Honoring Professor Bryan Roberts

By Raúl Madrid

Bryan Roberts, the C.B. Smith Chair in U.S.-Mexico Relations, has been a mainstay of our Latin American studies program for nearly three decades. Since his arrival here in 1986, he has supervised 53 dissertations, taught countless courses, published numerous articles and books, founded the Mexican Center, the Center for Latin American Social Policy, and served as Director of the Lozano Long Institute of Latin American Studies.

Bryan is retiring in December and to honor his long years of service,  LLILAS Benson jointly with the Centro de Investigaciones y Estudios Superiores en Antropología Social (CIESAS) organized an International Colloquium on Social Citizenship. This conference, which took place from April 17-19 at the beautiful Hacienda El Carmen, in Ahualulco de Mercado, Mexico, was sponsored by the College of Liberal Arts and the C.B. Smith Chair as well as by CIESAS and LLILAS Benson.

The conference brought almost 30 of Bryan’s former students and long-term collaborators from all over the world to discuss the topics that have been the focus of Bryan’s research for almost five decades: migration, urbanization, inequality, ethnicity, gender, and social policy.  The discussion was lively, the camaraderie was remarkable, and the setting was magnificent. I cannot imagine a more fitting way to honor Bryan and to thank him for all that he has done.

Raúl Madrid
Co-organizer, “International Colloquium on Social Citizenship in honor of Professor Bryan R. Roberts”
Professor, Department of Government
UT Austin.

Honoring Bryan Roberts

Bryan’s Closing Remarks (Saturday, April 19, 2014)

 Colloquium attendees 


Remarks from Sociology Department Faculty, University of Texas at Austin (April 2014)

 Bryan’s intellectual breadth, his natural curiosity, his international background and education, in combination with his extremely easy manner, infused the Department’s Latin American area with vitality and humanism for over thirty years.  He contributed to far more than one area, though.  He is a Sociologist in the best European and American traditions and his work combines deep theoretical insights and solid empirical work.  He deeply touched the lives of hundreds of students and colleagues and he leaves a legacy that will animate the department and Latin American studies at UT Austin for years.
Ron Angel, Professor of Sociology

First-hand witness to momentous transformations in Latin America, Bryan Roberts was able to make sense of them by deftly combining on-the-ground observations with high level theorization. Anybody studying urbanization, citizenship, or development in the continent is now standing on this sociological giant’s shoulders.
Javier Auyero, Professor of Sociology

Bryan Roberts is an exemplary scholar who has had a crucial influence in the sociology of Latin America and in making UT a leader in the field. In addition to his own scholarly contributions to research on urbanization, migration, inequality, development, employment and informality in the region, Bryan has been a champion of bringing scholars from the English-speaking and Spanish-speaking worlds together. He has published extensively in both languages and, most importantly, he has led a number of collaborative research projects with Latin American scholars. The comparative nature of these projects has been crucial for the understanding of long term changes in Latin American cities. He has always tied detailed micro analysis of community change to the macro transformations experienced by the region. Bryan regularly returned to the communities in Guatemala were he conducted his early fieldwork in the late 1960s and 1970s to observe first-hand the changes brought by neoliberalism to those communities. As LLILAS director from 2006 to 2009, he expanded his commitment to collaborative research with Latin America and brought universities and research institutes in the region closer to UT. This also explains the huge number of friends he has made and the respect he commands in the world of Latin American social sciences.
Daniel Fridman, Assistant Professor of Sociology

 For those of us who have studied migration related topics he is definitely ‘maestro de maestros’ — he has mentored some of the most influential maestras and maestros in immigration studies in the social sciences. He is a kind spirit and will be missed.
Gloria Gonzalez Lopez, Associate Professor of Sociology

Bryan has made enormous contributions to the Department of Sociology for nearly three decades and perhaps especially so in the graduate program. He has directed dozens of dissertations and served on many masters and dissertation committees. Over the years, he has given great attention to helping his students write high-quality dissertations and placing them into productive academic and non-academic positions following graduation. Perhaps most important, Bryan has been a model colleague and mentor. He is incredibly productive and smart, yet humble. He takes his work very seriously, but also has a great sense of humor and does not allow the seriousness of his work to override the joy with which he lives his life. He’s an academic superstar, yet he always pitches in to do his share of the grunt work that departments need to get done. And he gets along with everyone; he’s a genuinely nice, fair, and kind person who is as well liked and respected as it gets. Thank you Bryan…for all of your contributions, for one, but more than that, for being the humble, humorous, fun, hard-working, down-to-earth, fair, and kind person that you are. You will be missed.
Bob Hummer, Professor of Sociology

Bryan has done an outstanding job opening roads for research in Latin America. In towns that I have visited in Mexico, Central America, and South America, people told me that Bryan had been there earlier.  It is a privilege to follow in his footsteps.
Nestor Rodriguez, Professor of Sociology

For almost thirty years, Bryan Roberts has anchored the program in Latin American Sociology at the University of Texas at Austin.  Less well-known to outsiders, he has also been a mainstay of our programs in Sociological Theory and Ethnographic Research Methods.  Bryan taught generations of qualitative researchers at UT.  He is a multi-faceted scholar who communicates across scholarly divisions of geography, theory, and methodology.  His geniality and collegiality have made the Sociology Department an exceptional place to work.
Christine Williams, Professor and Chair of Sociology

Feel free to add below in the comments section your retirement wishes for Professor Roberts.

