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LADAMA Virtual Concert

Nicolette Lecy, Graduate Student Researcher

UC Merced UpstART and the Center for Humanities hosted LADAMA as the last free virtual concert of the year. UpstART director Dr. David Kaminsky kicked off the concert by introducing the band: LADAMA was formed by a group of four Latina musicians: Lara Klaus, Daniela Serna, Mafer Bandola, and Sara Lucas, after they had met while being part of a U.S. – based music residency program in 2014. Since then, LADAMA has composed and performed songs in Spanish, Portuguese, and English, drawing their musical inspiration from their home countries of Brazil, Colombia, Venezuela, and the United States. Combining traditional and contemporary music genres, LADAMA has shared its unique Latin Alternative sound at venues and festivals worldwide. The one-hour  performance was shot in a private recording studio. Between songs, they incorporated “listening breaks” to give the educational context of things like the origins of the musical instruments they used. 

photo by Sea Robin Studios

The concert was immediately followed by a live-streamed Q&A hosted by UC Merced’s Assistant Professor of Music, Dr. Patricia Vergara. Vergara moderated audience questions with the band members, focusing on their musical and regional influences, creative processes, experiences touring, and the unique aspects of being Latina women musicians and educators. They also described how they use oral traditions and storytelling to educate young listeners on the instruments, sounds, and culture of the countries from which the band draws their inspiration. The band ended by sharing videos and lesson plans they had created in collaboration with Teach Rock as a resource for elementary school music educators wanting to teach about traditional forms of South American music and dance. 

photo by Yanina May + Style and direction by Stephanie Peña

This concert will be shared on our “Critically Human” channel on UCTV in the near future. For more information about the band and a list of their upcoming tour dates, check out their Instagram @Ladamaproject and website link:

Donald Barclay on His Book Disinformation: The Nature of Facts and Lies in the Post-Truth Era

Nicolette Lecy, Graduate Student Researcher

Deputy University Librarian Donald Barclay gave our first and only in-person seminar talk of the spring 2022 semester on the 4th chapter of his most recent book, Disinformation: The Nature of Facts and Lies in the Post-Truth Era. This book followed his earlier book Fake News, Propaganda, and Plain Old Lies: How to Find Trustworthy Information in the Digital Age (2018), which looked at how to deal with and evaluate credible vs. non-credible information. 

Disinformation focuses on why things like fake news exist and how we got to our current place in the information world. Mr. Barclay began by looking at how various scholars viewed advancements in technology as mixed blessings with economic, social, and political complications. Opinions were also divided on whether technology determines how society operates if culture determines the creation of technology itself, and how much people can resist these technological advancements in their daily lives.

Barclay’s talk then shifted to discussing the importance and impact of the invention of moveable type on European literacy and cognition because of printing accessibility. Citing communications scholars such as Marshall McLuhan, Barclay outlined historical stages of oral, scribal, print, and electronic communication and how printing changed how knowledge from being communicated orally to the listener to become an act of reading in private. From there, printing and later electronic communication influenced nationalism, individualism, consumerism, and more.

Barclay then described how communication through popular social media platforms (i.e., Twitter, TikTok, Snapchat, Facebook, Twitch) fit into Sauerberg’s Gutenberg Parenthesis: “oral culture (written/print culture) secondary orality.” The Gutenberg Parenthesis is a chronological representation of the dominant mode of receiving information. Societal communication was first mainly oral then later people recieved much of their information through written and printed forms (books, newspapers, etc.). Now we are moving away from printed information into “secondary orality” where literate people gain much of their information from hearing others speak on the radio, television, and internet. Using the U.S.’s 45th President, Donald Trump, as an example, Barclay showed how Trump gained fame through forms of secondary orality, like his television show “The Apprentice” and later political momentum through Twitter.

Barclay also addressed the performativity of individuals of influence on these platforms, present-day political polarization, and the denial of science. In this era of secondary orality, Barclay described the focus is not on which is “right,” but instead, the individual decides on the facts they like best that appeal to their biases. He ended his talk by summarizing how we must stay aware of technology’s unique control and potentially divisive effect on us. 

Anzaldúing It Podcast Creators Dr. Angélica Becerra and Dr. Jack Cáraves on Creating Digital Sonic Spaces

Nicolette Lecy, Graduate Student Researcher

Anzaldúing It podcast hosts and creators Dr. Angélica Becerra (she/her/hers/ella) and Dr. Jack Cáraves (he/him/they/them/el) joined us virtually to share their thoughts on creating digital sonic spaces. Dr. Becerra is a queer, 1st generation Mexican American, and L.A. public school system alum. Aside from being a queer immigrant artist and activist, she is currently a Postdoctoral Fellow in Digital Technology & Culture at Washington State University in Pullman. The podcast co-host and producer, Dr. Cáraves, is a 2nd generation Mexican American who identifies as a trans-masculine and queer Chicanx/Latinx. He is currently an Assistant Professor at San Jose State University who conducts qualitative research focusing on experiences of transgender Latinxs in the U.S. and is doing a Postdoctoral Fellowship at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign this year. Dr. Becerra and Dr. Cáraves met in 2012 during their Ph.D. program in Chicana/o and Central American Studies at UCLA and began Anzaldúing It in 2016. 

