2021-22 CLAG Honors Announced
Experts of Latin American Geography awarded honors by the Conference of Latin American Geography (CLAG)
The Conference of Latin American Geography (CLAG) awarded seven honors to nine different Professors of Latin American Geography on February 3, 2022 in an online celebration. The nine awardees research and teach across eight different institutions from Arizona to New York and have expertise in Latin American regions as disparate as the Amazon rainforest and the island of Cuba. What unites these eminent geographers is their dedication to furthering a deeper understanding of this fascinating and dynamic region. The Conference of Latin American Geography had planned to celebrate these geographers at a January conference hosted at the University of Arizona, but had to postpone the event until 2023 due to the recent rapid emergence of the omicron variant. CLAG, founded in 1970, has over 200 members from around the globe who foster geographic education and research on and in Latin America.
Dr. Robert Toovey Walker is the recipient of the 2021 CLAG Carl O. Sauer Distinguished Scholarship Award. Robert is a Professor in the Department of Geography and Center for Latin American Studies at the University of Florida. This award is granted in recognition for a corpus of important published work or other significant contribution towards Latin American geography. Sauer Distinguished Scholars are leading authorities in specific research topics and geographic areas of Latin America, as well as individuals whose research has made significant advancements towards fostering understanding of Latin America to a broader audience. Dr. Walker’s nomination indicates that he has been at the forefront of multiple debates about Amazonian development and has provided us with significant long-term studies that have incorporated multiple methodologies ranging from remote sensing, to field work on the TransAmazon highway as well as the spatial and social theory. Additionally, he has also confronted the “Big Questions” in Amazonia, and often ahead of his time. Amazonian field work is arduous and also a collaborative enterprise. His research is regularly translated into Portuguese and publicized in Brazilian journals as well as more popular venues. What this shows is a continuing engagement in the questions of Brazil and Amazonia, in its politics, thinking and thinkers, and also to Dr Walker’s commitment to its accessibility.
Dr. Tom Perreault is the recipient of the 2022 CLAG Carl O. Sauer Distinguished Scholarship Award. Dr. Perreault is Professor and Chair of the Department of Geography and the Environment at Syracuse University where he holds two named chairs– the Dellplain Chair in Latin American Geography & the Meredith Chair of Teaching Excellence. Dr. Perreault is a political ecologist concerned with the interface between environment, social justice and development and has worked on these issues in the Andean-Amazonian region (Ecuador and Bolivia) since the early 1990s. He has written foundational papers for contemporary understandings of the region and has established himself as one of our pre-eminent Latin American geographers. Tom’s nominators highlight his consistent publication of high-quality peer-reviewed journal articles in leading geography journals since the late 1990s on mining and water governance and indigenous resource uses and indigenous identity in the Andes, in addition to several book chapters in multi- disciplinary books. Notable is that this corpus not only contributes to Latin American geography, but also to geographical theories relating to materiality, identity, governance, collective action, and political ecology. Dr. Perreault’s Scholarly contributions in Spanish to readers in Latin America & collaborations with Latin American colleagues and departments, through visiting scholar appointments & significant supervision and mentoring of graduate from Latin American countries are especially noted. Finally, his nominators share that throughout all of his impressive his work, and while engaging in complex theoretical debates, Tom never let go of his commitment to careful fieldwork in rural communities, as is clear in his work on water management in Cochabamba and mining contamination in Oruro.
Dr. Francisco Lara Valencia is recipient of the 2021 CLAG Public Engagement Award. Francisco is an Associate Professor of the School of Transborder Studies and affiliated to the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning at Arizona State University. He received his PhD in Urban Planning from The University of Michigan at Ann Arbor after doing graduate and undergraduate work in Mexico. His nomination showed that he has a sustained commitment to working with public officials and engaging in public-facing activities involving communities and many inter-governmental partnerships and non-governmental organization activities in the Mexico-US border region. Francisco has also published dozens of scholarly articles on varied borderland topics, ranging from the border wall to public space to water security, with diverse teams of co-authors.
Dr. Matthew J. Taylor is recipient of the 2022 CLAG Public Engagement Award. The writers of his nomination described a compelling scene in Nicaragua, at Rufino and Maria’s place in El Gigante, that involved singing, eating, laughing, and a lot of Flor de Caña, showing how “Matthew’s commitment to an education that transcends the classroom, and that involves everyone everywhere.” The nominators wrote that Matthew instilled in them a simple, but difficult to accomplish, goal: “no research finding is good if you do not provide it to the community that invited you to sit in their living room and made room in their pangas for you.” Matthew is Professor of Geography at the University of Denver. He has published many articles on energy, paleoclimate, and tourism, among other topics, based on field work in Nicaragua and Guatemala.
