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COLFA professor’s international work to enrich teaching experiences and profile of UTSA

COLFA professor’s international work to enrich teaching experiences and profile of UTSA

APRIL 26, 2022Jorge Felipe-Gonzalez, an assistant professor in the UTSA College of Liberal and Fine Arts (COLFA), will join collaborators in Australia as part of an international project exploring the trans-Pacific slave trade.

The project, led by the University of South Wales in Australia, is key to discovering the origins of non-native populations that now live in the South Pacific as a result of forced migration. It will showcase the sophisticated nature of UTSA’s contemporary research programs and the need for highly specialized researchers around the world who can help individuals trace the roots of their lost family members. Additionally, it will support communities that have been impacted by the slave trade.

The international team received a year-long, $332,000 AUD ($247,000 USD) research grant from the Australian Research Council (ARC), the country’s equivalent of the National Endowment for the Humanities. The slave study is part of a larger fund from the ARC Discovery Projects Scheme, which has allocated $258.6 million AUD (more than $191 million USD) for 587 new projects over the next five years.

“This is an opportunity to establish international collaborations between UTSA and worldwide institutions.”

History Department Chair Wing Chung Ng noted that Felipe-Gonzalez first developed the contact with his Australian counterpart while he was on a fellowship at Harvard University. Ng is thrilled that the initial networking and ensuing dialogue have yielded a fascinating collaborative project that promises to shed new light on slavery in the South Pacific and, by extension, the maritime world around the globe.

“This ARC grant presents an excellent opportunity to showcase the research capacities of the history faculty on the international stage and deepen the ties of our department with concerned scholars from different parts of the world,” said Ng. “Felipe-Gonzalez is a recognized expert on trans-Atlantic slavery and has garnered considerable attention for his digital humanities research. His participation in this collaborative project will further enrich our teaching programs at both the graduate and undergraduate levels, much to the benefit of students at UTSA.”

Felipe-Gonzalez’s research focuses on the foundation and expansion of the Cuban-based transatlantic slave trade between the late 18th century and the first half of the 19th century. His upcoming book, “Foundation and Growth of the Cuban-Based Transatlantic Slave Trade,” will explore how the Cuban elite set up a complex slave-trading infrastructure in Cuba and the role American merchants played in it.

The UTSA professor has been involved in the development of a pair of digital projects on the transatlantic slave trade including the Transatlantic and Intra-American Slave Trade Databases and People of the Transatlantic Slave Trade (PAST), the latter as a Mellon Fellow at the Hutchins Center for African & African American Research at Harvard University.

“I have been working for almost 10 years studying the trans-Atlantic slave trade. This latest project will help diversify my research at UTSA by focusing on the slave trade in the Pacific Ocean and how it relates to trade routes across the world,” Felipe-Gonzalez said. “The research conducted with this team will allow us to produce a clearer vision of how trade shaped forced migrations into the South Pacific. This is important for tracing the roots of many families who were transplanted without their consent.”

Working with international slave studies centers and Australian South Sea Islander organizations, the researchers will utilize the latest digital humanities techniques to create a database of Pacific voyages to further understand Australia’s role in global labor and race history, to devise new teaching and research resources in history, literature and sociology and to support islander community initiatives focused on improving the lives of native populations.

The project is also key to UTSA’s work to position itself as a research partner of choice in the global community, according to Felipe-Gonzalez.

“This is an opportunity to establish international collaborations between UTSA and worldwide institutions," Felipe-Gonzalez said. "I am very excited that this grant also includes an opportunity for the principal investigator on the project, Emma Christopher, to present talks at both UTSA and UT Austin after our research is completed. I am committed to strengthening the humanities presence within the College of Liberal and Fine Arts as well as the Department of History.”

⇒ Learn more about Jorge Felipe-Gonzalez.

Sue Thomas, CEO of the ARC, added, “Discovery Projects provide funding to support excellent basic and applied research projects to be undertaken by individual researchers or research teams. The aim of the Discovery Projects scheme is to support excellent basic and applied research and research training, promote national and international research collaboration and enhance the scale and focus of research in Australian Government priority areas.”

Joining Felipe-Gonzalez on this project are Christopher, associate professor at the University of New South Wales Sydney, Deidre Coleman, professor of the University of Melbourne, Trevor Burnard, professor of the University of Hull, Catherine Hall, professor of University College of London, and South Sea islander and activist Emelda Davis.

Nick Ward

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