Bridging The Divides

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Bridging the Divides, ReImagining The Future

Centro seeks to convene a broad array of researchers, writers, thinkers, and creators from across Puerto Rico’s geographic communities for collaborative study about our collective future. Building on our 50-year legacy of collaborative and interdisciplinary research, the goal is to create benchmark publications, media products, and artistic projects that can help bridge our divides, create bridges of understanding, and forge new theoretical foundations, policy recommendations, and conceptual and material pathways to reimagine Puerto Rico’s future.

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What is Bridging the Divides?

The concept of “bridging divides” signals the need to overcome long-standing divisions that have served as roadblocks to the development of Puerto Rican Studies. This includes linguistic, geographic, and ideological divides as well methodological ones. Although Puerto Rican Studies constitutes an intellectual field, most scholars come to the study of Puerto Rico through training in other fields—many of which are still weighed down by outdated canons, and not-yet-decolonized methods.  To this end, Centro seeks to convene researchers working in different modes: scholarly, journalistic, and artistic. Centro believes that this undertaking requires the participation of scholars who can ground the conversation in historical, cultural, and legal research, but also the participation of journalists who are uniquely capable of communicating to broad audiences and shaping public debate.

Lastly, the work of artists is particularly critical to the development of the new epistemic frameworks that the current political and cultural moment requires. Artists have a unique ability to blaze new, imaginative pathways through the revelation of emergent ways of thinking on the threshold of consciousness. Rather than setting artists apart from scholars and journalists, this approach recognizes that artists are also researchers and often also scholars. By convening scholars, journalists, and artists in this work, the hope is to spur not only the production of academic texts, but also of public scholarship, journalistic writing, and artistic products that can help bridge disciplinary silos and plant new seeds for reimagining and re-envisioning the Puerto Rican future.

What is the Decolonization Study Group?

The Decolonization Study Group will kick off in Summer of 2022 in collaboration with the University of Puerto Rico Law School, to address the long-standing question of Puerto Rico’s decolonization. The conveners of the group are Dr. Yarimar Bonilla, Executive Director of the Center for Puerto Rican Studies, and Dr. Efrén Rivera Ramos, full professor and former Dean of the UPR Law School.

The group will consist of two co-conveners and a "seed group" (grupo semilla) of 10 scholars, journalists and artists/cultural workers from both Puerto Rico and the Diaspora assisted by a team of 4 research assistants. Members of the seed group are expected to dedicate a minimum of 10 hours a week to the project. Activities will consist of: biweekly zoom meeting, workshops, panels, roundtable discussions and public lectures. Members will participate in two in-person retreats: one at the University of Puerto Rico and another at Hunter College (Covid restrictions permitting). All meetings will be bilingual with interpretation provided, and final products will be available in both English and Spanish.

In addition, the group will recruit a broad array of thought leaders, activists, scholars, and the community at large to form part of thematic working groups, panel discussions, workshops, lectures, and town hall meetings.

for Scholars

These funds can be used for course buyouts, research costs (books, datasets, travel to archives, etc), summer salary or a stipend, depending on each scholar’s need. Scholars will submit an individual budget request to be approved by the Project Director.

for Artists & Journalists

To support their work, payable in installments across the fellowship period (artists from any tradition or field that would benefit from interdisciplinary research and collaboration are welcome to apply).

How To Apply

Applicants should prepare the following (materials can be submitted in English or Spanish):

Statement of Interest (1-2 pages/500-1,000 words max) addressing the following:

  • Why do you wish to participate in a study group on the theme of decolonization? How have you thought about this topic in the past, what expertise do you hold in this area, or how does it relate to your artistic practice?
  • Why do you wish to be in an interdisciplinary conversation with scholars, journalists, and artists about this topic? How do you think your work will be strengthened through such dialogue? What collaborations do you imagine?
  • Participants will be expected to devote about 10 hours per week for one year to group meetings and their individual projects. Please explain how you will balance this with your other obligations. Will you have course releases, a sabbatical, or some other form of time off?

Project Description (1-2 pages /500-1,000 words max):

In addition to participating in collective study, discussion, and writing practices, participants are expected to carry out their own individual projects. Please describe the project you would develop during the study group period, stating its methodology, goals, and significance (project possibilities include but are not limited to: books, novels, graphic novels, journal articles, long-form journalism, documentaries, podcasts, art exhibits, theater plays, cinematic projects, or any other creative proposal that requires an extensive period of research and writing or production).

Please explain at what stage the project is at and what work will be completed during the fellowship year.

Participants will also be asked to provide the following within the application portal:

Scholars: Current CV and a writing sample. Those with a university appointment should also provide a letter of support from your institution ensuring that you would be allowed to accept the fellowship.

Journalists: A resume and a selection of three (3) published pieces. Staff journalists should also provide a letter of support from their organization ensuring that they would be allowed to accept the fellowship.

Artists and cultural workers: CV, artist statement, and portfolio. Those with a staff position at a cultural institution should include a letter of support ensuring they are able to accept the fellowship.

For questions about this program please write to:

Related Media

FAQ(Frequently Asked Questions):

How can I participate in Bridging the Divides Decolonization Study Group?

There are two ways to participate. You can sign up to be a part of the broad group, who will collaborate with the seed group on benchmark publications, media products and artistic projects.

If you are a scholar, journalist, artist, or cultural worker, you can apply to be a seed group fellow. This group will develop benchmark publications, media products, and artistic projects that can help bridge our divides, create bridges of understanding, and forge new theoretical foundations, policy recommendations, and conceptual and material pathways to reimagine Puerto Rico.

Where will study group activities take place?

Study group activities will be virtual, with some in person events taking place.

The seed group will participate in two in-person retreats, one in Puerto Rico and one in New York.

How long will the study group be active?

We are planning for the study group to run from June 2022 through May 2023.

How much time am I expected to commit to working with the broad group?

You are not required to work on this project on a weekly basis, we only ask that you are willing to participate in events and group activities and that you’re open to collaboration and the exchange of ideas.

How much time am I expected to commit to working with the seed group?

Members of the seed group will be expected to dedicate 10 hours a week to this project and to attend bi-weekly virtual meetings. You will also be expected to participate in the two in person retreats.


The Andrew W.Mellon Foundation

As the largest supporter of the arts and humanities in the US, the Mellon Foundation seeks to build just communities where ideas and imagination can thrive. The foundation makes grants in six core program areas: Higher Education, Public Knowledge, Arts & Culture, and Humanities in Place.