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Syllabus Latin America Today

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Spring 2016
Stony Brook University
Department of Hispanic Languages and Literature
College of Arts and Sciences
HUS 254 Latin America Today
Tues, Thurs 10:00-11:20, Humanities 1003
This course satisfies the DEC category J
This course satisfies the SBC category GLO, HCA
Course Instructor: Joseph M. Pierce
Section: 01
Office Hours: Tuesday & Thursday 1:00-2:00 PM, or by appointment
Instructor contact information: Melville Library N3013,

An introduction to a continental perspective of 20th-century Latin American culture. Latin America's political, historical, and cultural developments of this century are studied.
Latin America | Today
This course proposes to study the events of today by tracing the social, political and economic structures of the past. On the one hand, the region under study is comprised of a dramatic variety of cultures, geographies and politics. On the other, it shares a history of colonization from “discovery” to independence to modernity based on its particular geographic and historical location. In order to interrogate this conjunction, we will pay special attention to the social groups that are often marginalized from the pages of “the official history”: Indigenous communities, Afro-Latin organizations, gay, lesbian, and trans activism, immigrant groups. We will pay special attention the discourses of belonging and identification that mark their relationships with the region, as well as the ways in which “Latin” America becomes a concept in relationship with these groups in the context of globalization. Thus, race, class, gender, sexuality, and coloniality are some of the central concepts that we will utilize; we will draw on historical, journalistic, artistic, and literary works that help us theorize not simply what Latin America is, but why it is, and how it has become that.
COURSE LEARNING OBJECTIVES * Introduce students to the diverse histories, cultures, societies, economies and political systems of modern Latin America and the Caribbean in relation to developments in Europe and the U.S. * Drawing on a variety of literary, historical, journalistic, and documentary and fiction film sources we will seek to understand some of the most challenging issues facing the region and the world today. * Explore the historical, cultural, literary, and visual representations of diverse Latin American populations. * Analyze literary and cultural texts about these populations to learn how literature and visual representations, as objects of study of the Humanities, convey information that enriches and adds complexity of meaning to our understanding of a given object or social/ historical event. * Learn how fiction constructs a world of its own to be analyzed in its own terms, at the same time that it relates to, comments about and influences the society it belongs to.

Required Texts (available at Stony Brook Bookstore):
Junot Díaz, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
Manuel Puig, Kiss of the Spider Woman

Additional readings available on Blackboard in .pdf format.

Attendance: Consistent attendance and thoughtful participation are crucial to your success in this class. Arriving late causes a disruption, and will reflect negatively on your participation grade. After three absences your grade will be lowered by a half point and so on successively for further unexcused absences. If you have more than 6 absences, your final grade will be an F.

Participation: This is a large class, but how do you expect to figure things out unless you participate? That being said, participation has many forms, and we will avail ourselves of some of them this semester. To receive an A for participation you must have excellent attendance, come prepared, and participate actively and thoughtfully in class discussions. If you are very shy or reticent, you may also participate by completing periodic assignments that I will give throughout the semester (not whenever you want). These may include--in addition to coming to office hours, which you should do--writing one question you have after class, summarizing a reading, or answering a discussion question. If you do not talk in class ever but answer all of these assignments, you will recieve a B. If you rarely participate in class or otherwise, you will receive a C; if you hardly contribute, are distracted, and often miss class, you can expect an F.

Quizzes: We will take 4 quizzes over the course of the semester. These will be multiple choice and short answer. They will be done in class and announced beforehand.

Official History: There will be no examinations in this course, rather you will be tasked with writing two types of histories. The first is an ‘official’ version, akin to a newspaper report, in which you will research the cultural, symbolic, and political meanings of one of the texts that we read and analyze in class. This is not a synopsis, but a narration of a particular moment, object, person, place, etc. that you find particularly interesting. Detailed instructions will be provided for this assignment, and you should plan on consulting with me in office hours to confirm your topic idea. This will be a 1,500-word essay (MLA format).

Unofficial History: This assignment tasks you with uncovering what is little known, misunderstood, or left out of a text that we DO NOT study in class. This is more akin to a research paper, and it should interrogate the way that power, colonialism, and ‘officialness’ function as well as proposing how and why this history has been neglected. Again, detailed instructions will be provided, and you should consult with me in office hours about your topic idea. This will be a 2,500-word essay (MLA format) and it will be due one week after our last class day and must be submitted via Blackboard. Electronic Course Packet: The readings for each class will be available on Blackboard and should be done before each class day.

Film discussions: Films will be made available through Blackboard and should be watched in their entirety before the assigned class day.

Evaluation criteria:
Quizzes (4): 20%
Official History: 30%
Unofficial History: 30%
Participation: 20%

Grading System 100-93 A 79-77 C+ 92-90 A- 76-73 C 89-87 B+ 72-70 C- 86-83 B 69-67 D+ 82-80 B- 66-60 D 59-0 F

If you have a physical, psychological, medical, or learning disability that may impact your course work, please contact Disability Support Services (631) 632-6748 or They will determine with you what accommodations are necessary and appropriate. All information and documentation is confidential.

