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Department of Languages, Literatures and Cultures

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Mercedes Lopez Rodriguez

Title: Assistant Professor
Department: Languages, Literatures and Cultures
College of Arts and Sciences
Resources: Department of Languages, Literatures and Cultures

Dr. Mercedes Lopez Rodriguez has recently joined the Department of Languages Literatures and Cultures as Assistant Professor of Colonial Spanish American Literature. Originally from Colombia, where she studied Anthropology, Mercedes holds a PhD in Spanish Literature and Cultural Studies from Georgetown University. Her research focus stems from a long interest in the representation of difference and the emergence of new cultural practices amidst contexts of conflict in Latin America. She has previously studied cultural changes introduced into indigenous communities during the early colonial Christianization process, focusing on the intercultural relationships among Christian and non-Christian indigenous, missionaries, and colonial authorities during the early years of colonial domination in central Colombia. This research culminated in her first book, Tiempos para rezar y tiempos para trabajar: la cristianización de las comunidades muiscas coloniales durante el siglo XVI, 1550-1600 (Bogotá: Instituto Colombiano de Antropología e Historia, 2001). Her more recent research project addressed the emergence of a racialized discourse about Colombian populations that marginalized and subordinated perceived “non-white” groups. It focuses on how literature and visual arts represented mestizos, indigenous and black subjects, especially in 19th century costumbrista narratives. This research suggests that the representation of indigenous and Afro-Colombians was a device used by the lettered elites to establish the definition and the limits of whiteness. Her scholarly research lies at the intersection of literary studies, ethnography, history, and art history, combining textual analysis and anthropological methods and theory. Her work is marked by an emphasis on the historical depth of how racialized representations of Andean peasants have been socially constructed, suggesting that the construction of racial categories is an essential problem for Andean studies. Through research into the interwoven dynamics of social and cultural life expressed in literature and visual arts she hopes to make a contribution to the ongoing study of the politics of race and cultural difference in Latin America.