Latin American Studies | Special Topics Latin Am & Caribbean Studies
L526 | 18060 | Patrick Dove


Spring 2006 Course Description (CLACS)
Professor Patrick Dove
TR 1p – 2:15p		Room -  TBA
This course meets with HISP-S695

“LATIN AMERICA”: THE POLITICS AND POETICS OF NAMING

In this course we will investigate the construction of “Latin
America” in academic, cultural and political discourses spanning
from the 19th century through the present. As we will see, the
history of the name and idea of “Latin America” is far from
homogeneous. On one hand, it has been associated with the
partitioning the globe by various imperial powers (the term was
invented by the French in the mid-19th century as part of the
Bonapartist imperial project, and it later plays a prominent role in
U.S. Western Hemisphere politics). At the same time, however, the
name “Latin America” has been taken up by a number of anti-imperial
projects in order to affirm a shared sense of belonging or
solidarity across national borders.

The course will be organized around two focal points. On one hand,
we will examine the presuppositions and goals associated with the
cultural politics of regionalism. We will start by looking at two
historical events prior to the invention of “Latin America”: first,
the Haitian Revolution of 1791 as an instance of
the “transculturation” of Enlightenment thought in the Americas, and
second,  Simón Bolívar’s dream of a politically unified and
autonomous continent emerging from colonial dependency. In a change
of focal points, we will also look at how the question of difference
or “the other” enters into knowledge production—or, more generally,
at the relation between theory and the social, cultural, historical
and political realities it must account for. In this context we will
look at the disciplinary organization of the modern university as
well as a historical overview of the Area Studies model, from its
ascent during the Cold War to its current state of crisis.

Depending on the interests of participants, specific topics for
discussion may include: (1) How regionalist projects in Latin
America have been shaped by—and in turn respond to—key historical
events and threats of invasion or domination from outside:
colonialism, the expanding imperial designs of the United States and
the planetary spread of “American way of life,” the Cold War and the
Cuban Revolution, and finally the phenomenon of chavismo in the
context of neoliberalism’s hegemony; (2) The poetics/politics of
naming, or various theories concerning the relation between politics
and language (rhetoric, naming); (3) Epistemological and ethical
problems that arise when knowledge production comes into contact
with “the other”: What are we really doing when we claim to speak of—
or speak for—“Latin America,” if this name stands for something
heterogeneous or something exogenous to the dominant techno-
scientific and techno-economic discourses of our time? What is the
relation (if any) between our own professional practices—as scholars
and researchers in the humanities and social sciences and as Latin
Americanists—and the lived realities named by “Latin America”?

Possible readings include essays by Bolívar, Rodó, Martí,
Vasconcelos, Retamar, Galeano, Dussel and Hopenhayn; accounts of
U.S. Western Hemisphere politics and Area Studies by Berger,
Hershberg and others; studies of Chávez by Gott and Wilpert, and
theoretical texts by Austin, Cornejo Polar, Derrida, García
Canclini,Kant, Lacan, Laclau, Moreiras, Ramos, Ranciere, Rousseau,
Said, Sarlo, Spivak, and Wallerstein. Also, the documentary
film “The Revolution Will Not be Televised.”