Fall 2021 Courses
Over the course of the twentieth century Latin America was transformed by a cascade of revolutions. We will use these upheavals as a red thread for understanding the region's history, from the dismantling of slavery in Cuba to the tumult of Mexico in the 1910s, and from Cold War coups in Guatemala and Chile to guerrilla insurgency in 1980s Peru. Using primary sources alongside a range of secondary literature, we will explore the varied causes and consequences of revolution as well as the social dynamics and motivating ideas they had in common. We will also analyze the new political systems and cultural developments that emerged in their wake.
Popular imaginaries depict Latin America as both brimming with pristine nature and afflicted with devastating environmental degradation. This lecture explores Latin American nature as an ecological, political and cultural creation, asking: Where do these imaginaries of pristine/despoiled nature come from? How are they used, perpetuated or debunked by scientists, Indigenous peoples, politicians and NGOs? We apply these questions to an array of environmental issues, including climate change, deforestation and ecotourism, to analyze the effects of these imaginaries on people's lived experiences of nature, conservation and economic development.
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?
For two millennia, the peoples of Mexico have lived in close proximity with the dead. When in the 16th century uninvited Europeans arrived in Tenochtitlan, today Mexico City, offering a path to "eternal life", Mexicans were decidedly uninterested. In this course, students will journey down the road to Mictlan, the watery Mexican underworld, to learn from artworks an ancient, alternate approach to understanding the social construction of death. Three quarters of the course will consider arts of the Native pre-Hispanic context, with equal time dedicated to Teotihuacan, the Maya, and the Mexica ("Aztecs").
This course examines pandemics, diseases, and other global health concerns through the lens of multispecies relations. We study knowledge production (epistemology) throughout this course, the cultural structures that make certain "ways of knowing" possible, and the shifting boundaries of knowing and being provoked by modes of inquiry centering multispecies entanglements. We consider the ongoing effects of environmental change and the world-making knowledge practices of experts that drive new perspectives on global health. Finally, we reflect critically on multispecies care and the future of planetary health. First-year students are welcome.
Cross-Listed Fall 2021 Courses
This course is an introduction to crime fiction from early 20th-century "locked room" mysteries to 21st-century narco-narratives. It examines short stories, novels, films and essays about detective and crime fiction in Latin America (some examples from Spain). Topics include the genre's position vis-a-vis "high" and "low" literature, connections to film, relation to contexts such as immigration, state crime, drug culture and globalization. Authors include Roberto Arlt, María Elvira Bermúdez, Adolfo Bioy Casares, Roberto Bolaño, Jorge Luis Borges, Alicia Giménez Bartlett, Leonardo Padura Fuentes, Ricardo Piglia, and Fernando Vallejo.
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.
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.
This seminar grapples with the question of authorship and meaning in the literature of Jorge Luis Borges, the legendary Argentine writer whose convoluted fictions continue puzzling readers. Borges is a foundational figure. Gabriel García Márquez and Paul Auster, and philosophers such as Jacques Derrida and Michel Foucault, are all indebted to Borges. Using different perspectives, from philosophy and aesthetics to politics and cultural analysis, we will study Borges's thematic and formal obsessions: time and memory; labyrinths; reading as a form of writing; and the universality of Argentine local traditions such as tango and gaucho culture.
This course focuses on the networks, the imaginaries and the lives inhabited by Black artists, makers, and subjects from the 18th through 19th centuries. It revolves around the Caribbean (particularly the Anglophone Caribbean), North America and Europe. We will reflect on how pre-twentieth century Black artists are written into history or written out of it. We will explore the aesthetic innovation of these artists and the visionary worlds they created, and examine their travels, their writings, along with the social worlds and communities they formed. The course incorporates lectures and readings and, if possible, museum visits.
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 American," "Latinx," "Chino," "Moor," "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.
This course will analyze the role of cinema in the construction (and deconstruction) of national and transnational identities and discourses in the Portuguese-speaking world. We will examine recurring cultural topics in a wide variety of films from Brazil, Portugal, and Lusophone Africa and Asia, situating works within their socio-historical contexts and tracing the development of national cinemas and their interaction with global aesthetics and trends. Through these cinematographic productions we will illuminate complex relationships between Portuguese-speaking societies and analyze significant cross-cultural differences and similarities.
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.
This course is designed to explore the possession experiences in Caribbean Religions. Through historical, ethnographic, autobiographical, literary and visual texts this course examines complex, gendered practices within the possession process, the vibrant spiritual energy that sustains communal connections during religious ceremonies, and the transnational imaginations that animate Caribbean religious practices in the Americas. Special attention will be given to Santeria, Candomble, Vodou, Myal, Palo Monte, and Revival Zion in the Americas.
This course introduces students to a variety of approaches to the study of art and culture, with a focus on those produced in and about Latin America. Was the Haitian Revolution victorious thanks to strong military leaders or shrewd masses? Are films a fun escape or a means to rethink the world? How do people with little internet access make creative use of new media? How do we understand art's relation to history and politics? Readings include selections from the Black Radical tradition, Marxism, Feminism, Subaltern Studies, Aesthetics, as well as select examples from literature and film. Nor prior knowledge of theory expected.
This course studies artistic and cultural practices that created different aesthetics and politics of memory that have become essential in order to respond, denounce, and creatively resist to different forms of violence and human rights violations. Looking at literature, visual arts, memory museums, and film, the course will pay special attention to different articulations among visual, discursive, and territorial regimes of signification, from the 1950s to the present. Some classes will be held at the Art Museum in order to work with materials from the Latin American collection.