original artwork by Angélica Becerra

Anzaldúing It is a Queer Latinx podcast that frequently touches on issues like navigating academia, relationships and mental health, and astrology and healing. The podcast’s name was inspired by the creators’ early exposure and personal and academic admiration for queer Chicana writer and scholar Gloria Anzaldúa. “Anzaldúing It” became a reference for code-switching and unapologetically moving between spaces, languages, and identities as queer Chicanxs.

As of April 2022, Anzaldúing It has 70 total episodes with almost 510, 000 plays from the U.S., Latin America, and even Europe, appealing to those seeking a sonic space for often stigmatized conversations about mental health and survival in relation to issues like racism, sexism, homophobia, and the ivory tower of academia. Dr. Becerra and Dr. Cáraves continued by describing various Chicana feminist influences, theorizing the need for the creation of a sonic counterspace, and using pláticas (talks/conversations) as a method of knowledge production and exchange. They ended their talk by addressing why the Anzaldúing It sonic archive must be free to combat elitist practices by maintaining the accessibility of this specific form of knowledge production.

The talk was followed by a Q&A where the speakers addressed questions about technical difficulties with podcast production and scheduling conflicts. They also discussed their worries about perfectionism and imposter syndrome when starting the podcast, dealing with public-ness and hypervisibility, and the need to take breaks from podcasting during significant life shifts/events (graduating with a Ph.D., starting tenure track jobs, and living and surviving in the pandemic).

Collaborative Insights from Faunal and Human Remains from a Shellmound Site in Alameda, CA

Nicolette Lecy, Graduate Student Researcher

Sixth-year Interdisciplinary Humanities Ph.D. Candidate Alyson Caine led one of our spring 2022 humanities seminars discussing her archaeological work on fauna and human remains found at a shellmound site, which is a mound of earth and organic materials made by Indigenous people over hundreds or thousands of years, in Alameda, California. This project was made possible through funding from the UC Humanities Consortium Collaborative Research Grant and Caine worked under the supervision of UC Merced Professor of Anthropology, Dr. Christina Torres-Rouff. The pair collaborated with UC Davis and UC Santa Cruz scholars and the Confederated Villages of Lisjan.

Caine described the process of working with an archaeological firm, Archaeological/Historical Consultants Inc., and within the Native American Heritage Commission’s burial regulations when performing a rescue excavation at the Alameda Marina. She also emphasized the importance of the wishes of the Indigenous community, which had opposed the planned construction at the site and worked with the archaeological firm toward the goals of identifying the most likely descendants and the protection, proper storage, and reburial of material culture as well as the 187 individuals’ skeletal remains recovered.

Caine ended by discussing the value of this research opportunity in collaborating with other faculty across the UC to gain experience in various archaeological methodologies and discussed some of the struggles of working during the pandemic. Methodologies used included osteological, isotopic, and aDNA analyses, which can assess sex, familial relationships, diet, migration patterns, disease pathogens, and cultural practices of an individual. Beyond the individuals’ health profiles, the team was also able to gain insight into burial practices, material culture, and wealth distribution through the excavation with various scholars still conducting research on cultural patterns at this site.

Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars Virtual Concert

Nicolette Lecy, Graduate Student Researcher

This spring, UC Merced UpstART and the Center for the Humanities hosted a free virtual concert showcasing Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars. Attendees tuned in that afternoon from Minnesota to Vermont, and the concert was kicked off with a band introduction by UpstART director Dr. David Kaminsky.

image source:

Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars was formed by a small group of Sierra Leoneans displaced in Guinean refugee camps during the Sierra Leone Civil War (1991–2002). Since returning to Sierra Leone’s capital Freetown in 2004, they have toured internationally, produced several albums, and were the subject of a 2005 documentary. 

The one-hour performance was shot primarily in an intimate outdoor setting in Freetown. The concert was immediately followed by a live-streamed Q&A hosted by the University of Florida’s Dr. Sarah Politz, an Assistant Professor of Ethnomusicology focusing on creative practice in African and Afro-Diasporic Music. Politz moderated audience questions with guitarist, keyboardist, singer, and composer Jahson Bull and discussed the band’s influence from West-African baskeda rhythms to their ability to raise awareness about humanitarian causes through their lyrics. Bull ended by letting the audience know that Spotify was the best place to find their music. The recorded concert will also be shared on our “Critically Human” UCTV channel in the near future. For more information about the band, check out their website.