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Course Descriptions

Below are general descriptions for the courses offered under the Latin American Studies (LTAM) heading. Please access the current Schedule of Classes as offerings of these courses can change from semester to semester. For information on the language courses that CLACS offers, please visit our Languages page.

CLACS Area Studies Courses

LTAM-L 200 Topics in Latin American Studies: Healing, Spiritualism, & the Body (3 CR)

This course focuses on the cultural constructions of health and healing in relation to spiritualism, notions of the sacred, religous belief, and sociopolitical contexts of power and economy. In this course we consider ethnographic and historical contexts throughout the Americas, especially Latin America. Themes include: White Shamanism, hallucinogenic healing, spiritual techniques of the sacred, Indigenous healing, and more. Download a pdf of the course flyer.

LTAM-L 200 Topics in Latin American Studies: Apocalypse and Spiritualities (3 CR)

This course explores apocalyptic thinking, that is, ideas about the end of the world, in relation to spiritualities and culture. Who believes in the end of the world? Are all apocalyptic beliefs equivalent? That is, do they all lead to the End of the World!? Or do they have different meanings, repercussions, implications and schedules? The course compares Maya stories of the origins and end of the world in relation to Gnostic beliefs about cosmogenesis, apocalypse, and individual spiritualism. Significantly, both Maya civilization and Gnosticism reference a diversity of cultures, religions and spiritualities that extend over several millennia. Both Maya cultures and Gnostic religions have parallel yet divergent histories of conflict and hybridization with Protestant and Catholic Christianities. Although they have divergent histories, these cultural ideas and spiritualities re-converge at the beginning of the 21st century in a New Age milieu in which people seek spiritual connection, cultural redemption, and social transcendence. We explore contemporary cultural communities of new agers and Gnostics to understand how, why and who are invested in the end of the world or in the transformation of consciousness and rebirth of humanity. In this course we learn about the differences between religion, culture, and spirituality as the conceptual groundwork to understand the role of myth, ritual, and belief in the formation of ethical beings in the contemporary world. Key course themes include: Maya prophecies, 2012 End of the World, New Age metaphysics, paths to and techniques of spiritualism, the history of Gnosticism, the Western appropriation of Maya culture, and contemporary Gnostic spiritualities.

LTAM-L 200 Topics in Latin American Studies: Race, Love & Conquest in Latin America(3 CR)

What is Love? How does love relate to adventure, travel, and politics? We often say that love "conquers all" Thus we ask how is love used as a story to justify conquest and colonization in the Americas? And how does this story of transgressive love form an essential a part of our multicultural American identity? In this class, we explore how "love" especially transgressive love across races, classes and cultures, or between same sex, is written up and told in myths and histories that have fundamentally created and shaped our identities as "Americans" and as the proper descendant-inheritors of Western Civilization. The first part of the course focuses on re-interpreting stories of the colonial encounter between Europeans and Indians to define uses of inter-racial love plot. The second part of the course entails reading contemporary Hollywood films to analyze how this love story operates as myth that defines America and multiculturalism. This course destabilizes our popular assumptions about "whiteness" through an interrogation of how "otherness" has been envisioned and fabricated by European racial politics beginning with the discovery of the Americas. Through the exploration of cannibalism, noble savage syndrome, and myths about the conquest of the Americas, this course presents an alternative approach to understanding the history to Western Civilization and to American society and culture through an exploration of love. The course is structured with regular lecture class time and a separate section for viewing films on a weekly basis. Assignments are take home exams (two) and one essay film analysis. Download a pdf of the course flyer.