How has money shaped the material world that surrounds us? How have objects in turn influenced our financial thinking? In this course, students will learn to use humanistic tools to reflect on these questions through an examination of the cultural production of Spanish America. Engaging with works that span from the Baroque period all the way to the present-day neoliberal era, this class invites us to think creatively about the complex relationship between money and materiality that is at the core of capitalist development.
Film is comprised of multiple surfaces: the screen, the actors, the structure of the darkroom, the mobile devices of the audiovisual present, the bodies that vibrate around us, the actual strip of plastic that records the images... Critics have already broadly debated how film touches us politically and emotionally. This seminar formulates a different question: how do we touch film? In Latin America, the interaction between filmic skins is founded on the relationship between art and politics. We will consider how filmmakers debate the politics of the surface and how spectatorship poses a deeply political problem for the region.
This course explores the supposedly "untranslatable" concept of saudade. We will consider its political, economic, cultural and aesthetic manifestations and social implications through analysis of literary and sociological texts, music, cinema, and more from across the Lusophone world. Topics will include im/migration and the transnational experience, music and performativity, the role of nostalgia in politics and the colonial experience, national mythmaking and depictions of utopia. Particular attention will be paid to the prevalence of saudosismo in popular culture, where classical texts and forms often make surprising appearances.
From news streamed on laptops to grassroots organizing on smart phones, screens have become a primary site for the experience of politics in our contemporary world. This course explores the historical genealogy of the political primacy of the screen by investigating how artists have used screens as a means to document, visualize, and enact political processes over the past century. Looking to a range of media such as film, video, and slide projection, the course is divided into thematic units that address issues of oppression, colonialism, and revolution; sexuality and gender; race and its representation; and native peoples' struggles.
This course investigates the key political drivers of economic development and human welfare. It explores the effects of geography, historical legacies, policy, incentive design, and institutional capacity on standards of living, including vulnerability to disease and climate risk. Uses theory, comparison, and case studies to motivate discussion.
This course explores questions and practices of liberation 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 60s, we will study a poetics and politics of liberation, paying special attention to the role played by language and imagination when ideas translate onto social movements related to social justice, structural violence, education, care, and the commons. Readings include Gloria Anzaldúa, Angela Davis, Silvia Federici, Diamela Eltit, Audre Lorde, Silvia Rivera Cusicanqui, Gayatri Spivak, Zapatistas, among others.
The readings and discussions will consider how the literature and arts of Haiti affirm, contest, and bear witness to historical narratives concerning the world's first black republic. The course will sample an array of historical accounts, novels, Afro-Caribbean religion (Vodun), plays, music, film, and visual arts of this unique postcolonial nation.
Soil is a critical resource for an increasingly urbanized planet. In this course our goal will be to familiarize ourselves with the fundamentals of soil science and soil theory in order to consider the relationship between soils and the urban environment. Through engagements with both humanistic and empirical scholarship we will develop a perspectival approach to tracing the diverse political and disciplinary contexts in which soil is made an object of knowledge. In particular, the course will feature an extended case study of Mexico City's wastewater agriculture system, and the colonial history of indigenous Latin American soil knowledge.
This course is designed to describe the policies defining the provision of educational services with special attention to the context of the US and Latin America. The focus will be on policies that have implications for understanding inequality in education and income through the lens of economic theory of human capital. The course topics will include governance, accountability, choice, finance, and personnel policies for K-12 education, with a focus on the role of teachers; it will also briefly cover issues related to early childhood education and higher education. Class sessions are a mixture of lectures and student-led discussions.
This seminar explores darkening technologies in contemporary Latin America as the main tools of a new poetics that strongly challenges vision and its alleged ability to "clearly" generate knowledge. We will explore a variety of artifacts that discard the eyes in favor of experiences of blindness, obscured vision, and tactile sensation that interrogate the visual imperative. I propose that opacity, darkness, and blindness are poetic mechanisms that can stand up to the authoritarian regime of vision and question the insidious ways in which light suffuses peripheral knowledge, politics, and bodies.
The international border looms large over current national and international political debates. While this course will consider borders across the world, it will focus on the U.S.-Mexico border, and then on the Guatemala-Mexico and U.S.-Canada border. This course examines the history of the formation of the U.S. border from the colonial period to the present. Borders represent much more than just political boundaries between nation states. The borderlands represents the people who live between two cultures and two nations. This course will also study those individuals who have lived in areas surrounding borders or crossed them.
How do Caribbean writers articulate literary and theoretical imaginaries that shift our thinking about this archipelago of islands, its diaspora, and the globe? How does the Caribbean demand an account of entangled legacies of indigenous decimation, enslavement, colonization, and revolution? This seminar will center what the Caribbean necessitates in thought: relation, ruination, decolonization, environmental precarity, the plantation matrix, and translation. We also pay attention to how Caribbean writers have conceptualized counter-humanisms that shift and texture critical theorizations of race, feminism, and queerness.
Seminar covers the history, historiography and theory of Latin America's early modernity. Through works in economic, social, political, and cultural history, we consider why some types of historical questions have seemed more urgent than others at different times and what are the origins and meanings of historiographical shifts over the evolution of the field. Both classic texts and recent works are studied, often in counterpoint. Learning pedagogy is an important element of the course. Course ideally suited for students of early modernity, empires, the Americas, global history.
Modernism in Brazil is about to turn 100. Like similar artistic movements in Latin America, it was initially influenced by the primitivism of the European avant-garde, which saw Black and Indigenous people as the unconscious, unwitting bearers of modernity. In this seminar, we will examine how modernism has evolved and how those who were mere objects became subjects, and how today we may refer to Black modernisms, rather than a single modernism produced by a largely White elite.
Princeton Fall Term FAQ
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)