El Colegio de México

El Colegio de México (also called ‘Colmex’) is a social science and humanities research and teaching institute. It was created in 1938 for receiving a fleeing republican academics from Spain. (Its original name was “House of Spain”). Apart from three BA tracks, most of the programs are postgraduate ones. They are organized into six centers: Linguistics and Spanish (the oldest one), Historical Studies, International Studies, Sociological Studies, Demographic Studies, and finally Asian and African Studies. Colmex has 200 staff members for 300 students (compared to 300,000 at Universidad Nacional Autónomia de México (UNAM)). It is both a small and prestigious state-funded university. Students do not pay fees. Colmex hosts the only graduate program on Asian and African studies in Latin America.  It receives a large number of students on fellowships from Latin America. Its pan-continental network is vast. It runs the main publishing house of original research on Africa and Asia in Spanish. Its library collections on the two world regions is also the best on the whole continent.

 

Colmex’s President, Prof. Silvia Giorguli Saucedo has entrusted Prof. Amaury Rodriguez, director of the Center for Asian and African Studies (acronym in Spanish: CEAA) to work with IIAS in facilitating the participation of Mexican and Latin American partners in the HaB consortium, while serving as an interface with HaB members in Asia, Africa and other regions represented in the network. As in the cases of HaB members IIAS and Northern Illinois University, Colmex seeks to explore innovative pedagogical and collaborative initiatives with the aim of redefining Area Studies as a more locally situated-globally connected space of shared knowledge.

 

A Mexican and Latin American plan within HaB is envisioned, in collaboration with Mexican institutions (UNAM network of universities in Mexico, and the Centro de Investigaciones y Estudios Superiores en Antropología Social (CIESAS), and, abroad, with the Center for Indigenous America Studies (CIAS)[1], Leiden University, with its director, Prof. Genner Llanes Ortiz whose work focuses on indigenous higher education and intercultural dialogue, working collaboratively with local universities, NGOs and indigenous organizations in Mexico, Ecuador, Belize and Guatemala. Colmex, IIAS and Leiden University are already associated through bilateral MoUs.

 

Potential activities to be developed under HaB:

We wish to create a join summer course, with participation of some of the members of the HaB network, to channel some of the M.A. dissertations of students from Colmex’s CEAA and Center of Sociological Studies. We see this opportunity of introducing HaB methodologies in Colmex’s programs, as a first step toward the facilitation of more long-term thematic multi-partners collaborations within the HaB Consortium.

 

Colmex and CIAS Leiden, moreover, seek to co-organize short modules and/or experiential schools in the southern Mexican regions of Yucatan and/or Oaxaca, in collaboration with local indigenous-led academic institutions there. These educational activities could be of 15-21 days, and involve BA students and MA students. These activities could focus on the following sites of meaning:

  • Place – Understanding, mapping and reading sacred cultural landscapes through Indigenous writing and archives: Mixtec codices and Maya glyphs, archaeological cities, sites of pilgrimage, cenotes and caves.
  • Practice – Teaching Indigenous children and youth about their ancestors’ writing and histories.
  • Food – Native seed festivals in the Yucatan.
  • Words and signs – Revitalization strategies of Indigenous languages and writing systems.

Beyond Mexico, CIAS could facilitate HaB’s collaborations with Indigenous partners in Guyana and Ecuador. In the Netherlands CIAS is also looking to establish strategic links with the International Institute for Asian Studies, Leiden University College and the Ethnological Museum of Leiden.

 

[1] The Center for Indigenous America Studies (CIAS), hosted by Leiden University’s Faculty of Archaeology, aims to document and interpret the rich cultural heritage of Indigenous societies in the Americas and to support their cultural continuity through three main pillars of activities related to their past, present, and future: Reconstruct, Describe, and Preserve diversity. Reconstructing Diversity: As a result of colonialism and modernization processes, Indigenous forms of knowledge (including cultural memory, heritage practice and linguistic complexity, among others) have become severely fragmented. Much of what is possible to know about this past diversity can only be unlocked through multi-disciplinary reconstruction, including the contribution of Indigenous experts. Describing Diversity: There is a vast amount of linguistic and cultural diversity in the Americas, although most of this is under threat due to economic and political pressures. Though academic knowledge of the languages and histories of the Americas has expanded greatly, there are still poorly documented areas. Describing and examining this diversity must be beneficial for both Indigenous communities and academics. Preserving Diversity: In light of the precarious situation of Indigenous peoples and their cultural heritage, the last decades have seen an increase in cultural and linguistic activism. Many projects aim to build cultural and linguistic continuity, to demand respect for Indigenous rights, and to create intercultural spaces for mutual learning between Indigenous people and the world. When these projects are carried out in close collaboration with Indigenous peoples, they often lead to success.

CIAS has long-standing relations with several Indigenous communities, groups and individuals in Mexico, Brazil, and other Latin American countries. Several former graduate and postgraduate Indigenous students of CIAS are now back in their respective countries. Many are running action research projects or are connected to action research communities of practice which could potentially become ‘supportive environments’ for HaB 2.0 partners from across the globe.