LTAM-L 200 Topics in Latin American Studies: Tourism, Culture, Politics (3 CR)

This course explores tourism as a global yet fundamentally local phenomenon in relation to problems such as sustainability, international politics, cultures, cultural and indigenous rights, ethics and sightseeing, travel writing and experiences, ecology, and ownership of heritage and the past. In this course we ask: What is tourism? Who are tourists? Is tourism good or bad? Are tourists good or bad? Is there a difference between travel and tourism? What is the conflict between those who seek sustainable tourism development and those who advocate for sustainable communities and ecologies? Do other cultures have tourism? Is it a Human Right to be a tourist, that is to visit and sight see any place on earth? Do communities have rights over their past and heritage? We develop historical and cultural approaches to issues such as ecological tourism, adventure tourism, modernity and mobility, visiting the past, time travel, indigenous and cultural rights, commodification of identity and culture, hospitality, and sex tourism. Download a pdf of the course flyer.

LTAM-L 210 The Latin American Experience (3 CR)

Introduction to Latin America: geography, heritage, and process from pre-Columbian civilizations to colonies and nations.

LTAM-L 211 Contemporary Problems in Latin America (3 CR)

This course will survey the history of Latin America over the last 200 years, the era of national independence. We will pay attention to politics and economy, but our emphasis will be on social and cultural history, on the forces that shape everyday life and the way people make sense of their lives. One way we can get at these issues will be to investigate how social movements and revolutions have reacted to, reflected, and in many cases driven changes in race, class, gender, sex, and the family. We will get at these issues through close readings of primary documents: memoirs, speeches, and journalistic accounts by individuals as reports of their lives and the events around them. Along with these readings we will watch an abundance of film. The general thematic approach of the course will draw specific examples from various Latin American countries, including Mexico, Argentina, Brazil, Peru, and Cuba. Assignments include very short papers over two books, plus in-class mid-term and final exam.

LTAM-L 305 Spanish & Portuguese Across the Curriculum

Offers the opportunity to improve the Spanish or Portuguese language skills of conversation, reading, writing, and comprehension. Class is to be taken concurrently with a host course that offers a Spanish and Portuguese Across the Curriculum section. Discussions and assignments related to the host course will be performed in the studied language.

LTAM-L 327 Latin American & Caribbean Languages (3 CR)

VT: Advanced Languages
Advanced study in one of the less commonly taught languages of Latin America or the Caribbeab

LTAM-L 403 Contemporary Central America (3 CR)

Analyzes the contemporary conflicts in Central America by placing them in historical perspective. Includes such topics as the relation between socioeconomic structures and politics, the impact of World War II and agro-export development, agrarian reform, revolution, democratization, and relations with the United States. Download a pdf of the course flyer.

LTAM-L 426 Specific Topics in Latin American & Caribbean Studies: Brazilian Cinema (3 CR)

A survey of Brazilian cinema from the early 20th century to present day. The course will give special attention to representative filmmakers and their works, beginning with Mário Peixoto's Limite (1930), which is regarded as one of the masterpieces of silent cinema. Other subjects to be explored include the chanchada, or Hollywood-style musical comedies of the 1940s and 1950s, the Vera Cruz Studio of the 1950s, and the New Cinema of the 1960s and 1970s. The course will tend to focus on more recent films that have appeared since the country's return to democracy in the mid-1980s, after more than 20 years of military dictatorship. Topics to be discussed during the semester include the chanchada and its re-evaluation as a distinctly Brazilian genre; Third Cinema; the "aesthetics of hunger" and the theoretical writings of filmmaker Glauber Rocha; the relationship between popular culture and radical cinema; and film adaptation. The course is taught in English. Films are in Portuguese with English subtitles. Undergraduate students who are taking the course for credit in Portuguese will be required to read materials and write their exams and research paper in the language.

LTAM-L 426 Specific Topics in Latin American & Caribbean Studies: Modern Argentina (3 CR)

This course aims to introduce the student to the modern history of Argentina. Starting at Independence from Spain in the early 19th Century and going through to the contemporary era the course highlights themes such as Immigration, the emergence of mass politics, the role of Evita and Juan Peron, the development of Buenos Aires as a major twentieth century metrópolis, military dictatorship and the issue of human rights, the hidden presence of Argentina's indigenous past. In addition attention will be paid to cultural phenomena such as tango, folklore and the passion for fútbol. In addition to standard history texts we will also use documents such as letters, maps and musical lyrics. Texts by Argentine novelists such as Jorge Luis Borges, Julio Cortazar and Osvaldo Soriano will also be used.

