Institute of the Americas


Current Research Projects

MAS+Havana: UCL-Cuba research collaboration for sustainable urban mobility

UCL-IA research associate Dr E Morris is Principal Investigator for research collaboration on ‘Mobility-Accessibility-Sustainability for Havana’ (MAS+Havana), involving a multi-disciplinary research team from UCL and Havana’s technology university (known as CUJAE), with the support and participation of Havana’s transport authority (Dirección General de Transporte, DGT) and other Cuban institutions. Core funding for ‘Improving mobility, quality of life, and accessibility for disadvantaged communities in Havana’ supports community workshops and other activities (for example, Mi Plaza es Mas), and has helped the DGT to secure EU funding to draw up the city’s ‘Sustainable Urban Mobility Plan’ (SUMP). The MAS+Havana responsive programme of research/technical support supports the DGT as it develops pilot projects, and Dr Morris has secured additional funding for inter-disciplinary research and inter-agency engagement on related activities. So far, these have included: workshops and research collaboration on climate finance for mitigation in transport (and energy), ‘technology foresighting’ (a review of low-carbon public transport options), street network analysis, and the impacts of transport on health. A spin-off from MAS+Havana is Havana’s inclusion as one of the cities participating in the UCL Development Planning Unit’s ‘Knowledge into Action for Urban Equity’ (KNOW) network.

Experimental evidence on tax preferences and the informal economy

Informal workers exist at the margins of the state, and understanding the attitudes of these groups towards taxes and public goods relates directly to state capacity and the validity of the social contract in developing countries. This is particularly pertinent in Latin America, where informal workers comprise nearly 70% of the labour force. Recent work emphasizes the centrality of informality for electoral and redistributive outcomes, but we still know virtually nothing about the individual preferences of informal workers. We are fielding an original survey in Mexico in order to try and measure the tax policy preferences of informal workers. We use a list experiment to covertly elicit attitudes on tax avoidance and a conjoint experiment to capture the multi-dimensional components of tax preferences. We expect to find that informal workers have clear preferences for tax policy relative to other workers and make tax versus spending trade-offs. Dr Nestor Castaneda's research outcomes will have important consequences for the implementation of sustainable fiscal policies in developing countries. Learn more about this project here.

The Popular Historians: American Historical Writing and the Politics of the Past, 1945-present

Dr Nick Witham's research project on American historical writing since the Second World War has recently been awarded a British Academy Small Research Grant to fund research at Duke, Harvard, Stanford universities. At the heart of the project is an exploration of the authorship and reception of significant and widely read popular histories published between the 1940s and the 1990s by American historians Daniel Boorstin, John Hope Franklin, Richard Hofstadter, Gerda Lerner and Howard Zinn. In highlighting the distinct contexts in which this public-facing scholarship was able to flourish, the project sheds light on the historical profession's influence on the battles between cultural liberalism and social conservatism that have shaped post-war America. It consequently furthers our understanding of the public functions of humanities scholarship in an era when demands are regularly made for "impact" on society outside of the academy.

Latin American Studies Journals in the Twentieth and Twenty-First Centuries: the UK and the Brazilian experiences

This project, funded by a Newton Mobility Grant, is a collaboration between Professor Marcos Cueto of the Casa Oswaldo Cruz in Rio de Janeiro and Dr Paulo Drinot. The aim of this project is to strengthen and expand collaboration between UK and Brazilian academic communities and in particular to enhance the research capacity of both UK and Brazil based scholars in the field of Latin American studies through exchange of knowledge, skills and expertise in relation to the editing, management and publishing of academic journals in order to support excellent research, and its dissemination, in both Brazil and the UK, and more generally. The project includes reciprocal visits to the UK and Brazil with lectures and meetings aimed at facilitating knowledge and skills transfer and the organization of a workshop at the end of the project which will involve editors of other UK based and Latin America-based journals of Latin American studies.

Torture Prevention in Latin America

Dr Par Engstrom, together with Thomas Pegram (UCL Institute of Global Governance) are currently developing a political and socio-legal study of the evolution of torture and other ill-treatment in Latin America, with a particular focus on what factors have contributed to that evolution and the external influence of international prohibition frameworks. Initially part of a major global study on the impact of torture prevention interventions funded by the Association for the Prevention of Torture, the research draws on both qualitative and available quantitative data through a mixed method research design with the aim to present a highly contextualised picture of measures and mechanisms which contribute to lessening the risk of torture and other ill-treatment.


Inter-American Human Rights Network

Coordinated by Dr Par Engstrom, and initially funded by the Leverhulme Trust, the Inter-American Human Rights Network (IAHRN) is an international research project which seeks to examine the development and impact of the regional human rights system of the Americas. The Network's principal purpose is to foster and coordinate collaborative research into the operations, structure, policies, rulings and recommendations of the Inter-American Commission and Inter-American Court, which together make up the Inter-American Human Rights System (IAHRS). 

Westminster in the Caribbean

The Westminster in the Caribbean network seeks to address the urgent need for an expanded and updated analysis of the experience of Westminster in the Caribbean. The network will consider how the political model inherited from Britain was adapted to the conditions of the Caribbean, its impact on Caribbean democracy and the challenges the model has faced over the period of independence. The network encourages dialogue across a number of borders to bring new insights to critical debates about the evolution and perceived decline of democracy in the region.