Jesse Horst

Jesse Horst

Undergraduate Discipline

History

BA, St. Olaf College. MA, PhD, University of Pittsburgh. Historian of modern Latin America—especially Cuba, with interest in Brazil, the Caribbean, and Afro-Latin America more generally—Horst specializes in the history of urban informality and social movements in the Global South. Director of Sarah Lawrence in Cuba, the longest consecutively running US academic exchange program in Havana, he has lived in Havana full-time since 2016. His book manuscript (in progress) centers on slum clearance, urban planning, and city politics in Havana from 1930-1970, the decades before and after the Cuban Revolution of 1959. The book engages with historical debates over issues like the so-called “culture of poverty” and connects to contemporary issues like gentrification. Horst was awarded the University of Pittsburgh’s Eduardo Lozano Memorial Dissertation Prize for best doctoral dissertation in Latin American studies. His previous work has appeared in the Hispanic American Historical Review, the Journal of Urban History, and other journals. SLC 2016-

Undergraduate Courses 2020-2021

History

Rights to the City in Latin America

Open , Seminar—Spring

With the 2002 release of the wildly popular film, City of God, a gripping portrayal of life in a Brazilian favela, Latin American cities emerged globally as objects of myth, fascination, and fear—once again. For well over a century, cities like Rio de Janeiro, Buenos Aires, and Mexico City have been portrayed for their poverty, lawlessness, and crime. During the same period, Latin America became the most urbanized region of the world. As much as 25 percent of its urban population lives in precarious housing. This course will trace the history of urban mythmaking in Latin America, alongside a complicated reality of city politics and culture. The course will complement the conceptual work of courses in sociology by exploring rights, poverty, the “quiet encroachment of the ordinary,” and informality. Yet, it takes an historical approach, tracing the evolution of these concepts alongside changes in the urban environment over time. We will begin by examining extensive Amerindian metropolises before 1492 and continue with the Iberian colonial glorifications of the walled city as a site of order, the exclusion of rural migrants in the 19th-century Belle Époque, the rise of populism, high modernism, slum clearance in the 1940s and 50s, and the explosion of drug traffic and gentrification in a neoliberal age. Along the way, we will examine the labels applied to poor neighborhoods and explore their political and cultural relationships to wider urban environments. The course makes use of a variety of sources, including scholarship, films, and novels, with a critical analysis of urban popular music and dance.

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Revolutions in Cuba: Local Origins, Global Fault Lines

Open , Seminar—Spring

Beginning in 1959, rebels in Cuba toppled a dictatorship, defied the United States, and shocked the world. Six decades later, the Cuban Revolution’s contested legacy is enough to tilt the balance in US presidential elections, a symbol of tyranny for some and of hope for others. This course looks beyond simplistic narratives of a singular “Cuban Revolution” and considers longstanding tensions between radicalism and conservatism in Cuban history, tracing their interplay with global movements such as antislavery, decolonization, and Marxism. Beginning with the antislavery movement in the broader Caribbean, course topics will include the contours of US imperialism, the rise of Mambo and the Mafia, the politics of Cuban/West African religious practice, the limits of guerrilla warfare, radical economic reforms in practice, post-revolutionary contradictions in gender equality, LGBTQ rights and prostitution reform, and Cuba’s military role in Africa. We will conclude with the recent rise of Cuban hip hop as a new social movement. Throughout the course, we will assess when the Cuban Revolution began—and did it ever end? Did revolutionary leaders empower movements for gender, racial, and labor rights—or limit them? Did the leaders conform to international currents of totalitarian rule or foster new forms of democratic solidarity within the so-called Third World? Analyzing scholarship, testimonials, music, artistic movements, poetry, novels, and film, we will use the tools of history to construct competing narratives of revolution in Cuba and trace fault lines and possibilities of Global South solidarity.

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