LTAM-L 426 Specific Topics in Latin American & Caribbean Studies: Latin American Reality (3 CR)

Intensive study and analysis of selected Latin American and Caribbean problems of limited scope within an interdisciplinary format. Topics will vary but will ordinarily cut across fields, regions, or periods.

LTAM-L 426 Specific Topics in Latin American & Caribbean Studies: Sports, Masculinity, and Popular Culture in Latin America (3 CR)

Few human activities parallel sports ability to transverse cultural and political boundaries. In Latin America sports is without a doubt a passion for millions, an enormous business, and ultimately, an imposing cultural phenomenon deserving close study. This course will focus on the development of professional sports as a social phenomenon and its relation to political life. Specifically the class will center on sports and its influence on the formation, shaping, and maintenance of gender identities in the region. The class will approach the study of sport using methods drawn from history, anthropology, sociology, gender and cultural studies.

LTAM-L 426 Specific Topics in Latin American & Caribbean Studies: Cuba and Puerto Rico (3 CR)

Late 19th-century Puerto Rican poet Lola Rodríguez de Tió once wrote that “Cuba and Puerto Rico are the two wings of the same bird.” Both islands share a similar culture and have comparable historical developments, yet, today, they live very different realities: Cuba is the only socialist republic on the hemisphere while Puerto Rico has been under United States’ control for a little over 100 years. What explains these differences if their histories are apparently so similar? The course will explore these issues through the study of key historical processes from first inhabitation through the present, giving particular attention to the 19th and 20th centuries. Topics to be addressed include: the social and economic repercussions of slavery; the impact of United States intervention on the islands; the effects of industrialization and colonialism on Puerto Rican economy, culture and politics; the Cuban Revolution and the transformation of Cuban society. All of these topics will be examined from the perspective of both external forces and the experiences of the men and women who lived and made their histories. Students’ learning will be evaluated through essay exams, in-class written exercises and weekly assignments.

LTAM-L 426 Specific Topics in Latin American & Caribbean Studies: U.S. Interventions in Latin America (3 CR)

This course will examine the impact of United States interventions on the Caribbean and Latin American societies that experienced them. In particular, we will discuss the occupations and interventions in Cuba (1898-1934 and 1961), Nicaragua (1912-1934 and 1981-1990), the Dominican Republic, (1916-1924 and 1965), Haiti (1915-1934 and the 1990s), Guatemala, (1954 and the 1960s), Brazil 1964 and Chile 1973. Most critiques of these interventions emphasize how the US shaped the politics and economies of the intervened country. Although such an approach may help us to understand the reasons for these important United States policy decisions it does not help us to grasp the long-term consequences for the Latin American societies. Rather than solely concentrate on United States policy, this course will also focus on how the different social, ethnic, and political groups of the "host" countries responded to the interventions. The course will then strive to develop a comparative framework for analyzing the interventions and their consequences.

LTAM-L 495 - Undergraduate Readings in Latin American & Caribbean Studies

Designed to accommodate a student's individual interest in those thematic or regional areas in which courses are not offered but in which professors have expertise.

LTAM-L 501 Seminar: Intro to Latin American Studies (3 CR)

This course is designed to introduce students to the vast gamut of disciplines, fields, and topics of inquiry that comprise Latin American Studies. The course provides a basic overview of Latin American history, geography, culture, and politics, while also placing special emphasis on contemporary social problems, and the research projects pursued by Latin Americanist faculty at Indiana University. Students will develop and sharpen their analytical skills for pursuing their degrees, and they will learn to identify appropriate human and intellectual resources to explore their academic interests at Indiana University.

