PLAS Senior Thesis Prize Nominees

Stanley J. Stein Senior Thesis Prize

The Stanley J. Stein prize is awarded by PLAS each year to the student who writes the best senior thesis on a Latin American-related topic.

Helena Michelle Hengelbrok, Anthropology
Water Belongs to Those Who are Thirsty: An Ethnography of Water, Health, and Political Belonging in Urubamba, Peru

Seth Merkin Morokoff, Economics
The Impact of Brazil’s Bolsa Familia on Child Labor Supply Effects by Age and Employment Sector

Oliver A. Quintero, Woodrow Wilson School
An Analysis of Interest Group Influence on U.S.-Cuba Trade Policy

Andrea Rodriguez Gallego, Woodrow Wilson School
Returns of Hugo Chavez’s Bolivarian Missions in Venezuela

Abdiel Santiago, Politics
In the Shadow of the Stars and Stripes an Experimental Analysis on the Manufacturing of Support for Puerto Rican Statehood

Jamie Lee Shenk, History
Where Were You When They Killed Lara Bonilla? Politics of Drugs and Peace in Colombia (1982-1984)

Zachary Willhelm Wall, History
Islands of Insanity U.S. Intervention in Brazil and the Dominican Republic, 1964-1966

Melody Zhang Qui, Woodrow Wilson School
To Push or to Cut? Decision-Making in Childbirth Amid the Brazilian Cesarean Epidemic

Kenneth Maxwell Senior Thesis Prize in Brazilian and Portuguese Studies

The Kenneth Maxwell prize is awarded by PLAS on behalf of Firestone Library to the student who writes the best senior thesis related to Brazil.

Mary Ann Ferguson McNulty, Woodrow Wilson School
When Environmental and Social Crisis Collide: Problems in the Periphery are Center State in the São Paulo Water Crisis

Seth Merkin Morokoff, Economics
The Impact of Brazil’s Bolsa Familia on Child Labor Supply Effects by Age and Employment Sector

Paul H. von Autenried, Jr., Politics
Cross-national Analysis of Positive Action Programs and their Social, Political and Economic Origins: Identity and Ethnic Preferences for Three Marginalized Peoples across Twenty-one States

Zachary Willhelm Wall, History
Islands of Insanity U.S. Intervention in Brazil and the Dominican Republic, 1964-1 6

Melody Zhang Qiu, Woodrow Wilson School
To Push or to Cut? Decision-Making in Childbirth Amid the Brazilian Cesarean Epidemic

Q&A: Does the ‘Hispanic Paradox’ still exist?

Latinos in the United States typically live longer than whites — a phenomenon commonly referred to as the “Hispanic Paradox” or “Latino Mortality Advantage.”

While not totally understood, these epidemiological findings have interested scholars, mostly because Latinos, on average, have lower socioeconomic status than whites. This is typically associated with higher death rates and worse health outcomes.

Good health at the start of migration, lower rates of smoking and strong social networks are some of the reasons researchers believe Latinos have an edge over their white counterparts in the United States.

But current health trends suggest the gap between U.S. Latinos and whites may soon be shrinking, according to Princeton University research, which points to higher obesity rates, higher incidence of diabetes, and significant disability issues as potential downfalls for Latinos. While Latinos still smoke less than whites in the United States, this may not be enough to counteract the other negative health trends.

Study author Noreen Goldman, the Hughes-Rogers Professor of Demography and Public Affairs, recently answered questions about her research. Her findings were published in Research on Aging, an academic journal.  Read More

Q&A: Brazil’s president was impeached. Now what?

Brazil’s Senate voted last week to impeach President Dilma Rousseff, a move that suspends the president for 180 days. Rousseff, who is accused of using public bank money to cover budget gaps, now faces an impeachment trial. The suspended president is calling the situation a “coup d’etat” and maintains she didn’t act criminally regarding budgetary affairs.

The impeachment raises significant questions for Brazil’s economic and political future. John Londregan, professor of politics and international affairs, answered questions about these issues and how they will affect Brazil going forward.

Londregan, a faculty associate at the Center for the Study of Democratic Politics, is a specialist in the development and application of statistical methods in political science. He also studies politics in South America, with a particular focus on Chilean legislative and electoral politics. Read more

Senior thesis: Exploring the emergence of Cuban consumerism

Senior Thesis Dennisse Calles

Dennisse Calle found the topic for her senior thesis along a Havana street, in the back of a stall that sells pirated movies and music.

Cubans pay the equivalent of a few dollars, insert a flash drive into the computer at the back of the stall, and get access to El Paquete — a weekly, one terabyte compilation of popular TV shows, movies, music, computer and phone apps, and advertisements that serves as an offline Netflix, YouTube, Craigslist and more in a country where Internet access is slow and expensive. Read more

Price explores Cuban literature and culture in ‘Planet/Cuba’

Rachel PriceRachel Price, an associate professor of Spanish and Portuguese who is also affiliated with the Program in Media and Modernity, joined Princeton in 2009. Her scholarship focuses on Latin American, Caribbean and particularly Cuban literature and culture; media; poetics; empire; and ecocriticism. Her essays have explored a range of topics including digital media, slavery, poetics and visual art. This semester she is teaching an undergraduate course, “El Género Negro: Crime Fiction,” in Spanish, and a graduate course, “Narrative Prose in Latin America — Finance and Form.”