Por favor siéntase en libertad the agregar en la sección de comentarios sus buenos deseos (ya sea en español o en ingl

és) para el retiro del Dr. Roberts.



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9 comments on “Honoring Professor Bryan Roberts
  1. Eduardo Luiz Goncalves Rios Neto says:

    All the best to Bryan, a true scholar! It has been a great pleasure to interact with him in all these years cooperating with the UT and in several meetings all over Latin America. In addition, I can never forget his role advising so many bright people from Belo Horizonte while in Manchester. Finally, the parties at Bryan´s house would never be the same without Susan, we love you too!

  2. Paula Miranda-Ribeiro says:

    I love the video! It brought back to my mind the wonderful classes I had with Bryan at BUR214 — such a privilege! He could talk for 3 hours without one single note. He was very patient with all the (some times stupid) questions we had and with our poor English… Bryan was one of the best professors I have ever had! I wish him a great time and hope the best is yet to come! All my love to him and Susan!

  3. Mark Warr says:

    I arrived at UT the same year as Bryan, and we have grown old together. I could not have asked for a more gracious, humane, and humble colleague, and I feel privileged to count him among my friends. His departure ends an era at UT.

  4. Gio Batz says:

    I arrived to LLILAS for the MA program in 2008, in which Dr. Roberts taught the pro-seminar for the first years. During the introduction to the course, Dr. Roberts began by sharing his countless research experiences. At one point, he started talking about his research in the 1960s on how people invaded a ravine that came to be known as la Limonada in the zona 5 of Guatemala City during the late 1950s. This research became the basis for his book entitled Organizing Strangers (1973). I couldn’t believe it, mainly because my grandmother was one of the original invaders of La Limonada in the late 1950s. After establishing how small the world was and realizing the length of his research experience, Dr. Roberts began sharing his personal stories, data and photographs of his research from the 1960s with me. He always received me in his office whenever I wanted to learn more. Truly a class act!

  5. Ginny Burnett says:

    Bryan, the first thing I ever read about Protestantism in Guatemala–the topic that ended up preoccupying me for decades–was written by you–the article about La Lemonada back in the late 1960s. (I hasten to add, I didn’t read it when it came out!) Who would have thought that the author of that article would turn out to be a colleague, a friend, an inspiration, and also a whole lot of fun? I wish you full and happy days ahead! Thank you for all you’ve done.

  6. Teofilo Altamirano says:

    A vibrant and emergetic friend and colleage either in the university or in the field. I knew Bryan in the field 43 year ago in peruvian central highlands as his research assistant. Now he is a great friend stiil with the same energy

  7. Mine Tafolar says:

    I was fortunate enough to know Professor Bryan Roberts thanks to my dissertation project. He has always been ready for help whenever I went to his office to receive his suggestions on Argentina’s social assistance programs. I was also fortunate enough to receive his invaluable feedback on my project at ILLASSA Conference. He is a great teacher and a great person. I wish him the best after his retirement. Thank you Professor Roberts.

  8. Joe Potter says:

    Bryan has been a mainstay of Latin American sociology and demography at UT for the 25 years I have been around the Department and the PRC. He played a monumental role recruiting, teaching, and advising cohort after cohort of gifted students with a wide range of interests and talents. He was extraordinarily generous with all of them. They are his greatest legacy.

  9. Adan Reyes says:

    Dr. Roberts, un tipo genial. Entre sus incuestionables méritos como profesor, académico e investigador, quiero también destacar su sencillez como persona y su interés sincero por apoyar las carreras de incipientes académicos. Gracias al Dr. Roberts, el año pasado pude realizar una estancia académica en la Universidad de Texas, en Austin. Invaluable el acceso que tuve a la Nettie Lee Benson Latin American Collection pero más preciada la oportunidad de realizar algo de trabajo de campo (cosa que es realmente difícil para estudiantes que venimos de países sin muchos recursos destinados a la investigación social) y el privilegio de dialogar con investigadores tan destacados de la Universidad de Texas, en Austin y en San Antonio. Nunca voy a olvidar esa experiencia y nunca voy a poder agradecer por completo al Dr. Bryan Roberts por todo su apoyo. Muchas felicidades y mis mejores y más sinceros deseos para el Dr. Roberts y su estimable esposa Susan.

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