Spring 2023 Courses
How have Latin Americans, living in societies characterized by state repression and extensive violations of human rights, understood the role of the past in their struggle for social justice? This course examines the role of the past, memory, history, and truth in the transitional justice systems set up across Latin America from the 1980s to the present. It fosters conversations about the role of a contentious past - recent, but also very distant - in the lives of Latin American peoples and their struggle to transition to futures of peace and democracy.
In this course we explore the contemporary panorama of social and political organizations in Latin America representing (or claiming to represent) the lower orders of society. These include social movements, trade unions, non-governmental organizations, and political parties, as well as the vast range of participatory fora in the region that purport to offer citizens a direct role in government decision-making. How do these different institutions seek to increase the political influence and better the lives of the excluded and marginalized, and how successful have their efforts been?
This class will look at the works of Latin American and Latinx women playwrights who have created works that are either adaptations of mythical Greek heroines or reinterpretations of the historical Latin American and Caribbean record. These works challenge our visions of history: they use the power of the canon to make us think about the weight of tradition, and use that weight to shatter our preconceptions of gender, race, and identity. The course will include dialogues/workshops with contemporary artists and scholars, and will include performance, creative writing, and digital work as part of our class assignments and/or final project.
In this course we will study borders, literal and imagined, and those who contest and enforce them. From internal, invisible gang borders in Central America, to the externalization of the US border, to barriers to belonging, we will look at movements that challenge borders (migrant caravans, immigrants' rights activism, coyote networks) and the enforcers of borders (the regional migration regime, the asylum system, and non-state actors who police mobility.) Tying together migration, deportation, and resistance, this course asks: how are borders maintained? What does transgressing them mean for those in power and for those who do the crossing?
This course examines the world of political regimes and regime transitions. Why are some countries democracies and others dictatorships? Why does democracy sometimes break down? Why so some dictatorships eventually democratize? We will explore these questions through a diverse range of cases. We will learn about cases from Latin America and beyond, including the world's biggest democracy (India) and the world's biggest authoritarian regime (China).
Cross-Listed Spring 2023 Courses
Note: Listed in order of LAS course numbers.
An introduction to Latin American cultures and artistic and literary traditions through a wide spectrum of materials. We will discuss relevant issues in Latin American cultural, political, and social history, including the legacy of colonialism and indigenous resistance, the African diaspora, national fictions, popular and mass culture, gender and racial politics. Materials: essays by Ángel Rama, short stories by Julio Cortázar and Samanta Schweblin, poems by Nicolás Guillén and Cuban son music; paintings by Mexican muralists, films by Patricio Guzmán and Jayro Bustamante, writings by indigenous activist Ailton Krenak.
What did it mean to be "wild," "manly" or "white" in Early Modernity, and how do these categories function today? This course explores films made in the last fifty years, featuring "descents into savagery" and the colonial texts that inspired them. Among other topics, we'll discuss: coloniality and its effects; primitivism and progress; media and mediation; race and gender; healing practices; intercultural dialogues; and community-based performances.
This course examines what it means to be Caribbean, or of Caribbean descent, in the diaspora- either the United States, England, and France due to their stake in colonizing the Caribbean in the quest for imperial power and modernity, and how Caribbean culture has been defined in historical and contemporary contexts through a survey of Caribbean diasporic literature. In this course students will learn how legacies of colonialism and modernity affect Caribbean populations and how they negotiate empire, identity, language, culture, and notions of home.
This course investigates how people of African descent in the Americas have forged social, political, and cultural ties across geopolitical and linguistic boundaries. We will interrogate the transnational dialogue between African Americans and Afro-Latin Americans using case studies from Brazil, Cuba, Haiti, Puerto Rico, and the Dominican Republic. We will explore how Black activists have partnered to challenge racism and economic inequality, while also considering why efforts to mobilize Afro-descendants across the Americas have often been undermined by mutual misunderstandings.
