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Royal Geographical Society honours Northumbria geographer

9th May 2024

An Early Career Researcher from Northumbria University has been recognised by the Royal Geographical Society (with the Institute of British Geographers) with one of 26 medals and annual awards presented to outstanding people and organisations for their notable contributions to geography.

Dr Ana Laura Zavala Guillen from the University’s Department of Geography and Environmental Sciences has been honoured with an area prize by the Society for her work with Afro-descendent communities in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Caption: Dr Ana Laura Zavala Guillen

Dr Zavala Guillen, from Argentina, has extensive experience as a human rights lawyer and is passionate about historical geography, with much of her research to date facilitating community analysis of colonial and postcolonial records. Her current research, supported by a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellowship, expands on debates about race, Black mobilities, and regime violence during slavery and the last military dictatorship in Uruguay.

An academic paper developed by Dr Zavala Guillen, and published in the Society’s academic journal last year, is the subject of the area prize. The article Feeling/thinking the archive: Participatory mapping Marronage proposes a method of anti-colonial mapping to repair the land dispossession of Maroon communities in Latin America which was developed by working with the community in San Basilio de Palenque, Colombia.

The Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) is the learned society and professional body for geography, formed in 1830. Prestigious medals and awards, including two Royal Medals approved by His Majesty the King, recognise excellence in geographical research and fieldwork, teaching, public engagement, policy and professional practice. They are presented annually to individuals who have made outstanding achievements.

Dr Zavala Guillen said: “I am honoured to receive this award as an Early Career Researcher devoted to furthering decolonial debates in historical geography. The research is always collective so I am particularly grateful to my former mentors at Queen Mary University London, Dr Sam Halvorsen and Professor Miles Ogborn, for their generous guidance in developing this paper.

“A big thank you to the British Academy for making my research and related fieldwork possible. I dedicate this award to the community of Palenque for trusting me with their ancestral knowledge and histories of land resistance, and Colombian historian Professor María Cristina Navarrete-Peláez, whom I had the privilege to call my friend.”

A full list of the 2024 awards and medals presented by the Royal Geographical Society can be found online here.

Northumbria’s Centre for Global Development is recognised for impactful, co-produced research tackling the issues of global poverty and inequality, working with communities and individuals who experience this, and promoting the policies, practices and approaches that seek to address it. Discover more here about Dr Zavala Guillen’s research.

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