HIS 542-Modern Latin American History (Graduate Field Seminar)

This Field Seminar introduces some major debates and literatures about Latin American history since 1820.  It is designed for MA-level education students as well as MA students who plan to go on to a Ph.D. in History.  Dedicated students from other regional concentrations, disciplines, and area universities are also welcome.

Thematic Focus: We hope students master here the basic contours of modern Latin America (1820-2000), however, the road there is mainly historiographical or methodological.  We critically engage–via intensive readings, weekly discussions, and debate–some ten model monographs in the field.  Rather than cover all the “great books” in this large vibrant field, whether classic or cutting-edge, we’ll focus on a broad theme found across recent historiography: Transnationalizing the post-colonial history of the Americas.  Instead of the “national” units of analysis that dominated the field until the 1990s (Argentine history, Mexican history, etc.), focused around the nation-state, nationalism, and national identities, we look at the ways in which recent historians have tried to bring in the larger global connections, contexts, and interfaces of Latin American peoples, ranging from their culture to their commodities.  This theme derives from twenty-first century concerns with globalization and the History Department’s transnational concerns.

During the first few weeks, using Joseph, LeGrand, and Salvatore’s (1998) programmatic volume Close Encounters of Empire, plus a few key essays, we will try to draw out and define what the “transnational turn” means for Latin Americanists.  Then, using close readings of ten or so fascinating major new monographs, we’ll examine diverse angles on transnational Latin American histories—ranging from the Andes and Brazil to Mexico and the Caribbean, and with topics drawn from cultural and political history to commodity, labor, racial, food, and environmental histories. We hope to end up with a critical awareness of how well Latin American historians, at least those in the United States, have developed such concepts.  Does transnational history transcend older national or local histories?  How does it complicate established notions of empire, agency, or sovereignty?

Requirements/Expectations: There are a few basic requirements for the seminar:

1) Consistent commitment to readings and to energetic participation in weekly group discussions.

2) A collective writing assignment, of 8-10 pages, during Weeks 5-6, to evaluate how you think and write on paper.  This is followed by individual meetings with students.

3) Two critical book reviews, of 5-7 pages, of texts read in the latter half of the seminar

4) Doctoral students should also participate as possible (and report on) the New York City Workshop in Latin American History (NYCWLAH), a collaborative group with scholars from Columbia, CUNY, and NYU.  Paper Workshops this term are from 11-1pm on four Fridays (Jan. 25, Feb. 22, Mar. 22, Apr. 19) at the CUNY Graduate Center.  Join their mailing list (ajd2128@columbia.edu) for e-papers.  Our seminar also relates well to the SB-LACs annual grad conference (April 12) on “Commodities, Capitalism & Culture:  Latin America and the World.”

Readings:  All books are on sale at the University Bookstore, though many students haggle for books better on the internet.  Major texts are also on reserve at the Melville Library (3rd Floor). We have a set of additional transnationalism essay readings for pondering during Weeks 1-3.

Major Monographs:

Gilbert Joseph, Catherine LeGrand, Ricardo Salvatore, eds., Close Encounters of Empire: Writing the Cultural History of U.S.-Latin American Relations (Duke Univ. Press, 1998)

Michel Gobat, Confronting the American Dream: Nicaragua under U.S. Imperial Rule (Duke Univ. Press, 2005)

Paul Gootenberg, Andean Cocaine: The Making of a Global Drug (Univ. of North Carolina  Press, 2008)

Greg Grandin, The Last Colonial Massacre: Latin America in the Cold War (Univ. of Chicago Press, 2004)

Jesse Hoffnung-Garskof, A Tale of Two Cities: Santo Domingo and New York after 1950 (Princeton Univ. Press, 2008)

Jana Lipman,  Guantanamo: A Working-Class History between Empire and Revolution  (Duke Univ. Press, 2008)

José Moya, Cousins and Strangers: Spanish Immigrants in Buenos Aires, 1850-1930 (U-California, 1998)

Jeffrey Pilcher, Planet Taco: A Global History of Mexican Food (Oxford Univ. Press, 2012)

Deborah Poole, Vision, Race, and Modernity: A Visual Economy of the Andean Image World  (Princeton Univ. Press, 1997)

Micol Siegal, Uneven Encounters: Making Race and Nation in Brazil and the U.S. (Duke Univ. Press, 2009)

John Soluri, Banana Cultures: Agriculture, Consumption, and Agrarian Change in Honduras and the United States (Univ. of Texas Press, 2005)

Eric Zolov, Refried Elvis: The Rise of the Mexican Counterculture (U. of California Press, 1999)

Recommended volumes: (limited numbers)

Gil Joseph, Daniela Spenser, eds., In From the Cold: Latin America and New Encounters with the Cold War (Duke Univ. Press, 2008)

Steven Topik, C. Marichal, and Z. Frank, eds, From Silver to Cocaine: Latin American Commodity Chains & the Building of the World Economy, 1500-2000 (Duke Univ. Press, 2006)