This course explores Latin America's history from independence to the present. We examine the contentious process of building national polities and economies in a world of expansionist foreign powers. The region's move towards greater legal equality in the 19th century coexisted with social hierarchies related to class, race, gender, and place of origin. We explore how this tension generated stronger, even revolutionary demands for change in the 20th century, while considering how growing U.S. power shaped possibilities for regional transformation. Primary sources foreground the perspectives of elites, subalterns, artists and intellectuals.
This course studies how the environment has related to the construction of race and racism. By focusing on case studies around the globe, we will learn about the racial politics of waste, food consumption, energy, and climate change in diverse social and cultural contexts. Since the course moves chronologically through different historical periods, students will learn how dominant ideas about race and the environment have evolved over time. They will also examine how capitalism, imperialism, and colonialism have recreated environmental racism as a structure and a technology of power.
The course will focus on postcolonial writing from the islands of Martinique and Guadeloupe, which have come increasingly to be viewed as sites where issues of global import are conspicuously articulated. Against the historical background of slavery and colonialism, questions to be discussed will feature some that loom especially large: the genesis of a distinct multiethnic and multilingual community; the phenomena of migration and diaspora; ongoing tensions between former colonies now incorporated, as peripheral departments, by the "center," that is, France and the European Union; and not least, the matter of geography and the environment.
Through literature, film, music, and archive, we will explore how race, as a form of human hierarchization, shaped and connected the history, cultures, and social realities of Brazil, Portuguese-Speaking Africa (Angola, Mozambique, Guinea-Bissau, among others), and Portugal. We will examine how racial discourses changed throughout time and operate today in those spaces through key historical moments and topics such as slavery, colonization, race-mixing, fascism, military dictatorship, decolonization, migration, contemporary urban life, Indigenous thought, and Afro-futurism. Readings and discussions will be entirely in English.
This course studies the intersection between photography and other media in modern Latin American literature, art, and culture. It traces artistic and political uses of the photographic image as a narrative device, a document, a puzzling or deceiving representation of reality, and/or an aesthetic artifact. Among other materials, we will study and analyze art and documentary photography, fiction and non fiction texts, as well as photoessays. Readings and materials include works by Roberto Bolaño, J. L. Borges, Guillermo Cabrera Infante, Graciela Iturbide, Ana Mendieta, Oscar Muñoz, Rosangela Renno, and others.
History 306 studies all Latinos in the US, from those who have (im)migrated from across Latin America to those who lived in what became US lands. The course covers the historical origins of debates over land ownership, the border, assimilation expectations, discrimination, immigration regulation, intergroup differences, civil rights activism, and labor disputes. History 306 looks transnationally at Latin America's history by exploring shifts in US public opinion and domestic policies. By the end of the course, students will have a greater understanding and appreciation of how Latinos became an identifiable group in the US.
This course will explore the discursive and imaginary construction of the Amazon rainforest in Latin American literature, cinema, and visual arts. It will focus on how cultural production has contributed to imagining the Amazon rainforest and advocating for its environmental justice. While engaging with the history of Amazonia and different cultural artifacts, we will study the history and ideas of colonialism, neocolonialism, extractivism, and indigenous ontologies. The course will also address how cultural production can continue informing environmental and climate activism today.
Global capitalism has often imagined Latin America as a collection of "raw" commodities ready to be extracted. In this class, we explore this way of conceiving the region through its cultural production. Throughout the semester, we will engage with various "exemplary" commodities, including bananas, rubber, and sugar. We will look at their representations in literature, art, movies, and economic texts, but also at how commodities themselves -as material objects with a history- have shaped aesthetical forms. This approach will serve as an entry point for understanding inequality, neocolonialism, patriarchy, and climate change in the region
The pre-European history of Amerind cultures and their associated environments in the New World tropics will be studied. Topics to be covered include the peopling of tropical America; development of hunting/gathering and agricultural economies; neotropical climate and vegetation history; and the material culture and social organization of native Americans. Field and laboratory experiences will incorporate methods and problems in field archaeology, paleoenthnobotany and paleoecology, and archaeozoology.
