Good Works in Central America
A Conference Interrogating North American Voluntary Service
Sponsored by the Mershon Center for International Security Studies, the Center for Latin American Studies, Literacy Studies, the International Poverty Solutions Collaborative, the Department of Comparative Studies, and the Center for Folklore Studies
For additional information, check the Mershon Center's website.
To RSVP for this event, please email Kyle McCray.
Short-term delegations to Central America for the purpose of providing material aid, assisting with grassroots development, or offering direct service have proliferated in the last four decades. This conference critically examines travel-for-service and the micro-politics of encounters between privileged visitors (professionals, politically motivated groups, service-learning programs) and impoverished third-world communities they visit, as well as the larger implications of poverty relief efforts organized outside of and sometimes in opposition to existing national and international institutions.
Such projects hold up the promise of solving seemingly entrenched problems in poorer nations through virtuous vigorous action. Yet in actuality, the dynamics of cosmopolitan interaction are considerably more complex. This conference will provide an opportunity for students and faculty interested in or engaged in international service to reflect upon their motives, practices, and experiences and to consider not only their immediate accomplishments but the longer-term implications of the kind of citizen-diplomacy they aspire to enact.
The keynote speaker, Nicaragua’s Father Fernando Cardenal, has committed his life to direct service to the poor within the framework of a religious vocation and training, more specifically, liberation theology. In 1980, he directed Nicaragua’s National Literacy Crusade, a monumental voluntary effort to teach reading and writing to rural and underserved populations, organized through the revolutionary state as a nationalist project.
The academic speakers have all conducted research on Central America and either facilitated short-term volunteer missions/delegations or volunteered as translators for missions/delegations organized by others. Confirmed speakers include:
Abigail Adams (Anthropology, Central Connecticut State)
Jefferson Boyer (Anthropology, Appalachian State)
Katherine Borland (Comparative Studies, Ohio State)
Walter Hull (Medicine, Ohio State)
Steven Jones (Civic Engagement, U of Scranton)
Irene King (Center for Social Justice, Villanova University)
Ellen Moodie (Anthropology, U of Illinois)
David Muñoz (Engineering, Colorado School of Mines)
William Westerman (American Folklife Center Green Fellow)
For further information, contact organizer Katey Borland.