Course Description

Course Name

Latin American Studies From a Humanities Perspective

Session: VVPU1423

Hours & Credits

60 Contact Hours

Prerequisites & Language Level

Taught In English

  • There is no language prerequisite for courses at this language level.



Course description: One of the areas in which the idea, institutionality and impact of Latin American Studies has been most eagerly and productively debated is in the array of texts associated with what would later be dubbed Latin American Postcolonial Studies and its ensuing internal endeavours regarding subalternity and coloniality.

This course examines the complex nature of contemporary university-based Latin American Studies in the humanities vis-à-vis the intellectual tradition of Latin American cultural critique from the end of the twentieth century.

Topics to be discussed include: lettered intellectuals, the notion of ‘Latin’ America, dependency theory, cultural critique, postcolonial studies, post-structural theory, subaltern studies coloniality, and the decolonial turn. Students are encouraged to engage critically and productively with the course material through class discussions and participation with the aim of articulating informed perspectives on the issues related to the postcolonial turn in Latin American intellectual circles.

Readings for this course will consist mainly of critical essays on culture and society from both within academia and other intellectual efforts in/on Latin America. Specifically, we will be mostly reading texts from edited volumes that were written and will be examined in the scope of the humanities.

This course is designed to provide undergraduate students with a solid understanding of contemporary debates on Latin America, with special emphasis placed on the crossroads between how Latin America’s own intellectual history comes into contact with and negotiates certain global tendencies in the humanities, using postcolonial debates as a case study.

The course will be divided into three units. The first is designed to provided a foundation for the intellectual background with which contemporary Latin American thought has contended; specifically we will examine how the basic tenants of post-independence Latin American society were forged out of the intellectual and institutional work of ‘lettered’ intellectuals. The second unit looks at the outset of postcolonial debates in Latin America in terms of both the proliferation of “postmodern” theorization such as French post-structuralism, as well as similar local formulations that laid the groundwork for the positive and negative reception of English-language postcolonial studies in and on Latin America. Lastly, this course will critically analyze the two Latin American postcolonial endeavours: Latin American Subaltern Studies and the Modernity/Coloniality/Decoloniality group.


This course will examine how the pervasiveness of certain core notions and concepts in Latin America’s intellectual history inform and shape the nature of academic debates in the humanities in and on this region of the world and its culture. Outcomes include:

  • Unpack the way in which the idea of Latinness came about in the former Spanish colonies known today as Latin America by nineteenth-century intellectuals
  • Critically analyze certain formulations in 1960’s and 70’s Latin American cultural critique that lent themselves for a productive dialogue with English-language postcolonial studies.
  • Explain the particularities of Latin American postcolonial debate, and how that led to Latin American Subaltern Studies and the Decolonial turn.
  • Explore how the notion of Latin America has been continually transformed by territorial displacement, including the contemporary reality of large diasporas in countries such as the United States.


This course is designed to acquaint students with representative intellectual and academic texts in the field of the humanities written mostly by Latin American thinkers in English (both directly and in translation). Postcolonial studies is emphasized as an area in which a particularly diverse array of key aspects of Latin American intellectual history are revisited and negotiated along with broader global discussions. Outcomes include:

  • Develop students’ familiarity with the wide variety of texts in and related to Latin American Studies, focusing on the humanities and the advent of postcolonial studies
  • Foment critical thinking on the issues discussed in class
  • Analyze issues from various viewpoints
  • Summarize and communicate key points of a class reading
  • Develop a well-written thesis
  • Incorporate and correctly use ideas from source texts
  • Support evidence by applying historically-based and culturally-informed arguments


1. CLASS ATTENDANCE AND PARTICIPATION (20%) This is both a quantity and quality based evaluation, since—out of 20%— 10% will count for the amount of classes attended and 10% for participation during lectures and class discussions. Concretely, regarding attendance, during every class students will have to sign an attendance sheet. Justifications for absences include doctors’ notes or other documentation accepted by the program administration. In terms of participation, students are required to engage with the material during class lectures by asking questions and sharing perspectives. This requires a certain level of preparation; students are expected to read course material before coming to class in order to formulate informed commentary. Essentially, participation will be evaluated on how informed, thoughtfully and consistently students participate. Also, disruptive behaviour will negatively affect students’ participation grade.

2. IN-CLASS ACTIVITIES (30%) Throughout the semester, students will be required to prepare and participate in several in-class activities (the exact amount of activities will depend on the amount of students enrolled in the course). These activities will be divided into two types: short presentations and group responses. Short presentations are informal presentations on class readings—a summary of the main points of the text along with critical commentary that students will share semi-formally from their own personal notes. These readings will often be complementary texts designed to reinforce the main 4 ideas discussed in class. Group responses are critical thinking activities in which students in small groups will respond to questions provided by the professor related to the course readings.

3. IN-CLASS QUIZZES (Three quizzes worth 10% each) Throughout the semester there will be three quizzes consisting mainly of short answers. These short exams are designed to evaluate students’ knowledge on the course material from each unit regarding key concepts, debates, texts and thinkers.

4. CRITICAL ANALYSIS PAPER (20%) Towards the end of the semester, students are required to write a critical analysis paper between 7 to 10 pages (double spaced) in length on a topic of their choosing from the class material. The aim is to write an essay that either digs deep into a given aspect of the course material o compares several different concepts and positions. Students will be required to work on this paper in three steps: 1) as a in-class proposal (which will take up one of the in-class short presentation activities); 2) in an approximately 500-word written summary, and; 3) the final paper. The reason for these three steps is for students to receive feedback from their peers and the professor during the process, so as to broaden their perspectives and be sure they are on the right track.

5. GRADING The following is a breakdown of the percentages of each component that will be evaluated as part of the final grade:

  • Attendance and Participation 20%
  • In-Class Activities 30%
  • In-Class Quizzes 30%
  • Critical Analysis Paper 20%

*Course content subject to change