Students who require assistance during emergency evacuation are encouraged to discuss their needs with their professors and Disability Support Services. For procedures and information go to the following website:
Each student must pursue his or her academic goals honestly and be personally accountable for all submitted work. Representing another person's work as your own is always wrong. Faculty are required to report any suspected instance of academic dishonesty to the Academic Judiciary. For more comprehensive information on academic integrity, including categories of academic dishonesty, please refer to the academic judiciary website at

Stony Brook University expects students to respect the rights, privileges, and property of other people. Faculty are required to report to the Office of Judicial Affairs any disruptive behavior that interrupts their ability to teach, compromises the safety of the learning environment, and/or inhibits students' ability to learn.


Part I: The Concept and Origins of Latin/America

January 26 Introduction

January 28 “Latin America”?
José C. Moya, “Introduction: Latin America--The Limitations and Meaning of a Historical Category,” pp. 1-19.

February 2 “Discovery” and Coloniality
Walter Mignolo, The Idea of Latin America, pp. 1-50.

February 4 Puerto Rico: “The Light Colonial” Juan Flores, From Bomba to Hip-Hop: Puerto Rican Culture and Latino Identity, pp. 31-47.
Eileen J. Suárez Findlay, Imposing Decency: The Politics of Sexuality and Race in
Puerto Rico, 1870-1920, pp. 110-134.

February 9 Argentina: Civilization and Barbarism
Esteban Echeverría, “The Slaughterhouse,” pp. 107-114.
D. F. Sarmiento, “Facundo,” pp. 29-42.

February 11 Colombia: Diagnosis across a Century
Miguel Samper, “Bogotá in the Nineteenth Century,” pp. 103-117.
Alma Guillermoprieto, The Heart that Bleeds, “Bogotá, 1989,” 3-22.

Part II: Movement and Belonging

February 16 Argentina Redux: Immigration and Multitudes
José María Ramos Mejía, “The Modern Crowd” in The Argentina Reader. pp. 182-187.
Oreste Sola, “Making it in America” in The Argentina Reader. pp. 188-192.

February 18 Mexico (1): Histories of Immigration Julie M. Weise, “Mexican Nationalisms, Southern Racisms: Mexicans and
Mexican Americans in the U.S. South, 1908-1939,” pp. 749-777.

February 23 Mexico (2): Narrating “Other”
Pablo Vila, Crossing Borders, Reinforcing Borders: Social Categories, Metaphors, and Narrative Identities on the U.S.-Mexico Frontier, pp. 81-127.

February 25 Hispaniola: Unrelenting History
Michele Wucker, Why the Cocks Fight: Dominicans, Haitians, and the Struggle for Hispaniola, pp. 27-59.

March 1 Junot Díaz, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (1/4, pp. 1-94) March 3 Junot Díaz, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (2/4, pp. 95-166)

March 8 Junot Díaz, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (3/4, pp. 167-246)

March 10 Junot Díaz, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (4/4, pp. 247-335)


March 22 Histories of Desire
Paraíso Travel (film, watch before class)

Part III: The Politics of Memory

March 24 Sexual/Politics
Manuel Puig, Kiss of the Spider Woman (1/4, pp. 1-95)

March 29 Manuel Puig, Kiss of the Spider Woman (2/4, pp. 96-154)

March 31 Manuel Puig, Kiss of the Spider Woman (3/4, pp. 155-234) April 5 Manuel Puig, Kiss of the Spider Woman (4/4, pp. 235-281)

April 7 The Violence of History
La historia oficial (film, watch before class)

April 12 Current Events (TBD) Official History Due in Class

Part IV: New Directions, Long Histories

April 14 Historic Indigeneity Florencia E. Mallon, Indigenous Peoples And Nation-States In Spanish America, 1780-2000, pp. 281-298.

April 19 New Native Politics
Marc Becker, “Indians and Leftists in the Making Of Ecuador’s Modern Indigenous Movements,” pp.17-49.

April 21 Multicultural Politics
Juliet Hooker, “Indigenous Inclusion/Black Exclusion: Race, Ethnicity, and Multicultural Citizenship in Latin America,” pp. 1-26.

April 26 Mediating Gender
Marcia Ochoa, Queen for a Day: Transformistas, Beauty Queens, and the
Performance of Femeninity in Venezuela, pp. 21-57.

April 28 Remembering Politics: Sexuality and Modernity
Before Night Falls (film, watch before class) May 3 Mobilizing Youth
Peña, Patricia, Raúl Rodríguez, & Chiara Sáez, “Latin American Struggles, Student Online Video Activism, and the Education Movement in Chile,” pp. 1-22.

May 5 Conclusions Alternative History due TBD…...

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