About us

Network academics under threat 

The network was created by researchers Francesca Lessa and Rosario Figari Layús in 2018 as a result of the workshop “The persistence of Impunity in the Struggle for Truth, Justice, Memory and Reparation in Latin America: Human Rights Trials Defenders at Risk,” organised within the framework of the Latin American Studies Association (LASA) Conference, held in Barcelona in 2018. The workshop, which brought together researchers and activists from various social sciences and human rights disciplines, allowed for an exchange of experiences of harassment, restrictions and violence faced by activists and academics in different countries of Latin America. The workshop made evident the urgency of this problem in the current political and social landscape in Latin America and the need to take collective action in order to make visible, combat and prevent further cases of harassment and attacks.

The types of harassment and violence faced by academics and professors include threats, physical assault, vandalism of their homes and offices, threats to family members, theft of documentation and surveyed materials, stigmatisation and smear campaigns in the press, public accusations by governmental authorities, legal actions and prosecutions and police raids in their homes and workplaces, blockage of publications and even rejection of research projects on issues deemed inconvenient by some academic institutions.

These instances of harassment can be more or less serious and have consequences at different levels, such as the personal and professional level and the academic and social one. The attacks not only seriously affect the physical, economic, psychological and emotional integrity of those who suffer them directly, but they also imply an attack on academic freedom, critical thinking and the production and dissemination of knowledge, which are fundamental for the social, political and democratic development of any society.


Founders and coordinators:

Rosario Figari Layús

Rosario Figari Layús is post-doctoral researcher at the Chair of Peace Studies at the Justus Liebig University of Giessen in Germany. She holds a PhD in Political Science from the Phillips University of Marburg. Previously she earned a Master degree in Social Sciences from Humboldt University of Berlin and a degree in sociology from the University of Buenos Aires.Her areas of work and research focus on human rights protection, academic freedom, political and gender-based violence, transitional justice and peace and conflict studies.

Francesca Lessa

Francesca Lessa is Departmental Lecturer in Latin American Studies and Development at the University of Oxford. She completed her PhD in International Relations at the London School of Economics. Her areas of work and research focus on human rights in Latin America, especially accountability for past and present instances of human rights violations and the politics behind these processes, which encompass state, regional, and international actors as well as civil society activists. Her most recent project focuses on Operation Condor and practices of transnational human rights repression in South America between 1969 and 1981

Nancy R. Tapias Torrado

Nancy R. Tapias Torrado is a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Faculté de Science Politique et de Droit at the Université du Québec à Montréal and an international consultant. She is a doctor in sociology (U. Oxford) and a human rights lawyer (LLM, U. Essex; MPhil and LLB, U. Javeriana). For two decades, Nancy has been working with and for human rights defenders in the Americas. Her current academic investigation explores the impact of Indigenous women-led mobilizations on the practice of corporations involved in mega-projects in the Americas. She joined Academics under Threat in the 2018 LASA Conference.


Support and editorial revision in Portuguese

Amanda Mendonça

Amanda Mendonça is an associate professor at the Teacher Training Faculty of State University of Rio de Janeiro (FFP/UERJ)  and at the Postgraduate Program in Education. She gholds a PhD in Social Policy at the Federal Fluminense University. Amanda also holds a Master in Education at UFRJ and is a specialist in gender and sexuality. She did her post-doctoral studies in education at the Federal Fluminense University. She is a member of the Observatory of Secularism in Education – OLÉ and also vice-leader of the Research and Study Group Genders, Sexualities and Differences in the Several Spaces – Times of History and Daily Life (GESDI). She is an associate researcher at the University of Dundee (Scotland).