Margarita Fajardo

BA, Universidad de los Andes, Bogotá, Colombia. PhD, Princeton University. Fajardo is the author of The World That Latin America Created: The United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America in the Development Era, published in early 2022 by Harvard University Press.  In recent years, she has received fellowships from Duke University’s Center for the History of Political Economy and the National Endowment for the Humanities. She work has been published in the Latin American Research Review and will soon appear in the American Historical Review and in series of edited volumes about the developmental state in Latin America, the Cold War social science and the global social sciences. She is interested in the history of Latin American and global capitalism, as well as the in the history and political economy of ideas, science, and expertise. SLC, 2015–

Undergraduate Courses 2022-2023

History

Globalization Past and Present: Global and Local Communities in Yonkers

Open, Large seminar—Spring

This course is an introduction to thinking globally and acting locally; it examines how different regional, national, and local communities see their place in the world and how events, processes, or structures that cross national and regional boundaries affect specific communities and individuals. The course encompasses all continents but gives special attention to Latin America and Latino flows, networks, and exchanges. The course assumes globalization as both historical and contemporary; thus, it is divided into two parts. The first part of the course explores globalization in a long-term historical perspective, including ancient world precedents; 14th-century exchanges before European hegemony; the encounter and collision of Europe, Africa, and the Americas in the modern world; the Enlightenment and the Age of Revolutions; the Industrial Revolution and the Great Divergence; among others. The second part of the course explores major transnational issues today, including climate change and environmentalism, social justice and human rights, movement of diseases and global health, world trade and financial inequality, migration and labor movements, and world religions and multiculturalism, among others. The course has a community work component: It asks students to interrogate the concepts, practices, processes, and events studied in class through and within their work with the Yonkers community. The course will help students situate the experience of migration, labor, finance, health, education, religion, and culture of Yonkers communities and individuals within wider and longer patterns of flows, structures, and networks between the Americas and the world.

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Globalization Past and Present: Local and Global Communities in Yonkers and Beyond

Open, Seminar—Fall

This course is an introduction to thinking globally and acting locally; it examines how different national, regional, and local communities see their place in the world and how events, processes, or structures that cross national and regional boundaries affect specific communities and individuals. The course examines the cultural, economic, and political origins of globalization and how globalization transforms over time. The course assumes globalization as both historical and contemporary and, thus, is divided into two parts. The first part of the course explores globalization in a long-term, historical perspective, including: ancient world precedents; 14th-century exchanges before European hegemony; the encounter and collision of Europe, Africa, and the Americas in the modern world; the Enlightenment and the Age of Revolutions; the Industrial Revolution; and the Great Divergence, among others. The second part of the course explores major transnational issues today in historical perspective, including: climate change and environmentalism; social justice and human rights; movement of diseases and global health; world trade and financial inequality; migration and labor movements; and world religions and multiculturalism, among others. The course has a community work component; it asks students to interrogate the concepts, practices, processes, and events studied in class through and within their work within the Yonkers community. The course will help students situate the experience of migration, labor, finance, health, education, religion, and culture of Yonkers communities and individuals within wider and longer patterns of flows, structures, and networks between the Americas and the world.

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Pirates, Tyrants, and Radicals: A History of Capitalism and Socialism

Sophomore and Above, Seminar—Year

When the first self-declared socialists began to articulate their critique of a society that was rapidly industrializing and urbanizing, “capitalism” did not yet exist. Karl Marx, the leading theorist of political economy and history, would speak of “capital” and “capitalists,” but it was not until the end of the 19th century that the word “capitalism” entered the English language. As the twin concepts of socialism and capitalism evolved and their proponents sought to redefine their vision and the nature of their nemeses, those proponents launched political and economic projects that staked a claim to modernity and even the salvation of humankind. Whereas bankers, pirates, and entrepreneurs dominate historical imaginaries of capitalism, soviets, tyrants, bureaucrats, and revolutionaries dominate the history of socialism. The world of markets, exchange, and profit seems to be the purview of the history of capitalism, whereas top-down planning and egalitarian utopias fill the image of a socialist world. Although capitalism and socialism do not define the totality of economic life, they do represent two crucial inroads to understand how individuals and societies produce, consume, distribute, and also waste resources. This course will study money, markets, and exchange from a historical perspective by following their trajectories both before capitalism and socialism and within capitalist and socialist contexts in different times and places. The course aims to take students deeply into the vagaries of economic life and to historically situate economic concepts. Were societies in previous eras marked by significantly different relationships toward markets, power, and financial instruments? How can such capacious visions such as capitalism and socialism, with such variegated political iterations, be defined and understood? Who were the important actors and institutions that created these movements? What are the origins of “capitalism”? Is there a path to socialism; and, if so, what is it? This course seeks to address these questions through study of the movements, the people who created them, and the institutions that resulted from them. At the same time, it seeks what makes socialism socialist or capitalism capitalist and the extent to which these terms of analysis help or hinder our understanding of the economic and political behavior of individuals, communities, and institutions. The course is divided into two parts: The fall semester of this yearlong course will be devoted to studying historic economic concepts like money, markets, exchange, growth, and development; we will also explore the debates in the origins of capitalism and its relationship to slavery, imperialism, development, war, and welfare. The spring semester will explore the intellectual origins of socialism, as well as the different versions of “real socialism” around the world.

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Previous Courses

History

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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Latin America in the World

Open, Seminar—Fall

From La Malinche’s mediation of the encounter between the Old World and the New World to Castro and Che Guevara’s path for Third World liberation movements, Latin America has been at the center of global process. In turn, the expansion of European empires, the massive movement of people from Africa, and the most recent connection to China have shaped and continue to reconfigure the destinies of millions in the Americas. This course attempts to situate Latin America’s history within global history while understanding the influence of Latin American history in global processes. While guiding students through major historical processes of colonial expansion and rule, revolution and nation-state formation, the first and second waves of globalization, social and socialist revolution and authoritarian counterrevolution, and neoliberalism, among others, we will delve into particular national and individual histories to understand historical agency and concrete effects of such processes. The seminar will experiment with a non-essay, collaborative conference project.

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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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Liberations: 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—and which is coming to an end—is full of contradictions. Alongside the liberation 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 were 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 in the contradictions of the democratic transitions and its legacies; and explore the new rural, labor, feminist, and indigenous movements that challenged both neoliberalism and democracy.

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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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Neoliberalism

Open, Seminar—Spring

Neoliberalism is a widely used, abused, and controversial term that is often used to identify a historical era that, paradoxically, is also described as the “end of history.” Sometimes, the term is used synonymously with globalization, a process that nonetheless has been deepening for hundreds of years. Other times, neoliberalism is equated with capitalism despite the term’s socialist origins. Although neoliberalism as a set of ideas, policies, and practices spread ubiquitously across the globe, it had many different local origins and effects. This course will explore the history of neoliberalism in its political, intellectual, social, economic, and cultural dimensions, as well as in the different manifestations around the world. We will address the role of international institutions, right- and left-wing politics, economists, experts, and technocrats in bringing about  “neoliberal” projects—as well as the impact of the set of neoliberal ideas and practices on states and markets, politics and citizenship, environment and environmentalism, race and ethnicity, and welfare policies and social justice, among others—in Latin America and other parts of the world. This course will have both in-person and online components to be discussed with the group and will have a collaborative, web-based, research- and writing-heavy conference project. The course is open level, but students with experience in other social-science courses are especially encouraged to enroll.

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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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