Professor Thea Pitman

Professor Thea Pitman

Profile

I joined Leeds in 1999 as a Lecturer in Latin American Studies after undergraduate and postgraduate study at Cambridge and UCL respectively, and a period of several years spent living and working in Mexico. I was promoted to Senior Lecturer in Latin American Studies in 2009 and to Professor of Latin American Studies in 2019. I am currently Director of Postgraduate Research Studies in the School of Languages, Cultures and Societies, and I have previously served as Taught Postgraduate Tutor for the School (2011–14) and as Subject Leader for Spanish, Portuguese and Latin American Studies (2015–18). I was also an elected member of Senate from 2013–16.

At Leeds, I am a member of the Centre for World Cinemas and Digital Cultures (CWCDC), having previously served as director and instigator of its expansion to cover digital cultures; and I am a founding member of the Centre for Endangered Languages, Cultures and Ecosystems (CELCE). I am also Co-Director of the Leverhulme-funded Doctoral Training Programme in Extinction Studies.

In the wider academic community, I am currently Co-Chair of the Arts and Humanities Alliance (2022–25) and Chair of the Standing Conference of Latin American Studies in the UK (2023–25), having previously served as President of the Society for Latin American Studies (2021–23) and am currently. I am a member of the Steering Committee for the Centre for Latin American and Caribbean Studies, Institute of Languages, Cultures and Societies, University of London; and I have previously served as membership secretary for the Association of Hispanists of Great Britain and Ireland (2017–19). I am a member of the advisory board for Tamesis Books and co-editor with Professor Stephanie Dennison for Tamesis Studies in Popular and Digital Cultures

I would be delighted to receive enquiries from prospective research students or fellow researchers interested in contemporary Latin/x American cultural studies, particularly those whose interests lie in the following areas:

  • digital cultures and cultural production
  • new media/digital/electronic/AI art and literature
  • digital activism and new social movements
  • digital Humanities
  • Indigenous studies/decolonial approaches
  • environmental humanities/ecocriticism/extinction studies
  • travel writing
  • women’s writing
  • film studies
  • popular cultures

Responsibilities

  • Director of Postgraduate Research Studies, School of Languages, Cultures and Societies
  • Co-director, Leverhulme Doctoral Training Programme in Extinction Studies

Research interests

My research over the last 20 years has mainly focused on the fast-expanding field of Latin/x American digital cultural production including, amongst other things, electronic literature, digital art, videogames, webpages and tactical media interventions. It has included the first edited book on the subject to be published in English, Latin American Cyberculture and Cyberliterature (LUP, 2007), and the monograph Latin American Identity in Online Cultural Production (Routledge, 2013), both co-authored with Professor Claire Taylor, as well as a steady stream of articles, chapters and short-form scholarship.

More recently I have developed my research to focus on Indigenous appropriations of new media technologies. With the support of a British Academy/Leverhulme Small Research Grant, I have worked as both researcher and international curator for the AEI - Arte Eletrônica Indígena project, run by the Brazilian NGO Thydêwá (dir. Sebastián Gerlic). As part of my curatorial contribution to the project, I organised three exhibitions: Digital Natives, Leeds International Festival, 2018; and special exhibits at the British Academy Summer Showcase 2019, and at the Ars Electronica Festival 2019. In conjunction with the Ars Electronica Festival we were also awarded an Honorable Mention in the European Commission-sponsored Science, Technology and Arts (ST+ARTS) Prize 2019. The results of this research are reported in a short video entitled Occupy MAM! (co-directed with Sebastián Gerlic) as well as the monograph Decolonising the Museum: The Curation of Indigenous Contemporary Art in Brazil (Tamesis, 2021).

As a follow-up to work on the AEI project, I enabled the Origem photography project in early 2019, with the support of Dr Paulo Pepe. This was led by the artists Antônio Vital Neto Pankararu and Laryssa Machada and focused on the representation of LGBTQI+ subjectivities in the Pankararu and Tupinambá de Olivença Indigenous communities. Although delayed by the pandemic, this will now be exhibited in a major exhibition focusing on the representation of Black and Indigenous gender and sexuality at the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Art in Norwich in Spring 2024. 

