Culture, Society, and Politics in Latin America
Professor Patrick Iber
Fall 2014 / TTh / 9:00 – 10:15
Office Hours: after class, 10:15-11:15, and by appointment
This course will give a broad overview of Latin American history from the pre-colonial era to the present day. Particular emphasis will be placed on the socioeconomic, cultural, and political structures and processes that shaped and continue to influence life in Latin America. Key issues such as colonialism, nationalism, democracy, dictatorship, and revolution will be examined critically in light of broad comparative themes in Latin American and world history. Course materials include secondary sources in history, economics, and political science, as well as primary documents, fiction, and film in order to provide insight into the complex and diverse history of the region. Among the topics to be explored in detail will be labor and slavery, the Mexican and Cuban revolutions, and the transition from dictatorship to democracy.
Students with Documented Disabilities: Students who may need an academic accommodation based on the impact of a disability must initiate the request with the Office of Accessible Education (OAE). Professional staff will evaluate the request with required documentation, recommend reasonable accommodations, and prepare an Accommodation Letter for faculty dated in the current quarter in which the request is made. Students should contact the OAE as soon as possible since timely notice is needed to coordinate accommodations. The OAE is located at 563 Salvatierra Walk (phone: 723-1066, URL: http://studentaffairs.stanford.edu/oae).
John Chasteen, Born in Blood and Fire (3rd edition), New York: Norton, 2011, $50.
Alma Guillermoprieto. Looking for History: Dispatches from Latin America. New York: Vintage, 2002, $15.
Mariano Azuela, The Underdogs, New York: Penguin Classics, 2008, $10.
Lawrence Weschler, A Miracle, A Universe: Settling Accounts with Torturers, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998, $20.
Junot Díaz, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. New York: Riverhead Books, 2008, $10.
Other than the main texts, course readings are available through the coursework website.
To get good advice on what I will be looking for from your reading and writing, I recommend the following resources:
- Don’t write things like “The Fascist octopus has sung its swan song!” Every prose writer should read George Orwell’s “Politics and the English Language” at least once a year. http://www.mtholyoke.edu/acad/intrel/orwell46.htm
- To get the most out of your reading, I generally endorse the views of Timothy Burke, as laid out in his “Staying Afloat: Some Scattered Suggestions on Reading in College.” http://www.swarthmore.edu/SocSci/tburke1/reading.html
- On plagiarism and proper citations, please see this excerpt from Charles Lipson’s Doing Honest Work in College. You should use citations proper to your primary discipline in your final paper. http://www.press.uchicago.edu/books/lipson/honestcollege/citationfaq.html
Your grade will be based on the following:
21% participation (this will be a section grade if there are sections, or based on in-class participation if not). Active participation in class is essential; our learning will be richest as more of you become involved in the conversation and debate. Therefore, all readings must be completed before you meet in section (or in class on Thursday), and you should attend every week. In general, Tuesday classes will feature a lecture of 45-50 minutes and a document analysis for the remaining time. Thursday classes will feature a short lecture and a discussion of the week’s readings.
22% short writing. Two times during the course (in weeks of your choosing), prepare and bring to Thursday’s class a short response to the week’s readings, of 500-750 words. These responses should not summarize the readings (though you may find it necessary to restate arguments), but should expand on what you have read by raising doubts, analyzing evidence, connecting to your experiences, or making connections to another week’s reading or work from other courses, and, above all, answering questions with evidence. You may try to answer one of the questions posed in the syllabus, although this is not required. You should, however, be sure that you are making some kind of argument. If you need to miss a week of class, you must turn in a short response for the missed week after you return.
23% midterm. There will be one in-class midterm in week 5. The midterm will contain material from the first five weeks of readings and lectures as well as a map section with questions about the geography of Latin America.
34% final exam. Students who are taking the class for three units will have a take-home exam. The exam will be distributed on the last day of class and will be due Thursday, December 11th. Those who are taking the class for 5 units will do a brief research paper. The paper should consult a limited number of outside sources (two books and a few other sources constitute a minimum) and present an argument or interpretation on the basis of evidence gleaned from the sources. The research paper should place the evidence and argument in the larger context of issues explored in the class. This paper should be from 8 to 10 pages long, or 2000 to 2500 words.