"By learning about Latin America and its relationship to the U.S., students can think deeply about their place in the world as global citizens and recognize that, despite differences, the two regions are quite similar and share histories as well as a continent."

Leandro Benmergui crosses many borders in his research: cultural, national and disciplinary. The Latin American studies professor's scholarly work focuses on the social and cultural history of urban renewal and housing programs in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, during the Cold War.

Specifically, Benmergui examines the housing programs that were made possible by economic and technical assistance from the Alliance for Progress, a program President Kennedy launched to counteract the allegedly Communist threat Latin America posed to the United States after the Cuban Revolution.

"In essence, the hopes for modernity materialized in these housing programs were modeled on those in the U.S. and were aimed at creating a middle class that would share the values of the U.S. middle class," Benmergui says. "In order to understand these housing programs, it is important to understand U.S.-Latin American relations during the Cold War." His work is multidisciplinary, building on contributions of scholars in history, sociology, architecture and urban planning. He describes his approach as "trying to think about historical processes in a hemispheric and global scale."

This multidisciplinary and transnational approach also forms the basis of his teaching philosophy. "By learning about Latin America and its relationship to the U.S., students can think deeply about their place in the world as global citizens and recognize that, despite differences, the two regions are quite similar and share histories as well as a continent," he says. In the classroom, he brings his own experience of crossing linguistic, cultural, and disciplinary boundaries to help students become better critical thinkers and better citizens.

He is so committed to students because he believes he is teaching future international leaders. "They will some day be in a position to make real changes in the world through government or work with non-governmental organizations," he says. "I have an important job with a lot of responsibility to prepare students for the challenges of the 21st century in this diverse global world." 

Posted October 10, 2013

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