Tropical Biology 338 is an intensive three-week field course based in lowland rainforest in Panama. The origins, maintenance, and major interactions of terrestrial biota in tropical rainforests will be examined. The course will involve travel to three different field sites, field journaling, and completion of independent field based research projects.
This seminar investigates the historical experiences of women in the Caribbean from the era of European conquest to the late twentieth century. We will examine how shifting conceptions of gender, sexuality, race, class, and the body have shaped understandings of womanhood and women's rights. We will engage a variety of sources - including archival documents, films, newspaper accounts, feminist blogs, music, and literary works - in addition to historical scholarship and theoretical texts. The course will include readings on the Spanish-, English-, and French-speaking Caribbean as well as the Caribbean diaspora.
This course surveys Olmec and related material culture spanning roughly 2000-500 B.C., including architecture and monumental sculpture, ceramic vessels and figurines, and exquisite small-scale sculpture in jade and other precious materials. Of central theoretical importance is the question of how we understand and interpret art from a distant past, especially without the aid of contemporaneous written records. We will focus on original works of art, including works in the Princeton University Art Museum and in regional collections. Issues of authenticity, quality, and provenance related to these works will also be considered.
This course will focus on the state's role in promoting economic growth and distribution in the developing world. The core organizing question for the course is: why have some regions of the developing world been more successful at industrialization and/or poverty alleviation than other regions. The students will learn about the patterns of development in Asia, Africa and Latin America, with special attention to such countries as China, India, South Korea, Nigeria and Brazil. General challenges that face all developing countries - globalization, establishing democracy and ethnic fragmentation - will also be analyzed.
The figure of the drag king has been practically absent from Latinx American critical analysis. Taking what we call "spectacular masculinity" as our starting point, a hyperbolic masculinity that without warning usurps the space of privilege granted to the masculinity of men, this course revises the staging of spectacular masculinities as a possibility of generating a crisis in heterosexism. We will highlight notable antecedents of the contemporary DK show, and study the hegemonic masculinity and its exceptional models through a critical technology that turns up the volume on its dramatization and its prosthetic/cosmetic conditions.
Looking to the many abyssal histories of the Caribbean, this course will explore major issues that have shaped Caribbean Literature: colonialism, indigeneity, iterations of enslavement, creolization, migration, diaspora, revolution, tropicality, and climate crisis. During our readings, we will be attentive to the Caribbean as a space of first colonial contact, as a place where the plantation system reigned, and as the site of the first successful slave revolt. These past legacies haunt contemporary conditions across the Caribbean in ways that necessitate attention to gender, race, and environment.
This course considers theories and practices of reinterpreting landscape through the lenses of indigeneity, transnational feminism, and decoloniality. We will explore alternative ways of knowing and relating to places--thinking across space and time, built structures and material absences, borders and networks of relation--with a focus on the Americas. Discussions will engage spatial perspectives in geography, anthropology, and decolonial thought along with creative writing and multimedia work. Students will apply critical spatial practices by designing a digital project using textual, sonic, and visual modes to remap a selected site.
How have Black healers and communities conceived of health and healing throughout history? Notions of health and healing and healing practices in the "Black Atlantic" (inclusive of Africa and the Americas) from the era of slavery to the present are the focus of this course. Students will engage with primary sources, historical and sociological scholarship, and historical documentaries concerning healing and Black life.
How journalists report on social upheaval shapes the public's understanding of the world beyond our borders. The global migration and refugee crises of this century can be traced, in part, to violence and conflicts that demand our understanding, and therefore, deep, nuanced reporting. With an emphasis on Latin America, this course will interrogate how we can cover different kinds of conflict, and the mass human displacements that follow, through a variety of lenses. Students will build practical journalistic skills and varied approaches to reporting in print, audio, and TV/documentary to produce stories on complex topics in another country.
