Department of History
HIST/IDST 2471H – Introduction to Latin America
Office – S101.9 LEC
Office Hours – Tuesday 1-2 and by appointment
Phone Number -- 748-1011 x7843
What is Latin America? That question starts a course that goes in search
of an answer resolved in historical, geographical, political, economic,
social, and cultural terms. Students will find Latin America in changing
frontiers, colonial conquest, indigenous resistance, community
structures, family dynamics, social hierarchies, slavery, independence
movements, neo-colonialism, nation building, problems of race, political
processes, dictatorship, and revolutionary change.
Three-hour Lecture/Seminar. In the first instance, this is a lecture
course. During the first two-hour bloc of the course the instructor will
generally lecture. The final hour of the course will be dedicated to a
conversation about and q-and-a on assigned readings.
Attendance is mandatory. Lectures will not duplicate assigned readings
but will draw on those texts. Lectures will not summarize political
change or race through information in the assigned readings. Lectures
will be interpretive and analytical. As a result, for lectures to make sense,
it’s essential for you to keep up with assigned readings.
Latin America is not only a big place, it’s a large set of ideas –
conceptually and culturally. I expect that most students will not have
spent much time on Latin America in previous courses. So, please see me
as soon as you have questions about what interests you. I can help you
choose essay topics. And I can recommend readings in your specific area
of interest to supplement the assigned works. If you don’t know what to
write about, that’s ok – see me early! There won’t be essay topic lists
Students will leave the course with
a) Tangibly superior reading, writing, and analytical skills.
b) An effective mastery of course themes focusing on Latin America.
c) The ability to apply skills and knowledge learned to a range of
courses in History, and beyond.
Essay I – 25%
Essay II – 40%
Take Home Exam – 35%
Essay I –10 February
Essay II – 20 March
Take Home Exam – 8 April
Essays are always due by Word (*.doc file) attachment on email –
email@example.com -- no later than 11:59 PM on the due date.
No late essays/assignments are accepted. Late essays are graded at 0.
During the first week of class, the instructor will speak at length on how
to conduct research for an essay; referencing; quotation use; how to
identify strong, current sources; the use of historical evidence; how to
write an introduction/conclusion; essay structure; paragraph structure;
transition sentences; and other aspects of how to write an essay. Please
For all essays, you’re responsible for citation guidelines at
Essay I -- will be 4-6 pages not including notes. It will be on any topic
in Latin American history. You will draw on at least 6 strong, current
Essay II -- will be 8-10 pages not including notes. It will be on any topic
in Latin American history. You will draw on at least 8 strong, current
Essay topics will not overlap. There is no list of essay topics in this
course. If you’re not certain what to write on, ask.
Some Important Points to Remember on How to Write an Essay
At early stages of research and organization, you may find it useful to
consult dictionaries, textbook surveys of Latin America, encyclopaedias,
Wikipedia, or a range of websites that you happen upon in your work.
But, when it comes time to write your essay you must find, refer to, and
cite original research-based published works. Please don’t cite
Wikipedia, textbooks, or other such sources in your notes.
Don’t just describe an event or series of events
Most excellent essays undertake to answer a research question or resolve
an hypothesis. As you begin to consider your essay topic, think about
questions you have (or questions you have seen resolved only partially).
Why did so many immigrants choose Buenos Aires, Argentina as a
destination? Why has Colombia seen so much warfare after 1950? What
roles have women played in the workplace? Why did Bolivia and
Paraguay go to war in the 1930s?
Once you have a strong question or set of questions, you might proceed
to develop a set of arguments to demonstrate an answer (or answer)
based on a presentation of historical evidence. Don’t just describe an
event or series of events. Pose a question then resolve to answer that
question by making use of your sources. But, when you write the essay
introduction, avoid phrasing the problem in the form of a question.
You don’t need a bibliography
In your search for sources for Essay I, as you pick and choose, as you
develop a limited mastery of your topic, you would normally consider
many more books and/or articles. This might mean a quick look at the
index of a book on the library shelf, or a consideration of the abstract at
the beginning of an article. A bibliography would not include works you
consider, but do not draw on in your essay. A bibliography does not
function to tell your reader about all the books and articles you may have
glanced at (but did not draw on) in defining the sources you would
eventually use for Essay I.
A bibliography should consist only of books and articles (and perhaps
other materials) on which you have drawn to write your essay. At the
same time, all the works on which you draw to write an essay should
appear in your notes. This means that notes and bibliography must
necessarily repeat the same information. As a result, you don’t need a
bibliography. You do need notes.
