South America continues to be an object of fascination for travelers from outside the continent, eager to encounter an exotic landscape of rainforests and hidden cities. This course pushes aside this romantic view to explore the true cultural and ecological diversity of a continent with over 15,000 years of human history. We will engage with the archaeology of South America as a dynamic field of discussion and controversy, examining topics such as the initial peopling of the Americas, social complexity in the Amazon, Inca and Spanish imperialism, and questions of decolonizing the discipline.
Fall 2019 Latin American Studies Courses
Institutions of Justice and Democracy in Latin America
The course will examine the relationship between democracy building and the justice institutions in Latin America. We will address issues in human rights violations, globalization and challenges Lat Am regimes face in building a rule of law. Although political liberties associated with democracy have been partially secured by many Lat Am countries, the systematic violation of human rights by governments still pose a challenge to democracy and the rule of law across the region. Many Lat Am countries continue to suffer from high levels of economic inequality, social exclusion and discrimination along ethnic, racial and gender lines.
Public Health in Latin America
This seminar explores the history of public health in Latin America, the most unequal region of the world, and probes contemporary political and economic challenges in health care delivery. Drawing from the social sciences, epidemiology and the humanities, we will consider efforts at the control of tropical and infectious diseases, study people's mobilizations around the social and political determinants of health, and address pressing health and human rights issues such as abortion, violence, and access to biotechnology and quality care. Students will develop a biosocial and comparative understanding of public health in the region.
The Urban Revolution in Latin America
This course examines the rapid urbanization of Latin America, focusing especially on the political, economic, environmental, demographic, and cultural/aesthetic dimensions of urbanization processes and their implications. Topics to include: urban resource wars, gentrification and neighborhood change, planetary urbanization, vanguard urbanism, and the politics of aesthetics. Lectures and reading material will explore these issues across such paradigmatic urban places as Rio de Janeiro, Cochabamba, Mexico City, Los Angeles, Buenos Aires, and Bogotá.
Instructors: Ben Alan Gerlofs
New Approaches to Indigenous and Ecological Issues
The demographic shifts and new processes of cultural circulation associated with global capital and media, have disrupted traditional notions of geographically-bound identities and national cultures as apparatuses of power. At the same time, previously hidden, marginalized, and devalued forms of indigenous and native wisdom have reemerged, precisely to contest the destructive tendencies of Western epistemology. This seminar will therefore focus on the theories and methods of global Indigeneities to examine from their standpoint the dependence of human cognition on the natural environment.
Political Violence and "Dirty Wars" in 20th Century Latin America
This research seminar takes up the topic of political violence in 20th century Latin America and the Caribbean. Examples include the systematic killing of Haitians by the Dominican military in the late 1930s; the "dirty wars" of the southern cone in the 1970s; and the civil wars that overtook Central America and Peru in the 1980s. Using the explanatory framework provided by the concept of "dirty war," we will explore how scholars have used it to understand state-sponsored political violence through key case studies. With this foundation, students will develop their own research projects examining political violence in the region.
Science, Technology, and Society in Latin America
What roles have science and technology played in shaping modern Latin American nations, communities, and environments? This course explores the history of Latin American since independence (1800s-present) through various lenses, including the natural sciences, infrastructure and engineering, and health and medicine. The goal is to use science and technology as a way of exploring state-formation, territoriality, social control and resistance, and environmental relations.
Instructors: Ryan C. Edwards
Cross-listed courses by catalogue number
Interdisciplinary Design Studio
The course focuses on the social forces that shape design thinking. Its objective is to introduce architectural and urban design issues to build design and critical thinking skills from a multidisciplinary perspective. The studio is team-taught from faculty across disciplines to expose students to the multiple forces within which design operates.
Instructors: Mario Isaac Gandelsonas
Languages of the Americas
This course explores the vast linguistic diversity of the Americas: native languages, pidgins, creoles, mixed languages, and other languages in North, Central, and South America, including the Caribbean. We will examine historical and current issues of multilingualism to understand the relationship between language, identity, and social mobility. We will discuss how languages played a central role in colonization and nation-building processes, and how language policies contribute to linguistic loss and revitalization. This course has no prerequisites and is intended for students interested in learning more about languages in the Americas.
Instructors: Dunia Catalina Méndez Vallejo
Identity in the Hispanic World
How are ideas of belonging to the body politic defined in Spain, Latin America, and in Spanish-speaking communities in the United States? Who is "Latin America," Latinx," "Chino," "Argentine," "Guatemalan," "Indian," etc.? Who constructs these terms and why? Who do they include/exclude? Why do we need these identity markers in the first place? Our course will engage these questions by surveying and analyzing literary, historical, and visual productions from the time of the foundation of the Spanish empire to the present time in the Spanish speaking world.
Instructors: Christina H. Lee
Colonial Latin America to 1810
What is colonization? How does it work? What kind of societies does it create? Come find out through the lens of the Latin America. First we study how the Aztec and Inca empires subdued other peoples, and how Muslim Iberia fell to the Christians. Then, we learn about Spanish and Portuguese conquests and how indigenous resistance, adaptation, and racial mixing shaped the continent. You will see gods clash and meld, cities rise and decline, and insurrections fail or win. Silver mines will boom and bust, slaves will toil and rebel; peasants will fight capitalist encroachments. This is a comprehensive view of how Latin America became what it is.
