Latin American and Latino/a Studies

The Latin American and Latino/a studies (LALS) program is devoted to the interdisciplinary investigation of Latin American, Caribbean, and Latino cultures, politics, and histories. Through a variety of disciplines, students will have opportunities to explore the vibrant cultural life of Latin American and Caribbean countries, as well as the experiences of the Latino communities in the United States.

Course offerings will include language, literature, dance, film, music, art, and other cultural expressions as a way to familiarize the students with a world that is rich in imagination, powerful in social impact, and defiant of the stereotypes usually imposed upon it. Students will also interrogate the complex political dynamics involved in such processes as (post)colonialism, migration, revolution, social movements, citizenship, and the cultural politics of race, gender, sexuality, and class. The histories of conquest, colonialism, development, and resistance in the area also require broad inquiry into the often turbulent and violent realities of political economic forces.

As this program is concerned with a broad set of border crossings, faculty in LALS are also committed to expanding educational experiences beyond Sarah Lawrence College. Accordingly, students are encouraged to study abroad through Sarah Lawrence College programs in Cuba, Argentina, and Peru or with other programs in Latin America. Students will also have opportunities to explore the borderlands closer to Sarah Lawrence College, including Latino communities in New York City and Westchester County.

2017-2018 Courses

First-Year Studies: Introduction to Development Studies: The Political Ecology of Development

Open , FYS—Year

Some experience in the social sciences is desired but not required.

In this yearlong seminar, we will begin by examining competing paradigms and approaches to understanding “development” and the “Third World.” We will set the stage by answering the question: What did the world look like 500 years ago? The purpose of this part of the course is to acquaint us with and to analyze the historical origins and evolutions of a world political economy, of which the Third World is an intrinsic component. We will thus study the transition from feudalism to capitalism, the rise of merchant and finance capital, and the colonization of the world by European powers. We will analyze case studies of colonial "development" to understand the evolving meaning of this term. These case studies will help us assess the varied legacies of colonialism apparent in the emergence of new nations through the fitful and uneven process of decolonization that followed. The next part of the course will look at the United Nations and the role some of its associated institutions have played in the post-World War II global political economy, one marked by persistent and intensifying socioeconomic inequalities, as well as frequent outbreaks of political violence across the globe. By examining the development institutions that have emerged and evolved since 1945, we will attempt to unravel the paradoxes of development in different eras. We will deconstruct the measures of development through a thematic exploration of population, resource use, poverty, access to food, the environment, agricultural productivity, and different development strategies adopted by Third World nation states. We will then examine globalization; and its relation to emergent international institutions, transnational corporations, the role of the state, and civil society will provide the backdrop for the final focus of the class—the emergence of regional coalitions for self-reliance, environmental and social justice, and sustainable development. Our analysis of development in practice will draw upon case studies primarily from Africa but also from Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, and the United States. Conference work will be closely integrated with the themes of the course, with a two-stage substantive research project in the fall semester to be completed in the spring. Project presentations will incorporate a range of formats, from traditional papers to multimedia visual productions. Where possible and feasible, students will be encouraged to do primary research during fall study days and winter and spring breaks.

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International Political Economy: The Rise (and Fall) of Neoliberal Hegemony.

Open , Seminar—Spring

It is often said that all politics is economics. The aim of this course is to show that all economics is politics. Though economists and policymakers often present their economic policy decisions and views as neutral—based solely on abstract mathematical models, guided by the laws of nature (or the "invisible hand" of the market)—they are, in fact, driven by sometimes surprisingly transparent political ends and ideology. In this class, we will question the frequently proclaimed universality, neutrality, and inevitability of economic principles and policies through a close examination of neoliberal ideology and the ways in which it limits political discourse, reforms, and development. Specifically, we will examine the economic and political origins and consequences of shock therapy in Latin America and Eastern Europe, structural adjustment policies in countries suffering from economic crisis, and austerity measures imposed by the Troika on Greece and other states in the European Union. We'll also look at socioeconomic explanations for the recent rise of populist parties and political candidates. Some of the questions that we will explore include: What is the role of international economic institutions in domestic and international affairs? How do the interactions between international and domestic institutions and actors determine the production and distribution of scarce resources? And what is the relationship between capitalism and democracy, conditional lending and democratization, and international institutions and national sovereignty?