LTAM-L 526 Specific Topics in Latin American & Caribbean Studies: Caribbean History (3 CR)

The Caribbean is perhaps one of the most culturally and ethnically diverse regions for its size in the world. While language and the historical experience of colonization by different metropolitan states divide this region, the Caribbean is historically united by its common historical experience of population substitution, African slavery, plantation agriculture, economic dependency, migration and imperialist domination. This colloquium in Caribbean History will focus precisely on the issue of Caribbean racial, cultural and political identities and historical unity. This line of inquiry will be examined using pertinent works in specific areas of study such as slavery, emancipation, race and national identities, U.S. presence, cultural nationalism, gender, and migration to the United States. At the same time, this course seeks to familiarize students with the literature of and leading approaches to Caribbean history.

LTAM-L 526 Specific Topics in Latin American & Caribbean Studies: Brazilian Cinema (3 CR)

A survey of Brazilian cinema from the early 20th century to present day. The course will give special attention to representative filmmakers and their works, beginning with Mário Peixoto's Limite (1930), which is regarded as one of the masterpieces of silent cinema. Other subjects to be explored include the chanchada, or Hollywood-style musical comedies of the 1940s and 1950s, the Vera Cruz Studio of the 1950s, and the New Cinema of the 1960s and 1970s. The course will tend to focus on more recent films that have appeared since the country's return to democracy in the mid-1980s, after more than 20 years of military dictatorship. Topics to be discussed during the semester include the chanchada and its re-evaluation as a distinctly Brazilian genre; Third Cinema; the "aesthetics of hunger" and the theoretical writings of filmmaker Glauber Rocha; the relationship between popular culture and radical cinema; and film adaptation. The course is taught in English. Films are in Portuguese with English subtitles. Undergraduate students who are taking the course for credit in Portuguese will be required to read materials and write their exams and research paper in the language.

LTAM-L 526 Specific Topics in Latin American & Caribbean Studies: Colonial Latin America (3 CR)

Latin America had the world's longest experience with colonialism, which in some areas of Latin America lasted from 1500 almost to 1900. It was the first place where Native Americans met Europeans, and their often violent and exploitative but also creative contact helped shape distinct multi-ethnic and multi-cultural societies. Latin America had both the earliest and most prolonged experience with African-American slavery. This course will examine the period from pre-Columbian times to roughly 1870. We will consider 1)Europeans' violent conquest of indigenous societies and subsequent efforts to impose Christianity and other cultural values on the conquered even as they exploited them economically; 2)the continuing and partially successful efforts of Native Americans to resist or modify European cultural and economic impositions; 3)the introduction and expansion of African labor, the experiences and resistance of African Americans, and the eventual end of African slavery in Latin America; 4)Spanish and Portuguese colonial institutions; 5)gender in colonial Latin American societies; 6)the circumstances and social movements which separated Latin American countries from Spain and Portugal in the nineteenth century; and 7)the efforts of Latin Americans of diverse social groups to build stable and equitable societies in the new nations. We will read fourteen books and a few articles. Students will give two oral presentations, write two review essays, prepare a mock research proposal and invent an original syllabus.

LTAM-L 526 Specific Topics in Latin American & Caribbean Studies: Latino Education Across the Americas (3 CR)

The course will involve reading, video viewing, and discussion around key patterns and issues in Latino education. It will also require individualized research, including a recommended (but not required) service learning or research assistant component, in which you may get involved with serving, or conducting research with, Latino youth. Some of the critical questions that will guide our joint inquiry throughout the course include: What are some of the traditions and patterns of educating in Latin American countries and communities, and how do some of these traditions persist? What educational commonalties and differences both unite and divide different Latino groups? What commonalties and differences (age, class, gender, etc.) unite or divide Latinos within these groups? What unique educational problems and challenges do Latinos face in contemporary U.S. communities and schools, and how can schools rise to meet these challenges? What practices, programs, and policies seem to promote Latino success in school? Do you work, or will you be working in a school or community with Latino students? Do you want to know more about their cultures of origin, and their approaches to education? Would you like to learn more about education in Latin America, about how schools in the U.S. have (mis)educated Latino students, and/or about the best ways to educate them now? Finally, would you like to get involved with Latino education now in Indiana? If you answered yes to at least two of these questions, then this class is for you! Download a pdf of the course flyer.

