Spanish, Catalan, Portuguese and Latin American Studies Research

Spanish and Latin American Studies at Sheffield has a long-established profile of internationally outstanding research, covering Spain, Catalonia, Latin America and the Portuguese-speaking world.

Picasso Museum, Malaga

Spanish, Catalan, Portuguese and Latin American Studies

The research expertise of staff is exceptionally wide-ranging - the portfolio of specialisms spans politics and society, literature, film, art and photography, as well as language and linguistics. Research projects include: the Mexican drug wars, the body in Latin American visual culture, children’s magazines in Argentina, women’s football in Latin America, crime and fiction in Latin America, foreign imaginings of ‘latinity’, Benito Pérez Galdós and nineteenth-century Spain, cultural links between Spain and North Africa, intellectual and physical culture in early twentieth-century Catalonia and Spain, exile and life-writing in the global Portuguese-speaking community, history of the Spanish and Portuguese languages, linguistic prejudice in Brazil. Many of our research projects involve sharing and developing collaborative research outside of the University and, to this aim, we work with key partners including schools, cinemas, festivals, galleries, museums, charities, media and international bodies to develop inclusive projects.

Literary Culture

Most academic staff in the School work on literature in some form, but from a wide range of disciplinary and interdisciplinary perspectives. With regard to Spain, there is a longstanding tradition of research on the nineteenth-century (see Rhian Davies and the Galdós editions project), as well as a focus on twentieth and twenty-first-century Spanish literature and culture, with a particular interest in the late 1920s and 1930s and the transition to democracy and post-transition period. Current research is centred around notions of convivencia and cosmopolitanism in the contexts of immigration and multiculturalism, discourses of cultural (historical) memory and Spanish ‘Orientalism’, as well as the interface between physical and intellectual culture, and modern Catalan narrative (see Louise Johnson). There is significant research strength in Latin American literature, especially on the novel (for example, Philip Swanson on the Boom, Post-Boom and crime fiction, and David Wood on football and literature, as well as the related cultural studies approaches of Julia Banwell, Lauren Rea and Peter Watt).

Film and Visual Culture

A number of staff work on film in both Spain and Latin America ( Philip Swanson, David Wood, Julia Banwell, Lauren Rea) usually in relation to themes such as identity politics, violence, migration, gender and sexuality. Philip Swanson also deals with Hollywood and Latin America and the Hispanic USA. Julia Banwell has a particular interest in performance art and photography, especially in Mexico and concentrating on death and the body in the Mexican Revolution and modern drug-related violence.

Politics and Society

The research of most colleagues intersects with politics and society. More specifically, Peter Watt has a major ongoing project on the Mexican drug wars and works more generally on human rights and US-Latin American relations. David Wood, who has worked extensively on popular culture (especially in Peru), leads the AHRC International Research Network 'A Level Playing Field? The Practice and Representation of Women's and Girls' Football in South America'. Lauren Rea has a large AHRC project on the Buenos Aires-based Billiken, the world’s longest-running children’s magazine. Louise Johnson’s research intersects with issues of Catalan politics and identity and has led her into collaborations with Barcelona FC.

Language and Linguistics

Research in this area is centred on variation and change in the Ibero-Romance Languages (Spanish, Catalan, Portuguese, Galician, Asturian, Aragonese) and, specifically, the varieties of Portuguese and Spanish spoken around the world. Paul O’Neill is interested in detailing and explaining historical and current changes in these languages and using his data to answer the following questions: how language is mentally represented? What is the interplay between storage and computation? How does language play a role in shaping how we view others and how other people view us?  He is also running a major project on historical linguistics and linguistic prejudice in the Lusophone world.

Professor David Wood has two current funded projects:

AHRC International Research Network:  'A Level Playing Field?  The Practice and Representation of Girls' and Women's Football in South America', with co-Is Professor Silvana Goellner of the Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul and Dr Verónica Moreira of the University of Buenos Aires. 
The project webpage is
Brazil Beach Football
‘Promoting Development and Social Welfare through Football’
A British Academy Newton Mobility grant, awarded in collaboration with Dr Fernando Segura Trejo of the Universidade Federal de Goias (Brazil)

Dr Lauren Rea is leading research into the history and legacy of Argentina’s Billiken children’s magazine, and is working with Billiken’s publisher, Atlántida, on the digital future of the brand. The “Great Latin American Women” project is supported by the UKRI GCRF Collective Fund and promotes gender equality in Latin America. Lauren is working with Billiken to create audio-visual and digital educational resources based on their 100 Great Latin American Women illustrated children's book with the aim of integrating women's histories into educational curricula and increasing the visibility of contemporary leading women's achievements.

More information on the “Billiken Centenary Project” can be found here:

Lauren is also working with five Argentine anthropologist Co-investigators on a research project into the consequences of the COVID-19 lockdowns on access to education, attainment gap and family economies in five diverse regions of Argentina. The aim is to ensure that existing structural inequalities and the diversity of lived childhood experience, often overlooked by educational authorities and the wider society, are at the forefront of the post-pandemic response.  This project is funded by the British Academy GCRF Tackling Global Challenges Scheme.

The Galdós Editions Project

This project combines international scholarship with cutting-edge technology to produce new critical editions of work by Benito Pérez Galdós, one of Spain's greatest novelists and a master of European realism. Managed by Professor Nicholas Round and Dr Rhian Davies, it is based in the award-winning Humanities Research Institute.

Associated with the Galdós Editions Project are the annual Pérez Galdós Lectures, sponsored by the Spanish Embassy, whose texts are published and distributed from the Department.

Visit the Galdós Editions Project website

Flagship institutes

The University’s four flagship institutes bring together our key strengths to tackle global issues, turning interdisciplinary and translational research into real-world solutions.