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Crossing Borders and Boundaries: The Social Psychology of Immigration

Open , Lecture—Spring

Remember, remember always, that all of us…are descended from immigrants and revolutionists. —Franklin D. Roosevelt

Immigration is a worldwide phenomenon where people move into another nation with the intention of making a better life for themselves and/or residing there temporarily or permanently. While anchored in a multidisciplinary perspective, this seminar explores the crucial role of psychology in understanding the processes associated with our conceptualizations of immigrants and immigration. The course begins with some theoretical perspectives on immigration, as well as a brief historical overview of sociological and social psychological research on immigrants. We then examine the identity of the immigrant, stressing the profound distinctions between forced and voluntary immigrants. We will analyze the processes through which “illegality” is constructed by reflecting on the lives of undocumented immigrants. We will look at how the intersections of race, class, gender, sexuality, and culture shape the psychological experience of immigrants. Seeking to extend our analysis to immigration’s impact on the host population, we conclude the course by discussing several social psychological issues, such as the intergroup relations, discrimination, and modes of adaptation.​

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Constructing Citizenship, Dismantling Hierarchies: The Immigrant and Racial Struggle for Political Equality

Sophomore and above , Seminar—Year

In the past few years, we have witnessed the undocumented, African Americans, and Latinos taking to the streets in protest, engaging in acts of civil disobedience, calling and writing letters to policymakers, and participating in a variety of other political activities. Meanwhile, organizations—newly created and long standing, political and nonpolitical—are joining in by organizing political actions and lobbying on behalf of marginalized groups. Still, the impetus for these demonstrations, the mixed and sometimes nativist public reactions toward marchers, and the continued passage and implementation of punitive enforcement policies are also a reminder of the political marginalization of immigrant and racial and ethnic groups in the United States. This course examines this heightened activism by situating it within historical political and social contests over citizenship in the United States. The first part of the course will draw from immigrant adaptation, minority political incorporation, and social movements to examine the political incorporation of immigrant and racial groups in the United States. The second part of the course will provide a historical overview of citizenship and its legal and social constructions at key moments throughout US history. Specifically, we will examine moments in which citizenship was being constructed, challenged, and resettled. Citizenship is a multifaceted concept that is not fixed; rather, it is constantly being negotiated, contested, and reformulated. Students will not only be engaging in theoretical and empirical debates about citizenship but also will be asked to consider their own role in its contestation.

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The Art of Protest

Open , Seminar—Year

Contentious, collective action is everywhere. Especially now, it is easy to recall the images of undocumented youth activists staring down Immigration and Customs enforcement officials or the face-off between protestors and police in Ferguson over the shooting of Michael Brown and the “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” meme launched in solidarity. Protest is (and has been) a major form of claims-making for groups that find their voices shut out of traditional institutional spaces. People take to the streets to challenge policies and systemic violence; they collectively resist in their workplaces; and they confront and assert their place in distinct organizational spheres of society. Through their activism, they create alternative social and political spaces in their efforts to effect change by reforming or dismantling dominant societal institutions. In this course, we will bridge the academic literature on social movements and protest with case studies of different movements in the United States and transnationally. We will imagine and reimagine what a just society looks like and how protest can help to create that society—but also where it fails. Students will consider questions such as: Why do people protest? What gains can be made via protest? How is protest policed, co-opted, or contained as politics-as-usual? And, finally, is there a liberatory potential to fundamentally reshape society via protest?

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Advanced Beginning Spanish: Pop Culture(s)

Open , Seminar—Year

Course taught entirely in Spanish. Students should take the placement test prior to registration.

In this class, for students who have had some experience with Spanish but are still laying the foundations of communication and comprehension, we will do a thorough review of basic grammatical, lexical, and syntactical concepts at a more accelerated pace than the regular Beginning Spanish class. Working with music, visual art, film, and newspaper articles from Latin America and Spain, students will develop the ability to navigate real-life situations and will expand their vocabulary through group exercises with a communicative focus. Weekly conversation sessions are also a fundamental part of this course.

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Advanced Spanish: Coming of Age I

Advanced , Seminar—Fall

Course taught entirely in Spanish. Students should take the Spanish Placement Test prior to interviewing for the course and registration.

Growing up isn’t easy, but it does provide incredible material for creative expression and social criticism. With an eye toward topics like sexuality, physical and symbolic violence, and political activism, students will engage film and literature from Latin America and Spain, both critically and creatively, as they hone their communication, analytic, and essay-writing skills. Advanced grammar review and writing workshops will complement our work with canonical texts by Jorge Luis Borges and Alejandra Pizarnik and films like Machuca, among many others. Students will also meet with a language tutor, in small groups, every week.

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Advanced Spanish: Coming of Age II

Advanced , Seminar—Spring

Course taught entirely in Spanish. Students should take the Spanish placement test prior to registration.

