In Spring 2019, a number of Comparative Literature Department undergrads, grad students, and faculty organized a new group within Comp Lit. This new group decided to call itself--and why not?/¿y por qué no?--"EL GRUPO."
The idea was, and is, for El Grupo to be a place and an ongoing process of meeting, dialogue, and activity for all those in the Department whose work engaged--a lot, or just in ways that those doing it considered significant to them, and that they wanted to sustain--the literatures, related art, and cultures of Latin America (including within the U.S.) and/or the Iberian Peninsula.
We also wanted--in bringing together CL undergrads, grad students, and faculty whose studies involve these materials, issues, and areas--to get a chance (which we otherwise too rarely experience) to talk collectively about shared interests and commitments outside of formal classroom situations and official academic events. We had a sense this would be generative for all of us, and a terrific way to extend our collective literary/cultural education and experience.
We had some preliminary talks with folks in the Spanish & Portuguese Department, who indicated they'd likewise be interested in the possibility of doing some joint-department events with us. That possibility came to fruition, and we've had some faculty, grad students, and undergrads in the Spanish &Portuguese Dept, as well as in the English Dept, who've become grupistas; so while EL GRUPO began in, and has a very strong base in, the Comparative Literature Department, it's not limited only to Comp Lit.
Over the last two years, El Grupo has organized talks and forums; done a number of combined events with both UC Berkeley's Latinx Resource Center (LRC) and Center for Latin American Studies (CLAS); organized film-viewings (so far, films from México and Guatemala); generated a reading group that focused on reading novels in Spanish; established information networks for students interested in opportunities for additional information and guidance in accessing campus and off-campus grant, scholarship, and other programs/means of both financial and scholarly-intellectual support; and begun to pair undergrads and graduate students, within and across the Comp Lit and Spanish & Portuguese Departments, into mentorship opportunities for those undergraduates and graduate students interested in working together (with a particular focus on what grad students might offer to undergrad grupistas in terms of their present studies, as well as offering advice and guidance about the possibility of undergrads eventually doing doctoral work themselves). Among our key plans is to build up and strengthen this El Grupo mentoring initiative.
Like every other aspect of academic and extra-academic life today, our current planning takes place in the context of multiple challenges: above all, COVID-19, but also, as we all know, the ongoing political crises--not least, those involving urgent questions of racial and ethnic justice--that have become inseparable from the coronavirus pandemic.
If you're not already signed up with EL GRUPO's email districbution list and you think you'd like to be on it, please email Professor Robert Kaufman at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Hasta pronto/Until soon,
Tom McEnaney, Associate Professor
Comparative Literature Department; Spanish & Portuguese Department; Co-Coordinator, EL GRUPO
Robert Kaufman, Associate Professor
Comparative Literature Department; Program in Critical Theory; Co-Coordinator, EL GRUPO