Margarita Fajardo

Alice Stone Ilchman Chair in Comparative and International Studies

on leave yearlong

BA, Universidad de los Andes, Bogotá, Colombia. MA, PhD, Princeton University. Historian of modern Latin America, especially of Brazil, Chile, and Colombia. Interested in researching, writing, and teaching histories of capitalism from Latin America and the Global South. She is currently working on her first book, tentatively titled The World that Latin America Created, which traces the origins of dependency theory—one of the most important paradigms of economic development and globalization. Focusing on a transnational network of economists and sociologists, diplomats and policymakers whose nexus was the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America (ECLA in English and CEPAL in Spanish and Portuguese), the book examines the transformation of ideas about economic development and capitalism in the three decades after World War II. The book challenges widespread assumptions about the origins and scope of dependency theory and recasts the political project of regional intellectuals in the global sphere. Article published in the Latin American Research Review and an edited volume on The Developmental State  (Cambridge University Press, forthcoming). Broader research and teachings interests include: history and theory of capitalism, imperialism and global history, colonial and modern Latin America, politics of knowledge and science, and the dynamics of policymaking. SLC, 2015-

Previous Courses

The 1%, or the Bottom Billion: Poverty and Wealth in Global and Latin American History

Intermediate , Seminar—Spring

Traditional and modern Eastern and Western societies have, for centuries, struggled against scarcity, hunger, disease, and insecurity—problems that we now associate with poverty. GDP, the World Bank’s poverty line, or the unsatisfied need index provide measures of the wealth—or, conversely, of the poverty—of regions and nations. These numbers aim to capture in a snapshot a problem that puzzles but also undermines the very notion of modern society: the existence of poverty amidst plenty. Capitalism thrived on the promise that economic growth and technological change would eventually overcome that paradox. Therefore, in the seminar, we will examine the relationship of capitalism, poverty, and inequality. To do so, we will first study some of capitalism’s classic friends and foes, from Smith and Marx to Sachs and Piketty, to understand the promises and failures of capital accumulation. Then, we will examine changing notions of poverty in history to understand when and how poverty and wealth became a problem of economics. Finally, we will examine the history of Latin America with the following question in mind: Is Latin America poor? To do so, we will analyze salient episodes in which wealth has been pursued and poverty has been ignored, measured, tackled, and redefined. Thus, the course is both an introduction to the history of capitalism and an excursion into the history of Latin America and its tumultuous and paradoxical history with wealth and poverty.

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Right and Left in Latin America

Intermediate , Seminar—Fall

The categories of right and left go beyond party affiliation or ideological orientation, transcending labels loosely attached to politicians, intellectuals, and institutions. The battles between states and markets, individual rights and collective action, or order and freedom reveal society’s fundamental but constant problem: how to organize itself. Most recently, the Pink Tide—or the rise of popular, socially oriented, and outspoken politicians to the presidencies of Venezuela, Brazil, Bolivia, and Argentina, among others—aimed at putting an end to the Washington Consensus era. Reacting against the preeminence of technocrats, open markets, and international capital of the previous decade, these battles unleashed a new chapter in the long-term battle between the right and the left. Drawing on policy battles in the political, economic, social, and cultural fields in the history of Latin America, the course will examine the shifting and sometimes conflicting meaning of right and left. Rather than siding with the frontrunners or underdogs of history, we will attempt to understand the options available to historical actors, the underlying premises of those choices, and the costs and benefits of the policy options of both the right and the left. From the colonial debates on the nature of Indians and their consequent role in the New World society to the Cold War struggles between violent revolution and progressive reform, the seminar covers a broad historical arc but delves deeply into each historical moment. We will use documents produced by those involved in the debates, along with secondary sources, to question the extent to which we can speak about the past using the modern categories of right and left. Thus, the seminar provides an overview of Latin American history through its key figures and classical dilemmas, as well as the analytical tools to understand how political stances about the organization of society—such as right and left—emerge and transform.

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First-Year Studies: The Problem of Empire: A History of Latin America

Open , FYS—Year

Most Latin American nations emerged as independent states in the early 19th century, long before Europe’s imperialist “scramble for Africa” came to solidify our ideas about the meaning and character of imperialism. Despite Latin America’s nominal political independence, the notions of empire and the problems of imperialism remain key tools of historians seeking to understand the development and experience of Latin America in the 19th century and beyond. Using terms such as “despotic rule,” “imperialism of free trade,” “informal empire,” “foreign intervention,” “hegemony,” or “our own backyard,” historians, economists, politicians, and diplomats have sought to describe what it means for Latin America to be the object of imperialism. Furthermore, from bourgeois intellectuals to authoritarian rulers, many influential figures have attributed the region’s economic, cultural, and political problems to what they considered the legacies of colonialism. For example, Bolívar and the commanders of the independence wars feared that colonial subjects were unprepared to rule themselves and create a republic and fought over constitutional orders that might need to contain democratic forces. A century later, mid-20th century economists hesitated about these same countries’ capacity for economic independence and feared they were destined to be no more than producers of raw materials for global metropoles. It is precisely to these puzzling and shifting meanings of imperialism and the impact over peoples, economies, and polities that we devote this course. Through the history of Latin America, we will examine the multiple dimensions of empire, analyze the different forms of foreign interventions that are grouped under the umbrella term “imperialism,” and identify the historical legacies that can be traced back to imperial rule, practices, and strategies.