Growing up isn’t easy, but it does provide incredible material for creative expression and social criticism. Building on the analytic and writing skills developed in the fall, students will engage novels by contemporary authors, including César Aira, Guadalupe Nettel, Alejandro Zambra, Roberto Bolaño, and Samanta Schweblin, as well as a selection of films from Latin America and Spain. In addition to classroom discussions, students will develop and workshop critical and creative responses to these works for publication on a class blog.

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Beginning Spanish

Open , Seminar—Year

The aim of this course is to enable students without previous knowledge of the language to develop the skills necessary to achieve effective levels of communication in Spanish. From the start, students will be in touch with authentic Spanish-language materials in the form of newspaper articles, films, songs, and poems, as well as short literary and non-literary texts. In the regular class meetings, we will actively implement a wide range of techniques aimed at creating an atmosphere of dynamic oral exchange. The acquisition of grammar structures will develop from the exploitation of everyday situations through the incorporation of a wide set of functional-contextual activities. Group conferences will help hone conversational skills and focus on individual needs. Both in class and in small group conferences, we will explore the multiple resources provided by the Internet, retrieving all sorts of textual and visual tools that later will be collectively exploited by the group. The viewing of films, documentaries, and episodes of popular TV series, as well as the reading of blogs and digital publications, will take place outside the seminar meetings and serve as the basis of class discussions and debates. Weekly conversation sessions with the language assistant are an integral part of the course.

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Intermediate Spanish I: Latin America, a Mosaic of Cultures

Intermediate , Seminar—Year

The course will be taught entirely in Spanish. The Spanish Placement test is recommended for all students, especially those who have not taken Spanish at SLC.

This course is intended for students who have had at least one year of college-level Spanish or equivalent and who wish to review and expand the fundamentals of the Spanish language while exploring the rich cultural mosaic of Latin America. We will also pay special attention to oral communication and the expansion of new vocabulary; and we will explore different writing formats to create a dynamic dialogue between and among grammar, literature, and culture in order to contextualize multiple meanings while increasing fluency in every aspect of language production. For conference, students will have a chance to explore and develop topics related to Hispanic culture. To enrich the student’s exposure to the mosaic of Latin American cultures, we’ll try to take advantage of our local resources such as museums, libraries, and theatre. Students will meet with a language assistant once a week in order to practice their speaking and oral comprehension.

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Intermediate Spanish II: Culture in the Information Age

Intermediate , Seminar—Year

This course is taught in Spanish. Please take the Spanish placement test prior to interviewing with the instructor.

Once students have reached the linguistic command required to work at an advanced-intermediate level, they are in an ideal position to begin to explore the numerous resources that can be found on the Internet. Instrumentally, we will focus on the multiple uses of Spanish to be found in the virtual world, making use of its many possibilities such as blogs, newspapers, magazines, and other formats. We will identify the most relevant Web pages from the Spanish-speaking world, extract the adequate information, and exploit it in class jointly, making the necessary adjustments. Access to authentic sources from all over the Spanish-speaking world will give us an excellent idea of the varieties of the language used in more than 20 countries. We will explore all forms of culture, paying special attention to audiovisual resources such as interviews, documentaries, TV programs, and other formats—all of which will be incorporated into the course of study, complete or in fragments, depending on the level of difficulty. Art, film, music, photography, theatre, science, politics, comics, video games, gastronomy—all forms and manifestations of culture, high and low—will be the object of our attention, as long as the vehicle of expression is Spanish. We will minimize the use of printed matter, which will be devoted mainly to a more classical exploration of grammar. The class as a whole, as well as students on an individual basis, will be encouraged to locate different kinds of materials on the Internet. Weekly conversation sessions with the language assistants, in small groups, are required.

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Words and Pictures

Open , Seminar—Year

This is a course with writing at its center and other arts—mainly, but not exclusively, visual—around it. We will read and look at all kinds of narratives, children’s books, folk tales, fairy tales, and graphic novels and try our hands at many of them. The reading tends to come from a wide range of times and places and includes everything from ancient Egyptian love poems to contemporary Latin American literature. For conference work, people have done graphic novels, animations, quilts, rock operas, items of clothing with text attached, nonfiction narratives that take a subject and explore it visually and in text, and distopian fictions with pictures. There will be weekly assignments that involve making something. This course is especially suited for students with an interest in some other art or body of knowledge that they would like to make accessible to nonspecialists. The spring semester will be similar in approach but with different assignments and texts. This course may be taken for one semester, either semester, or as a yearlong class.

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