In her new book, “Planet/Cuba” (2015, Verso Books), Price addresses contemporary literature as well as conceptual, digital and visual art from Cuba that engages questions of environmental crisis, new media and new forms of labor and leisure.  Read more

Princeton and the Paris Terrorist Attacks: by Philippe Lançon. Translated by Pascale Voilley

New York is a feast

Paris is a feast, and so is New York … well, not quite. I happened to be there on November 13 2015. By chance? Well, not quite. A few days later, I was due on the Princeton campus, to discuss Charlie, the attacks of January 7, and the issue of freedom of expression, which has become so burdensome lately. Charlie in Princeton, the home of Einstein and Oppenheimer: life is tragic, but it does grant you some pleasant surprises along the way. One of the strongholds of civilization had extended an invitation to a journalist on the staff of a small French satirical weekly, who had been shot at by people who abhor civilization. Six days before I was scheduled to speak, the attacks of November 13 brutally put freedom of expression in a different context. Up to that day, the professionals of respect – let’s call them the respectful prostitutes, after the title of Sartre’s play –  claimed to believe, or would have us believe, that all you had to do to stay out of trouble was to avoid making drawings of a certain prophet. That had all changed in the space of one blood-soaked evening.

This was my first major trip since January 7, and I felt like a princess attending her first ball after the spell that had turned her into a toad. I knew it would be exhausting, but when you’ve been wounded, you develop your own psychological weapons: anything you can do to beat pain, fatigue, fear or even sadness becomes a major victory, complete with its powerful wings. Of course there’s something missing, but like the famous statue in the Louvre, we do have those wings to make up for it. Whatever the result, every day, we prove ourselves, show a tiny bit of heroism.

Fortunately, I wouldn’t take the stage on my own: the format was a dialogue with Mario Vargas Llosa, author of many masterpieces, including Conversation in the Cathedral, which has recently been issued in a new translation by Gallimard. A selection of his novels is going to appear in two volumes in the Pléiade edition. When he is not teaching at Princeton, Vargas Llosa lives in Madrid. He has a new novel (coming out in April in France) entitled Cinco Esquinas, «the four corners», after a neighborhood of Lima where criminality is rife. He is 79 years old, and exudes serenity, good cheer and approachability. He never stops writing, and on top of his fiction, he publishes editorials in El Pais every week. Through writing, one’s weaknesses and doubts are magically transformed. Mario Vargas Llosa looks every inch the civilized and profoundly healthy man he is. He’s had to cope with the terrorist methods of the Shining Path, and the disgraceful way in which some people justified the massacre of whole villages. His stance drew a lot of criticism from the left. To share the stage with him was a huge comfort to me.

It was a full house in McCosh 50. Obviously, my role was to share what I and my friends went through on January 7. I hadn’t done that since the spring, because I have no intention of becoming a professional victim, a kind of parrot perched on the barrel of the Kalachnikov that was fired at me. I do not want people to see me as a victim for the rest of my life, but it would be just as futile to live as if this event, and its consequences, didn’t have a huge purchase on my future, didn’t force me to see it and think it through differently. Throughout the discussion, as well as during the dinner that followed, in a quiet, provincial venue with a timeless feel to it, I was grateful for the intelligent hospitality of my hosts. But between each mouthful, each repartee, my mind wandered back to the wounded people who were starting their long fight to survive, to live again. I would have liked to tell every single one of them that in the space of a mere eleven months, a mangled jaw, reconstructed after much surgery, could eat and talk and function adequately in spite of all the snags these activities involved.

During the discussion, the front page of several issues of Charlie was projected on the screen behind me, from a vintage Cabu in 2006 up to the most recent one by Coco, showing a man riddled with bullets whom my talented friend has transformed into a fountain of Youth and delight. I did my best to comment on them, although I had my doubts about the validity of comments and explanations: drawings either speak for themselves or they don’t. At the end of the Q&A, an American lady came up to me and said that it was simultaneously essential and nearly impossible to laugh at such atrocities. According to her, Coco’s effort to fight despair was palpable in the very lines of her drawing. Unfortunately, the fight for civilization can’t be summed up with a bottle of champagne, she concluded with a smile. We’re all agreed on that, I answered, but it’s a good start.

“The Charlie Hebdo Terrorist Attack: Freedom of Speech in the Age of Radicalism”

Below are some images taken at the November 19th PLAS Lecture entitled “The Charlie Hebdo Terrorist Attack: Freedom of Speech in the Age of Radicalism”.  The lecture featured a conversation between Mario Vargas Llosa, winner of the 2010 Nobel Prize in Literature and a visiting professor in PLAS and Philippe Lançon, a survivor of the Charlie Hebdo terrorist attacks, moderated by Rubén Gallo, Director of PLAS.


Mario Vargas Llosa, Philippe Lançon, Rubén Gallo (left to right)

Mario Vargas Llosa, Philippe Lançon, Rubén Gallo (left to right) photo by Jennifer Cabral

hebdo 3

photo by Jennifer Cabral


hebdo 2

photo by Jennifer Cabral

A Taste of Cuba

The Vedado neighborhood of Havana after a thunderstorm. Poor drainage often left streets flooded.

Olivia Adechi ’16The Vedado neighborhood of Havana after a thunderstorm. Poor drainage often left streets flooded.

By Mark F. Bernstein ’83

Some things are universal: The first day of class is awkward, particularly at a new school, and it pays to break the ice. As Johannes Hallermeier ’16 discovered, this is no less true in Cuba than it is anywhere else.

Hallermeier was sitting with a handful of Princeton students and a dozen Cubans in a class on the history of Latin American thought at the University of Havana last February, as part of a revised and expanded study-abroad program. While they waited for the professor, the students kept to themselves — shuffling papers, playing with pens, staring silently at their wooden desks. As a rule, Hallermeier would learn, Cubans are friendly and outgoing people, but today, probably because of first-day nervousness, everyone avoided eye contact. It did not bode well for an engaging semester.

Read more…