Rodrigo Patto Sá Motta

Rodrigo Patto Sá Motta

History; Federal University of Minas Gerais, Brazil


I have been connected to LASA since 2003 when I attended the XXIV Congress held in Dallas, Texas. From that point on, I have participated in many activities at LASA Congresses as a researcher and panelist. Taking part in LASA activities has been important for building networks and bridges connecting Latin American and North American colleagues, in my case mainly involving the study of political violence, authoritarian regimes, politics of memory and democratic movements in the Southern Cone. By attending LASA Congresses, I have had the opportunity to get in touch with other researchers doing related work and to meet valuable colleagues, and this has led to opening new opportunities to learn and to pursue research.

In recent years I have become more involved with LASA and taken responsibilities at the section level, for instance as Co-Chair of the Historia Reciente y Memoria Section in the period 2015-2016. Since February 2018 I am part of the Sub-committee on Academic Freedom linked to the Executive Council.

To be elected to a position in the Executive Council interests me because I would like to deepen ties with LASA now as a participant in the administrative activities of the institution. If elected to be a member of the Executive Council I would use this position to help strengthen LASA’s traditions of respect for pluralism both of ideas and of academic research agendas, and commitment for social, national, ethnic and gender diversity. I also recognize the importance of the inter and trans-disciplinary academic features that are marks of our Association. We should enhance and foster those characteristics that distinguish LASA in the academic world.

As the largest and most important organization of researchers dedicated to Latin America, LASA’s activities have a great impact in the region and in other parts of the academic world. Because of that, I believe that LASA can contribute more as a partner and leader for other academic entities based in the region and even for those located in other continents, acting as a kind of federative entity for all researchers focused on Latin America and the Caribbean. On the one hand, such leadership already has significant academic impact, mainly due to the organization of LASA’s International Congresses and the circulation of its publications, especially LARR and LASA Forum. But more encouragement could be given to LASA’s Sections to expand activities beyond the major annual Congress; local or regional seminars or other forms of academic encounters would serve to strengthen LASA-connected research networks and intensify the reach of the Association.

However, in the current context of Latin America and the world I think there is another important aspect of the Association’s commitment that should be intensified. I am referring to the role that LASA can play in the defense of human rights and basic civil liberties, such as freedom of thought, research, information and expression of ideas, without which there is no possible environment for academic research. For we are witnessing - and in some cases suffering from - the increasing power of conservative and authoritarian groups which are promoting acts of aggression against basic liberties, a situation that is worsening since those groups are winning  government control in influential nations in Latin America. Basic freedoms and respect for human rights are being challenged in some countries and unfortunately, there is a risk that such a trend will become stronger and wider. Against this terrible horizon of expectations, I believe that LASA should play a greater role in defending the basic rights and guarantees connected to academic work and democracy, always guided by a commitment to pluralism of ideas and respect for differences of all sort.