This book grew out of an exploratory project called Durable Inequalities in
Latin America, funded by the Rockefeller Foundation and hosted at the Latin
American and Caribbean Studies (lacs) Center at Stony Brook University
between 2003–2006. The original idea was to take an urgent social
problem—inequality in the Americas—one with a strong presence in the
‘‘social sciences,’’ and revisit it with emerging humanistic, cultural, and
historical perspectives. Stony Brook became a bustling interdisciplinary site,
with six residential visiting fellows, most of them from Latin American
universities, who sparked a wide dialogue with our faculty, graduate stu-
dents, and other new inequality study groups. For if there was one thing we
discovered during these years of debate, it was that inequality is now an issue
with a deep resonance among scholars, activists, and communities across
the hemisphere. The recent election of Barack Obama to the presidency of
the United States, in 2008, presaged by the democratic turn to the Left
in much of Latin America and by the Bush-era global economic collapse,
should lend further momentum to anti-inequality movements. The moment
to confront inequality is here, but we need new intellectual tools and mobi-
lizing strategies to do it. This book is a modest attempt at this retooling.
In terms of resources, we need to thank the generosity of the Rockefeller
Foundation’s (now redefined) Program in Creativity and Culture, especially
the vision of the program o≈cers Tomás Ybarra-Frausto and Scott Mac-
Dougall, who took a personal interest in the Stony Brook initiative, though it
lay slightly o√ their usual map of concerns. Domenica Tafuro, our remark-
able lacs administrative assistant, was active at all stages of the project—
from helping to polish Gootenberg’s first proposal as then lacs director, to
welcoming the fellows at Stony Brook, to aiding in the final editing of this
book. Other o≈ces of the university also supported the project: especially
the College of Arts and Sciences (under the deans Bob Liebermann and
James Staros), O≈ce of the Provost, Graduate School, Linda Merians in
University Advancement, the Humanities Institute (hisb), and the Depart-
ments of History, Sociology, and Hispanic Languages and Literature. The
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