A reference note has several functions
A reference note has several functions. It makes no difference whether
you use footnotes or endnotes – whatever you prefer. Please do not use
other referencing formats (such as parenthetic references), even though
they are explained in the Turabian website listed above. As you are
writing, you may find that you have material that you wish to include in
the essay, and that adds to your argument, but that interrupts the flow of
your narrative or is otherwise disruptive. That material might reasonably
be included in a note. Alternatively, you may wish to make a
historiographical point; you may find, for example, that two or more
authors have presented conflicting or alternative interpretations of
evidence of an event or an issue. Should you adopt one line or an
argument in your essay, you might like to use a note (rather than break
the flow of your narrative) to make your reader aware of alternative
viewpoints in the historical literature.
The most important role of a reference note is to provide research
citations for your writing. Any idea or information introduced into your
essay that is not your own must have a reference note.
Because you will probably make reference to the ideas and information of
other authors in most (maybe all) essay paragraphs, most (maybe all)
paragraphs will require a reference note. Notes should reasonably
appear on every page. You might consider a “catch-all” note at the end
of each long paragraph in which you cite the 2 or 3 (or more) sources that
you have referred to in the paragraph.
Your essay title will intrigue your reader
Don’t phrase your title as a question. Adopt a title that suggests or hints
at the essay theme – intrigue your reader. Heather Levi’s The world of
lucha libre: secrets, revelations, and Mexican national identity is a
wonderful title. It grabs a potential reader’s attention and leads them
immediately to a key objective of the study – tying wrestling to larger
questions of what is Mexican.
This is not a murder mystery – the introduction tells the story
Work hard on your introduction. In one or two introductory paragraphs,
you should make crystal clear to your reader what problems you intend to
resolve, the historical context for the analysis, and the kind of evidence
and examples you will use. By page 2 or 3 of the essay, the reader
should have a strong understanding of your theme, your argument, and
what you plan to show. Avoid first person singular introductions (“I plan
to show...”). Develop a statement that will explain these objectives in less
What is a paragraph?
Often, a poorly constructed paragraph reflects larger problems of
structure in an essay. A paragraph is more than two or three sentences
cobbled together and indented at the start and finish. It might make
sense to consult a handbook of English on how to write a paragraph. A
first sentence introduces the reader to the ideas to be discussed below.
Sentences should follow the paragraph opening in ordered steps. The
final sentence should recap or otherwise end the paragraph in a way that
leads the reader into the next paragraph. So, a paragraph of two lines
isn’t really a paragraph. Paragraphs should build on one another, leading
the reader through the essay in a structured manner that introduces
Make certain that your analysis is based on a careful and sustained
introduction of historical evidence from an array of sources. Don’t let
your essay lapse into unsubstantiated assertions. Don’t romanticize a
topic, no matter how passionately you feel about it. It may be plain to
you, for example, that during their conquest of what is now Chile,
Spaniards practiced a policy of genocide toward Mapuche peoples (and
you may be right). But if you adopt that argument you must do more
than state it passionately – you must show, in a carefully constructed
argument that Spain and its agents intended to exterminate the Mapuche.
Be precise in your evidence and language usages.
The conclusion matters
Don’t leave your conclusion until the last minute. A strong conclusion is
essential to a well-argued essay. A conclusion may review or summarize
your main arguments. But it should do more. You can use a conclusion
to push your argument forward chronologically, or to expand it
geographically. You might consider ramifications to your findings that go
beyond the analytical parameters of your essay analytically or
conceptually. Be creative here.
Avoid the passive voice
The passive voice – “immigrants were not accepted in Argentina...” – is
ambiguous. It leaves the reader asking “who did not accept the
immigrants and why not?” Converting to the active voice often forces a
writer to think through an argument with greater care. As a result the
information is more complete and the analysis sharper (“elites and their
agents in Argentine society refused immigrants...”).
Get the job done
If you undertake in your introduction to show that the movement for
women’s suffrage in Brazil began in the 1870s, you must demonstrate
this argument. Don’t change your mind half way through writing without
entering substantial changes in the introduction and in relevant
paragraphs. You can change your mind as you think and as you write.
But if your analysis changes, and if it becomes clear to you that the
women’s suffrage movement began in the 1890s you must rewrite the
essay to reflect the change. Let the evidence guide your analysis.