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Brazil: An Excursion Through Its Cities, Regions, and History

Open , Seminar—Fall

Brazil has been described as a serene republic, a racial democracy, and the country of the future—and most recently advertised as a site of favela tourism. Those labels encapsulate the ambitions, contradictions, and indeterminacies that Brazilians and Brazilianists wrestle with in coming to terms with the social, economic, and political landscape of a nearly continent-size country. To unravel the questions driving these myths, this course delves into the history of Brazil from the establishment of Portuguese settlements on the Atlantic coast in the 1500s and the world created by sugar mills to the return to electoral politics and the advent of neoliberalism at the turn of the 20th century. The course is organized as an excursion through Brazilian towns and cities (and their hinterlands) that captures a set of historical movements in Brazil: from the coast to the interior, from the Northeast to the South and Center, and from a colony to an empire and even to a regional and global power. Using images, maps, Brazilian voices, and historiography, the forays into cities such as Recife, Salvador, Rio de Janeiro, Ouro Preto, São Paulo, and Brasília will give students a broad perspective and the analytical depth to understand the history of Brazil and the challenges that the country faces today. Our focus on the interplay between regional and national actors and trajectories, the geography of politics and economics, and shifts in the center of power will provide analytical tools to understand other national and even international contexts. By the end of the course, students will be able to understand the structural processes, political and economic conjunctures and the social and cultural interpretations that shape the history of Brazil. In addition, students will have developed the critical skills to understand and analyze fundamental concepts and processes in history and the social sciences, such as colonialism, imperialism, nation-state, industrialization, and national myths. Students will also be able to capture the nuances that make Brazil an economically and culturally rich country with a poor population and myriad forms of social inequality.

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The Development Project: Latin America and the Global South

Intermediate , Seminar—Spring

In the aftermath of World War II, the world of empires and colonies rapidly gave way to a world of nation-states. Because Latin America escapes the decolonization narrative, the region serves as a counterpoint for understanding the global development project of the postwar years and the contradictory meanings of the term “Global South.” The question of how to organize and command global, regional, and national economies—especially in a moment veering toward globalization—gained political and intellectual preeminence in the postwar era. Development (like progress, its 19th century counterpart) encapsulated that project and the promise of structural social, economic, and even political transformation. This course examines the birth of development as a field of study and the foundations of a global era. After exploring the early efforts to transform imperialism into both internationalism and self-determination in the aftermath of World War I, the course will examine: the role of international organizations; the effect of the Cold War; the rise of economists, economics, and expertise; and the myriad of large-scale and seemingly trivial interventions in the social world that encompass what we could call The Development Project. Finally, the course surveys the unfolding of development-era institutions and ideas and their contradictory transformation into pillars of globalization and liberalism. As a result, the course will provide a broad roadmap for the global history of the 20th century. The course sets out to help students understand how the interplay of local, regional, and global processes both define and shaped development as an international project, defying the oversimplifying categories implied by the terms “imperialism,” “civilization,” and “modernity” often used to describe it. By the end of the course, students will have acquired the critical skills to evaluate the role of science and expertise in society, to understand the foundations and mechanisms behind the making of a global order, and to explain the different dimensions in which the relationship between knowledge and power plays out.

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Money and Power in Latin America

Open , Seminar—Year

This seminar surveys the long history of Latin America as a region in the world and examines the intersection between money and power, economics and politics, at both the local and the global levels. Throughout the course, we will delve into specific historical contexts and problems that range from the 17th-century silver connection between China and Spanish America to the cultural phenomena of the “narco-novela” in Mexico and Colombia’s drug years. Throughout the seminar, students will discover how the questions and problems encompassed by the term “economy” go beyond issues such as GDP and national income statistics, stock market variations, and at times obscure, Nobel-winning theories. The seminar is divided into three major sections. Chronologically, these sections encompass the colonial period, the 19th-century national period, and the 20th and 21st centuries. Thematically, the three sections correspond to a focus on the global dimension of empire and colonialism in the Atlantic world in the first, the tension between local and national economic life in the second, and the oscillation between national conflicts and the transnational movements of goods, ideas, and capital in the third. There are also three major learning objectives in this course: (1) Students will familiarize themselves with economic processes, concepts, and questions while grasping their political and social implications. No longer dry and opaque, questions of money and power will come to life in ways that will make students critical and conversant about problems of globalization in the 21st century. (2) Students will acquire the ability to recognize the political and social dimension of economic issues and the economic side of political and social questions. (3) Students will be able to understand how the dialogue between the colonial past and the national present shape the history of Latin America.

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