My most recent work focuses on Indigenous approaches to art made with generative AI programmes. This was initiated in 2022–23, with a small grant from the Leeds Arts and Humanities Research Institute to support the AIAI: Artificial Intelligence, Art and Indigeneity project which aimed to start to explore questions of Indigenous representation in generative AI art with a group of Indigenous artists from Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile and Peru. This work involved collaboration with the academics Dr Tom Jackson and Dr Andreas Rauh, as well as the NGO Thydêwá and the Bolivian artist aruma (Sandra de Berduccy). The NGO has just started a small follow-on project of their own entitled ‘Indigenous Appropriation of Artificial Intelligence’ and, working with the wider team, I have been awarded two new funded research projects for 2023–24 that are developments of the AIAI project. The first is a grant from the ESRC-funded Digital Good Network (University of Sheffield) for a project using generative AI art to help think through the concept of the Digital Good from an Indigenous perspective. The second is a University of Leeds Enhancing Research Culture grant that will bring six of the Indigenous artists and all of the team members to Leeds next March to work with the Immersive Networks artists’ collective on the design of a pilot AI image generation tool that can better represent Indigenous peoples and their worldviews

I also previously collaborated with Thydêwá and the Colombian communication-action initiative Pueblos en Camino, as well as colleagues at the Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro and the Universidad Autónoma de Occidente, Cali, on an AHRC/GCRF-funded Research Network that I led entitled ‘Sumak Kawsay and the Sustainable Development Agenda: Critical Debates and Creative Responses from a Latin American Indigenous Perspective’ (2018–19). This project explored the intersection between Indigenous understandings of “good living” and questions of sustainability in Brazil and Colombia. Preliminary findings have been published in two dossiers in the journals Revista Periferias and Lugar Comum.

My research career started in the 1990s with work on Mexican literature, especially travel writing. My first monograph, Mexican Travel Writing (Lang, 2008) focused on the development of a tradition of travel writing penned by Mexicans travelling within their own country during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. I have also published on the subject of Chicana/o cultural production, Latin American women’s writing and South-South dialogues amongst other things. 

I am a member of the University of Leeds Queer Area Studies Network.

<h4>Research projects</h4> <p>Any research projects I'm currently working on will be listed below. Our list of all <a href="https://ahc.leeds.ac.uk/dir/research-projects">research projects</a> allows you to view and search the full list of projects in the faculty.</p>

Qualifications

  • Fellow, Higher Education Academy
  • Post-Graduate Certificate in Learning and Teaching in Higher Education (University of Leeds)
  • PhD Latin American Studies (University College London): thesis on Mexican travel writing
  • MA Hispanic Studies (University of London)
  • BA Modern and Medieval Languages - French and Spanish (University of Cambridge)

Professional memberships

  • Arts and Humanities Alliance, Co-Chair
  • Standing Conference of Latin American Studies in the UK, Chair
  • Society for Latin American Studies
  • Association of Hispanists of Great Britain and Ireland
  • Women in Spanish, Portuguese and Latin American Studies
  • Modern Humanities Research Association
  • Red de Literatura Electrónica Latinoamericana

Student education

I teach Latin American cultural studies through a decolonial lens at all levels of the undergraduate curriculum, including a research-led final year module shared with Dr Stuart Green entitled ‘Race and Representation in the Spanish-speaking World’. I also contribute to a wide range of cross-school modules at undergraduate and taught postgraduate level, including the level 2 module, ‘Global Environmental Humanities’, and the core module of the MA in Professional Language and Intercultural Studies, for which I was Programme Manager for many years. I supervise final year projects in the field of my expertise for Level 3 students on all programmes involving Spanish or Portuguese.

To date, I have supervised to successful completion five PhDs and six MAs by Research, both as lead supervisor, and as co-supervisor with colleagues across the School of Languages, Cultures and Societies and the wider University. I am currently supervisor for eight PhD candidates, including two through the Leverhulme-funded Doctoral Training Programme in Extinction Studies, and one MA by Research. With my guidance and support, many of my postgraduate researchers have gone on to follow careers in academia.

Research groups and institutes

  • Cultural studies
  • Centre for Endangered Languages, Cultures and Ecosystems
  • Centre for World Cinemas and Digital Cultures
  • Cultures and Societies
  • Centre for World Literatures
  • Digital Cultures
  • Spanish, Portuguese and Latin American Studies
  • Literary studies
  • Cinema and Television
  • Digital cultures
  • Intercultural Studies
  • Queer Area Studies Network

Current postgraduate researchers

<h4>Postgraduate research opportunities</h4> <p>We welcome enquiries from motivated and qualified applicants from all around the world who are interested in PhD study. Our <a href="https://phd.leeds.ac.uk">research opportunities</a> allow you to search for projects and scholarships.</p>