Adopting and discarding models and hypotheses will often lead to strong
historical research and analysis. Don’t be alarmed if the evidence does
not sustain your initial hypothesis! Be prepared to let the historical
evidence shape your thoughts and arguments as you write.
Take Home Exam
On 20 March the instructor will post 5 exam questions to webct.
Students will answer one of the five questions only. The goal is to allow
students an opportunity to provide an essay style answer to the question
that draws as effectively as possible on different
readings/lectures/aspects of the course. While students are encouraged
to offer illustrative examples of analytical points made, no referencing of
any sort is required. Exam answers should be between 1000 and 1500
Academic dishonesty, which includes plagiarism and cheating, is an
extremely serious academic offence and carries penalties varying from a
0 grade on an assignment to expulsion from the University. Definitions,
penalties, and procedures for dealing with plagiarism and cheating are
set out in Trent University’s Academic Integrity Policy. You have a
responsibility to educate yourself - unfamiliarity with the policy is
not an excuse. You are strongly encouraged to visit Trent’s Academic
Integrity website to learn more - www.trentu.ca/academicintegrity.
Be a pal… Don’t plagiarize. Familiarize yourself with the rules. They are
part of professional writing. When a student plagiarizes, the result is
always messy. It’s a hole from which it’s best not to have to dig oneself
out; if in doubt, ask me. Don’t risk it.
Access to Instruction
It is Trent University’s intent to create an inclusive learning
environment. If a student has a disability and/or health consideration
and feels that he/she may need accommodations to succeed in this
course, the student should contact the Disability Services Office (BL Suite
109, 748-1281, firstname.lastname@example.org) as soon as possible.
Complete text can be found under Access to Instruction in the Academic
All readings are available as electronic resources through Topcat.
Week I – 10 January – Course introduction
Week II – 17 January – How to Write an Essay
Week III – 24 January – What’s Latin America?
III Latin American Congress on the Child (Argentina 2010)
João Feres, “Representing Latin America Through Pre-Columbian Art:
Political Correctness and the Semantics of Othering,” Theory, Culture &
Society, 26.7-8 (2009): 182-207.
Week IV – 31 January – Colonial Hierarchies
Benkos Bioho, San Basilio de Palenque, Colombia
Ana Mariella Bacigalupo, “The Struggle for Shamans’ Masculinity: Colonial
Politics of Gender, Sexuality, and Power in Southern Chile,” Ethnohistory,
51.3 (2004): 489-533.
Week V – 7 February – Independence and Meaning
El Negro Primero, Caracas, Venezuela
David Sowell, “Repertoires of Contention in Urban Colombia, 1760s-
1940s: An Inquiry into Latin American Social Violence,” Journal of Urban
History, 24.3 (1998): 302-336.
Week VI –14 February – Indigenous identities and race
Deborah Poole, “An Image of `Our Indian’: Type Photographs and Racial
Sentiments in Oaxaca, 1920-1940,” Hispanic American Historical Review,
84.1 (2004): 37-82.
Week VII –Reading Week
Eloisa Cartonera, República de la Boca, Argentina
Week VIII – 28 February – Nation Building
“De que color es el oro? Race, Environment, and the History of Cuban
National Music, 1898-1958,” Latin American Music Review, 26.2 (2005):
Week IX – 6 March – Neo-Imperialism
Jennifer Fay, “Dead Subjectivity: White Zombie, Black Bagdhad,” CR: The
New Centennial Review, 8.1 (2008): 81-101.
Week X – 13 March – Modern Argentina I
Karen Bishop, “Myth Turned Monument: Documenting the Historical
Imaginary in Buenos Aires and Beyond,” Journal of Modern Literature,
30.2 (2007): 151-162.
Javier Auyero, “Performing Evita: A Tale of Two Peronist Women,” Journal
of Contemporary Ethnography, 27.4 (1999): 461-493.
Week XI – 20 March – Modern Argentina II
Emilio Crenzel, “Between the Voices of the State and the Human Rights
Movement: Never Again and the Memories of the Disappeared in
Argentina,” Journal of Social History, 44.4 (2011): 1063-1076.
Week XII – 27 March – Revolution I
Revolution, José Guadalupe Posada
Alejandro de la Fuente, “Race and Inequality in Cuba, 1899-1981,”
Journal of Contemporary History, 30.1 (1995): 131-168.
Week XIII – 3 April – Revolution II
Sujatha Fernandes, “Fear of a Black Nation: Local Rappers, Transnational
Crossings, and State Power in Contemporary Cuba,” Anthropological
Quarterly, 76.4 (2003): 575-608.