Dr. Elizabeth A. Oglesby is the recipient of the first ever CLAG Teaching Award (2022). Elizabeth is an Associate Professor at the University of Arizona with a joint appointment from the School of Geography, Development and Environment, and the Latin American Studies program. The writers of her nomination demonstrated that Elizabeth has stimulated and expanded knowledge on Latin America through her interdisciplinary, interactive, and innovative undergraduate classroom teaching, her creation and direction of the highly successful 15-year-old Guatemala Study Abroad Program, and her impactful and prolific mentorship of graduate and undergraduate students. What stands out about Elizabeth’s educational approach are her risk taking, but usually successful efforts to use her educational platforms to empower others: whether this be her integration of Guatemalan instructors, activists, artists, and scholars into the instructional model for the 500 odd graduates of her Guatemala Study Abroad Program, her Indigenous Resistance in Latin America course co-convened with the Maya Ch’orti’ Pluriversity on the Honduran/Guatemalan border, or her carefully designed flipped classroom approach of trying to become invisible in the class by the end of each semester.
Dr. Zoe Pearson is the recipient of the first ever CLAG Ascendente Award (2022). Zoe is an Associate Professor of the School of Politics, Public Affairs, & International Studies at the University of Wyoming. The writers of her nomination demonstrated that Zoe, a critical human geographer and feminist scholar, serves as an excellent first awardee of the Ascendente Award because of her outstanding early accomplishments in scholarship, teaching, and engagement in Latin American Geography since her PhD was conferred in 2016. Her extensive scholarship on illicit drug trafficking reveals a multi-scalar and transnational understanding of trafficking and trafficking related impacts across the Americas from South American production zones, Central American transit and laundering landscapes, and North American consumption and policy crafting sites. Her intensive engagement with Latin America is underscored by a commitment to taking students into the field, long term collaborative relationships with multiple communities, and the careful crafting and successful teaching of Latin America focused courses.
Dr. Marcellus M. Caldas is the recipient of the 2022 CLAG Enlaces Award. The Enlaces Award is given in recognition of contributions to improving relationships between geographers and geography departments throughout Latin America. Recipients have demonstrated success and commitment towards this goal. Dr. Caldas is a Professor in the Department of Geography and Geospatial Sciences and Assistant Provost of International Collaboration and Education Programs for Kansas State University. He also serves as a Graduate Program Collaborator Professor for São Paulo State University, UNESP, in Brazil. Marcellus has a long record of actively working in a variety of different capacities to foster connections between US universities and universities in Latin America, and particularly in Brazil. As nominators related, some of these efforts have supported Brazilian scholars as visiting scholars to the US, and others have supported important internationalization of graduate programs at several different Brazilian universities.
Dr. Christopher Gaffney is the recipient of the 2022 Award for Outstanding Service to CLAG. This award recognizes significant contributions to the improved functioning, broadened outreach, or enhanced impact of CLAG. Dr. Gaffney served as the Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Latin American Geography for four years, from 2015-2018. He significantly expanded the reach of the journal to authors and readers from across Latin America and far beyond, and substantially raised the national and international profile of the journal—establishing the foundation to launch CLAG’s flagship journal into a new era of professionalization and impact. Although his nomination included many details on his accomplishments as JLAG editor, I want to highlight one statement: “During Chris’s editorship JLAG consistently published articles by top scholars in the field while also remaining a journal welcoming to junior scholars and even graduate students.”
Dr. Joseph Leonard Scarpaci is the recipient of the Preston E. James Eminent Latin Americanist Career Award 2022. Dr. Scarpaci’s body of work spans the Americas, from his work on land tenure in Guatemala, to fertility decline in Costa Rica, to accessibility to the Primary Health System in Chile, to tourism, globalization, historical preservation, Latin American historical centers, and of course his extensive work on urban and social issues in Cuba. His various nominators point not only to the geographic breadth of his contributions, but also the range of topics and formats his work in the region encompass – academic and popular press, radio, film, and business. Yet another contribution of Dr. Scarpaci’s is the training of scholars, from undergraduate through masters and doctoral, who’ve gone on in academic and professional fields. Notable is his decade of service as the JLAG book review editor. His corpus of significant publications having already been acknowledged through his receipt of the Carl O. Sauer Distinguished Scholarship Award, it is only fitting that CLAG recognize Dr. Scarpaci for his life-time achievement of contributions to the understanding of the geography of Latin America that is bestowed with the Preston E. James Award.