Margarita Fajardo

Alice Stone Ilchman Chair in Comparative and International Studies

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. In 2018, she received a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship to complete her first book project, 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. Her articles have been 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-

Undergraduate Courses 2019-2020

History

Liberation: Contemporary Latin America

Sophomore and above , Seminar—Fall

After the military regimes that swept Latin America came to an end in the last quarter of the 20th century, a new era of liberation emerged. The transition to democracy, and the broad-based coalitions then formed, renewed the hopes and expectations of justice, equality, and freedom that had been shattered by torture, censorship, and state power. But the era that emerged from those transitions—one which is coming to an end—is full of contradictions. Alongside the liberations of prisoners and the press and the return to party politics came the demise of social revolution and the retreat of the left. Alongside the liberalization of markets and the so-called neoliberal reforms came innovative social policies and a multiplicity of social movements, the most salient of which are led by indigenous groups and peasant-based organizations. Similarly, the ascendancy and hegemony of liberal ideas and policies gave rise to a new left, which brought the world’s attention back to Latin America with its combination of growth and equality. This course will examine the dynamics of revolution and counterrevolution in which contemporary Latin America emerged; study the origins of neoliberalism in Latin America and its economic and political repercussion; delve into the contradictions of the democratic transitions and their legacies; and explore the new rural, labor, feminist, and indigenous movements that have challenged both neoliberalism and democracy.

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Drugs, History, and Politics in Latin America and Beyond

Open , Seminar—Fall

The “War on Drugs,” shootings in favelas, colgados in US-Mexican border states, and (in)famous drug lords (or ”narcos”) dominate contemporary images of, and conversations about, drugs in Latin America. From the narconovelas and narcocorridos to even narco-tourism, narcoviolence has created a myriad of cultural and social artifacts that cultivate both fascination and repulsion over a phenomenon that has profound economic, social, and political ramifications for the region and for the world. This course seeks to understand the multiplicity of historical causes and effects of narcoviolence in the most conspicuous cases in Latin America during the 20th century: Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, and Central America. To do so, the course will situate the current narcoviolence within a longer history of psychoactive drugs as goods, linking producers and consumers through global capitalism since the early modern period. From coffee to cocaine, we will discuss the origins of both fascination with and prohibition of psychoactive drugs. We will examine the social, political, and economic functions of drugs in different historical contexts, their transformation from luxury to mass commodities, and even their fetishization. In addition, the course explores the economics, politics, and culture of drugs in the long era of narcoviolence and globalization. Using primary and secondary sources, history and social science perspectives, the course seeks to foster deep and serious engagement with the history of Latin America and its complex relation to psychoactive drugs.

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Previous Courses

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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Making Latin America

Open , Seminar—Year

The making of Latin America—deeply embedded in global histories of capitalist expansion, imperial domination, and circulation of Western ideas—must nonetheless begin by looking inward. The course examines the ways in which landowners and campesinos, intellectuals and workers, the military, blacks, whites, and mestizos understood and shaped the history of this region in the world. From the early settlements in the Americas and the pre-Hispanic civilizations to the contemporary battles between neoliberals and neosocials, this yearlong course offers a survey of the more than five centuries of history of the region that we know as Latin America. After an overview of the intellectual and political debates about what the term Latin America means and encompasses, the first half of the course will survey the fall of the Aztec and Inca empires, the colonial order that emerged in its stead, independence from Iberian rule, and the division of the empire into a myriad of independent republics or states searching for a “nation.” By focusing on specific national trajectories, we will then ask how the American and Iberian civilizations shaped the new national experiences and how those who made claims on the “nation” defined and transformed the colonial legacies. In the second semester, the course will delve into the long 20th century and the multiple experiences of, and interplay between, anti-Americanism, revolution, populism, and authoritarianism. We will ask how different national pacts and projects attempted to solve the problem of political inclusion and social integration that emerged after the consolidation of the 19th-century liberal state. Using primary and secondary sources, fiction, and film, the course will provide students with an understanding of historical phenomena such as mestizaje, caudillismo, populism, and reformism, among other concepts key to the debates in contemporary Latin America.

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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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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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