LTAM-L 526 Specific Topics in Latin American & Caribbean Studies: Popular Culture(3 CR)

This course examines the role of the popular in cultures of the United States, the Caribbean, and Latin America. We will read some analytical frameworks developed from or applied to the study of popular culture, and we will entertain case studies from across the Americas. By delving into histories and ethnographies of food, music, dance, religious and civic ritual, devil pacts and renegade saints, we will evaluate how expressive practices have shaped everyday experience. Doing so will allow us to analyze a series of tensions between: the local, national, and transnational; high and low; insider and outsider; sacred and profane; analog and digital; literate and illiterate; and folk, elite, and mass. And as if the subject were not protean enough, we will also consider popular culture as a contested production of gender, race, colonial, national, and class differences--that is, as fundamentally political.

LTAM-L 526 Specific Topics in Latin American & Caribbean Studies: Race, Revolutions, and Counter Revolutions in Latin America(3 CR)

This course's primary aim is to aid students to research and write scholarly articles and/or potential dissertation chapters. The course will also have a common theme: the promise and failure of Latin American revolutionary movements during the 1960s and 1970s. The class will begin with some methodological readings that will orient the student about different approaches to historical research. The subsequent readings will address several questions: a)Key debates, for example, on the mode of production dominant in Latin American societies and the political consequences of that analysis. Similarly, the role of race and ethnicity in Marxist theory (and its critics) had great salience in Cuba, Central America and the Andean countries. What was the relationship between scholarship and politics in the 1960s and 1970s? Are the unresolved debates from that era still relevant? b.) Since 1989, intellectuals and scholars have attributed violence in Latin America and elsewhere to revolutionary utopian thought. How do we evaluate that argument? Specifically, in the Central American case, US policy makers and some academics argue that it was the revolutionary left that provoked the violent response of the state and thus bears a major responsibility for the human tragedy that engulfed the region. During the 1970s, were there other alternatives to achieving social change and democracy in the region? d) Indigenous and women's movements have also levied significant charges against the revolutionary left for its blindness and insensitivity toward issues of ethnicity and gender. One question that emerges from this discussion is whether or not the left enabled, while limiting, the emergence of these social movements. e) Counterrevolutionary movements and governments often predated the emergence of revolutionary movements. They either deposed populist governments (Brazil, Argentina) or emerged as a military-oligarchic alliances before the Cold War hardening into anti-Communist authoritarian regimes by the 1950s (Central America). Although students will be encouraged to link their topic with the specific themes of the course, they will not be required to do so. Student research, however, should have some bearing on some aspect of the course. One-half of the classes will be taken up with group discussions. During those weeks, students will be expected to write 1-2 page commentaries on the readings which will be due by Sunday evening and posted on the One Course site. The commentaries should end with some discussion questions. They will be expected to read the other commentaries and to bring a printed copy of their own to class. The remaining weeks will be devoted to individual discussions with the professor. At the end of the semester, students will offer oral critiques of each other's written work and two class sessions at the end of the semester will be devoted to the students' papers.

LTAM-L 727 Latin American & Caribbean Languages: Advanced Languages (3 CR)

Advanced study in one of the less commonly taught languages of Latin America or the Caribbean.

LTAM-L 803 - Individual Readings in Latin American Studies

Draws upon materials from anthropology, business, economics, education, fine arts, folklore, geography, history, political science, sociology, and Spanish and Portuguese literature. Must get approval from Department in order to sign up for this class. Download the Readings Form and submit to CLACS Director and Academic Secretary for approval.


Questions? Contact: Katie Novak, CLACS Academic Secretary at katinova[at]indiana.edu