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, crime and fiction in Latin America, foreign imaginings of ‘latinity’, Benito Pérez Galdós and nineteenth-century Spain, intellectual and physical culture in early twentieth-century Catalonia and Spain, 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, as well as the related cultural studies approaches of Lauren Rea and Peter Watt). On the Portuguese-speaking world, current research centres around analysing how emigration has shaped literature, particularly the life writing works resulting from Portuguese emigration to the USA (see Ramos Villar).

Film and Visual Culture

A number of staff work on film in both Spain and Latin America 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. Carmen Ramos Villar is interested in the relationship between images and text and their relationship to the performance of identity in Portuguese American life writing. Lauren Rea examines graphic culture in the Argentine children’s magazine Billiken.

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. Lauren Rea leads a project funded by the British Academy on inequalities in access to education amongst Indigenous communities in Argentina. She is also the Co-director of the Great Latin American Women Project. This is a transmedia educational project developed with teachers and partners from the creative industries that seeks to foment gender equality amongst primary school children in Latin America

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.

Centres of excellence

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