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About PiLAS

PILAS is the postgraduate affiliate of the Society for Latin American Studies (SLAS).
As an organisation run by and for postgraduate students, PILAS aims to foster interaction among postgraduates working in the field of Latin American Studies at institutions of higher education throughout the United Kingdom, as well as those in Europe and the Americas.

Encouraging cross-disciplinary dialogue, our organisation welcomes those working within a range of academic disciplines, as well as those undertaking multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary approaches.

Our goal is to establish a supportive community for postgraduate students engaged in the study of Latin America and the Caribbean, both to facilitate communication among postgraduates and to provide a forum for students to exchange experiences, seek advice, and share their research.
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PiLAS Committee 2017 - 2018


Richard George Smith (University of Liverpool)

Richard originally trained as a chemist at the Universities of Oxford and Sussex before embarking on a career in consumer product innovation with Unilever. This took him all over the world, including three years living in Buenos Aires and many years working and travelling across the length and breadth of Latin America. After leaving Unilever, he was innovation lead for the regional development agency Yorkshire Forward, and, following their demise in 2010, he has worked with universities in the north of England developing initiatives linked to low carbon economies and sustainable agri-food systems.
Upon returning to the UK after living in Argentina, Richard gained a BA (Hons) in Spanish, French and History from the Open University, before obtaining a Distinction for his MA in Latin American Studies from the University of Liverpool in 2016. He was awarded the José Herrera Oropeza Prize I for the best postgraduate essay in Latin American Studies in 2015 and a UGA Franklin College-University of Liverpool Doctoral Student Short-Term International Research Fellowship in 2016. Since receiving his MA, he has been working part-time on his PhD, which concerns the opposition to Pinochet’s military government in Chile during the 1980s. His research interests include social movements, social network analysis, revolutionary Christianity, Liberation Theology, political violence and radical left wing politics.


Joanna Morley (University of Liverpool)

Joanna Morley completed an MA in Understanding and Securing Human Rights in 2015, graduating with distinction. She began an MRes / PhD in Latin American Studies in 2017, funded by an ESRC-NWDTC 1+3 Studentship. Her PhD research will use the Human Rights Impact Assessment (HRIA) methodology to make an evidence-based evaluation of how hydroelectric dams in Ecuador affect the ability of individuals, groups and communities to exercise and enjoy their rights. Joanna’s research interests include the human rights impacts on local communities of international development policies linked to natural resource exploitation, particularly focussing on Chinese investments in Latin America.
Her published articles include: ‘“...Beggars sitting on a sack of gold”: Oil exploration in the Ecuadorian Amazon as buen vivir and sustainable development’ and ‘Extreme energy, “fracking” and human rights: a new field for human rights impact assessments?’ (co-author), both in the International Journal of Human Rights. Joanna’s previous career in marketing and book publishing provides her with experience including liaising between project teams, stakeholders and internal and external suppliers to delivering projects, including events within tight deadlines. She is currently the Events Coordinator for the Amnesty International UK Children’s Human Rights Network (a voluntary position), and in this role has delivered panel discussions and workshops.


Juliette Doman (University of Liverpool)

Juliette graduated from the University of Liverpool in 1999 with a BSc in Combined Honours, in Psychology and Philosophy. After teaching ESOL with refugees, asylum seekers and migrants, she did a few months voluntary work in Nicaragua in 2003, teaching English with a community tourism project in the Miraflor Nature Reserve and then in 2004 worked as a volunteer international accompanier in Guatemala. She accompanied witnesses seeking justice for the acts of genocide committed during the dictatorship of Rios Montt. After this, Juliette started an MA in Latin American studies at Liverpool, and graduated in 2006. She went back to Guatemala in 2008 and for nearly six years worked at a rural non-profit Spanish language school, which ran projects for the communities alongside the school. Upon returning to the UK in 2015, she started a PhD in transitional justice and gender in Guatemala. It focuses on the Sepur Zarco trial, which prosecuted wartime domestic and sexual slavery against a group of Maya Q’eqchi women at a Guatemalan military base.

Luke John Grover (University of Liverpool)

A PhD Candidate in Latin American Studies at the University of Liverpool, Luke received a first class honours BA in Latin American Studies at the University of Liverpool in 2013 before obtaining a Distinction in the Latin American Studies MA programme at the same university the following year. He has recently published a chapter based on his MA research in the book Territorio, Recursos Naturales y Procesos Productivos, entitled ‘Construcciones del miedo: la acción social y espacial en El Salvador contemporáneo’, through the Universidad Autónoma del Estado de Morelos, México.
Luke is currently in his third year of a PhD at the University of Liverpool, which has as its working title Youth Mobilisation and Empowerment in Rural and Urban El Salvador: A Comparative Study. He has recently returned to Liverpool following two and a half years of fieldwork in El Salvador. The rationale for this research developed as a result of his working in a violence prevention programme with at risk youth in a gang-controlled community in Greater San Salvador some years previously. The PhD project examines the manner in which young people in two different areas of El Salvador respond to and resist certain configurations of violence within their everyday lives. This research is funded by an ESRC NWDTC Studentship. Luke’s research interests include power, violence, resistance, space, and identity formation.

Marta F. Suárez (Liverpool John Moores University)

A PhD Candidate in Screen Studies with Liverpool John Moore University, Marta obtained a first degree in Spanish Philology with a fully funded grant, after which she completed PGCE training in Literature and Language. She attained a MA in Latin American Cultural Studies at the University of Manchester, where she also worked as GTA for Latinising Europe. She has also completed a PGCAP with a focus on ’Creativity for Learning in Higher Education’ at the Manchester Metropolitan University. She is currently working on her PhD at Liverpool John Moores University with a GTA Scholarship, where she is researching the portrayal of Latin American and African immigration in contemporary Spanish film. She is currently lecturing on Film Studies modules, such as Screenwriting, Film Language, World Cinema: Latin America and European Cinema: Spanish and Basque. She has previously taught Spanish Language at University and worked as research assistant for FLAME (Film, Language and Media in Education). Her research interests include post-coloniality, immigration, portrayals of gender / race, post-feminism, screenwriting, adaptation, Spanish film and television narratives. In her spare time, she enjoys writing and obtained an international prize for women’s literature in 2008 with a short story titled Manes.


Jeremy John Gunson (University of Manchester)

A PhD candidate in Social Anthropology at the University of Manchester, Jeremy obtained a first class honours BA in Latin American Studies at the University of Liverpool in 2010. He obtained an MA in Anthropological Research at the University of Manchester in 2014, and has since been working on a PhD project entitled ‘Alternative Currencies and Social Movements: the case of the Mercado Alternativo Túmin’, in the Department of Social Anthropology at the same institution. Jeremy carried out 18 months fieldwork with members of an alternative currency network in Mexico. His research interests include money; exchange; value; creativity and social movements. As part of his research, Jeremy participated in a number of forums, workshops and talks on the Solidarity Economy in Mexico. Jeremy helped organise the NWDTC funded conference ‘Impact and its Discontents’ at the University of Manchester in May 2017. Jeremy is funded by an ESRC-NWDTC 1+3 Studentship, and has also been awarded the Presidential Doctoral Scholars Award for Outstanding Doctoral Candidates.