This course aims to explore different forms that the question of liberation has taken in writings by women philosophers and poets whose work helped to create cultural and political movements in the U.S. and Latin America. Starting in the 1960s, it studies different philosophical concepts and poetic figures that have shaped the language of feminist struggles (intersectionality, care and the commons, reproductive justice, "feminicidal" violence, social reproduction). Readings include Gloria Anzaldúa, Angela Davis, Silvia Federici, Verónica Gago, Raquel Gutiérrez, Audre Lorde, Bety Ruth Lozano, Cristina Rivera Garza, among others.
How can we understand and interact with other ways of thinking? What other ideas of a world emerge when animals, humans and plants are persons among whom relations are properly social? How can these new ideas lead to creative and engaged actions in the face of the Anthropocene? Indigenous Cosmopolitics reflects on these questions by taking the concept of cosmopolitics as background for the reading of ethnographies based on the socio-cosmological perspectives of western and beyond-western peoples, with emphasis on studies of Amazonian Indigenous peoples and their perspectivist ontologies.
This course explores the ethics and poetics behind representations of violence in Colonial Latin America, with a special focus on epic poetry, though primary readings also include examples from relaciones, historias, and lyric. Topics include horror and terror; massacre; indigeneity and maternity; curses; the supernatural; marronage and piracy. Relevant selections from Virgil, Lucan, Ovid, Petrarch, Camões, and Ariosto are included as suggested readings for students who may not be familiar with their texts. Theorists and critics on violence and its depictions include Greene, Fuchs, Martínez, Rabasa, Radcliffe, Restrepo, Scarry, and Quint.
This course studies British and American influence on Asia, Africa, the Middle-East and Latin America over time. Our focus is both on formal empire (colonialism) and on informal empire (significant influence, without territorial control). The course is organized around the professor's book, Imperialism and the Developing World: How Britain and the United States Shaped the Global Periphery. The aim of the course is to: a) introduce students to the debates on the causes and consequences of imperialism; b) analyze specific cases of imperialism; and c) enable students to pursue a specific topic of interest.
This course provides students from all areas of literary and cultural studies in Spanish and Portuguese with a platform in which to engage with the discovery, access, study, interpretation, and utilization of historical records or archives often held by institutions. How do we overcome the barriers that prevent us from working with archives, regardless of their genre (i.e. text, film, audio, visual, etc.) or media format (i.e. manuscript, printed, digital, etc.)? How do we approach archives retained in repositories that uphold unjust socio-political practices?
The enslavement and colonization of Africans disarticulated African and Afro-Diasporic historical time and social memory, fragmented by the dispersion and oppression of their/our bodies, cultures, and territories. Lately, memory has reclaimed a central space in politics, particularly concerning minorities, and cinema has become a privileged medium of/for memory. We explore film genres, topics, and aesthetics seen in African and Afro-Brazilian cinemas to recreate pasts, presents, and futures, exploring different forms of memory, from traditional archives (documents, pictures) to memory as an embodied, practiced, and inscribed presence.
We are so lucky to have such diverse offerings and focus on incredibly important topics such as migration, the creation of borders, political organizations aiming to represent the poor and marginalized, and the state of justice in countries that have suffered from repression such as military dictatorships. -Elise Kratzer '24
This was by far the best led class I have taken at Princeton; the format of us filling out worksheets ahead of time so that you already knew our initial thoughts allowed discussions to be rich and fulfilling. The mix of theoretical discussion with practical research was really enjoyable and I feel like I am walking away from the class both with something concrete and a new frame of mind around thinking about conflict. It was clear throughout the class that you are truly an expert in the field and I am grateful to have had the chance to take this class with you. -Franklin Maloney ‘20 regarding: LAS 376: The Economic Analysis of Conflict taught by Ana María Ibáñez (PLAS Visiting Research Scholar and Visiting Professor - Fall 2018)