Lucas Mertehikian

Lucas Mertehikian

L Mertehikian

Research interests: Latin American literature (20th-19th centuries), material culture, object studies, travel literature, environmental studies.

Other research interests include: art history and curatorial studies; race studies and history of slavery in Latin America; gender studies.

I am a PhD candidate in Romance Languages and Literatures and a Graduate Student Associate at the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies, where I was also a John H. Coatsworth Fellow.

My dissertation Fake Originals. Collecting Latin America offers a new lens on Latin America with a focus on collecting efforts carried out by American scientists, diplomats, and scholars from the 1840s to the 1970s. Specifically, I analyze three collections as case studies Harvard University’s Latin American botanical collection, Dumbarton Oaks pre-Columbian art collection, and Princeton University’s Latin American literary manuscripts collection. In each chapter, I start by focusing on the unexpected trajectory of one single object to look into the collection at large. My central argument is that studying challenges traditional understandings of Latin American identity as seen from idealistic points of view (from José Rodo’s arielismo to Ángel Rama’s transculturación), while at the same time reexamining Latin America-US relationships.

Before coming to Harvard, I received my BA from the University of Buenos Aires (Argentina) and my MA in Latin American Literary Studies from the Universidad Nacional de Tres de Febrero (Argentina). My master’s thesis focused on the life and work of Tulio Carella, a now forgotten but once well-known Argentine writer who published Orgia in 1968, one of the first openly gay narratives in Latin American literature. In 2018, I was the co-curator of “Passports: Lives in Transit”, an exhibition at Houghton Library which engaged with major contemporary issues on migration and forced displacement through the lens of passports, visa applications, photographs, and other travel related documents.


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