Instructors: Vera Silvina Candiani
Topics in Brazilian Cultural and Social History: Indigenous Brazil
This course analyzes current indigenous issues in Brazil, and the struggle for human and land rights that affect the Guarani Kaiowá, Yanomamis, Krenaks, Bororos, among other ethnicities. The emergence of contemporary indigenous literature and filmography will be studied along with canonical Brazilian literature and ethnographical studies. Topics include the building of the Belo Monte dam, the Rio Doce mining disaster, the survival of languages, the spread of Indigenous traditions, and the work of Indigenous writers and filmmakers.
Instructors: Marilia Librandi
São Paulo: Cultural and Urban Connections
This interdisciplinary course focuses on the city of São Paulo, with its vibrant cultural life, its complex social interactions, and its deep urban history. Through the analysis of literature, film, music, theatre, visual arts, and architecture, students will gain an immersive understanding of Brazil's most populous and diverse city. Topics include: The 1922 Week of Modern Art; cultural anthropology; the creation of the University of São Paulo; social movements; center and periphery.
Instructors: Marilia Librandi
Topics in Cinema and Culture: White Men Gone Wild in Colonial Latin America
An exploration of films made in the last fifty years featuring "descents into savagery" and the colonial, alphabetic texts that inspired them. Topics to be discussed, among others: primitivism and progress; coloniality; media and mediation; race and gender; intercultural dialogues; healing practices; community-based performances. Films shown with English subtitles.
Instructors: Nicole D. Legnani
Junior Seminar: Spanish and Portuguese-Speaking Worlds
This seminar will introduce students to theoretical concepts and tools necessary for historical, political, cultural, literary, and sociolinguistic analysis of issues of power and identity in the Luso-Hispanic and Latinx worlds. It will also serve as an introduction to diverse research objects and approaches: digital resources, bibliographical search, archives, ethnographic fieldwork, interviews, and close-reading. We aim at combining tools and strategies from two main methods of inquiry: cultural/literary analysis and qualitative research. We will offer guidance, models and practical activities to understand and apply these methodologies.
Instructors: Alberto Bruzos Moro, Christina H. Lee
Topics in Latin American Modernity: The Culture of the Cuban Revolution
After Fidel Castro marched into Havana in January 1959, a cultural revolution followed the political one: literature, the arts, architecture, film, and dance sought to break with the past and proposed new, utopian ways of artmaking. This seminar will offer an overview of some of the most important cultural productions of this era, including films, novels, political essays, and architectural works, which ended by the early 1970s with the rise of censorship.
Instructors: Rubén Gallo
Topics in Latin American Literature and Ideology: The Fiction of Mario Vargas Llosa
Mario Vargas Llosa, who received the Nobel prize in 2010, is the most important living writer in Latin America. His novels offer a unique perspective on 20th century Latin American history and politics, and deal with issues that include: dictatorship, Marxism, the conflicts between rich and poor, the left and the right, and gender stereotypes and dynamics. This seminar will offer an overview of his political fiction.
Instructors: Rubén Gallo
Human Rights in Latin America
Home to both shocking atrocities and heroic justice movements, Latin America illuminates the range of challenges, successes, tensions, and promises of the human rights project. Students will trace legacies of mass violations, such as those left by authoritarian rule. Students will then engage with contemporary human rights problems in the region, including the "war on drugs"; prison abuse; dissenter's rights; closing civil society space; indigenous land struggles; sexual and reproductive rights; and economic, social and cultural rights in the face of extreme inequality.
Instructors: Fernando Ribeiro Delgado
Latin American Politics
Contemporary Latin America has experienced revolutions, repressive military rule, and now the most enduring (if uneven) democratic period in its history. Economic policies have, moreover, alternated between state-led and market-driven development, with recent policy innovations and challenges from a growing illicit economy. Social movements have also contested citizenship along class, ethnic, and gender lines. The course adopts a thematic focus - debating theories about democracy, development, and social movements - and evaluates competing theories in the context of Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Cuba, Mexico, and Venezuela.
Instructors: Deborah J. Yashar
Seminar in Colonial Spanish American Literature: Insurgency and Counter-Insurgency in the (Colonial) Andes
How do we theorize the practices of insurgency and resistance, apostasy and heresy, riots and boycotts? How are they recorded, if at all? Can they write themselves? We explore seminal texts of Colonial Latin America, with a focus on the Andes, to examine how these are both inscribed and erased from the Archive and, in so doing, question the category of the "colonial" itself and the various prefixes associated with it. Primary authors include Las Casas, Francisco de la Cruz (heretic), Vargas Machuca, Guaman Poma de Ayala, Francisco Vásquez, and Lope de Aguirre; theoretical works by Guha, De Certeau, Clover, Marx and Rocker.
Instructors: Nicole D. Legnani
Topics in Luso-Hispanic Cultures: Brazilian-Iberian Countercultures
This course seeks to explore Brazilian and Iberian experiences of counterculture in a cross-cultural perspective that considers specific local developments and Transatlantic exchanges. The seminar discusses events and traditions from the 1960s to the present through a wide range of literary, political and artistic materials. Among the topics to be addressed are authoritarian and post-authoritarian regimes, resistance and encryption, memory and loyalty, utopia and emancipation, revolution and revolt, politics, biopolitics and the popular.
Instructors: Germán Labrador Méndez, Pedro Meira Monteiro