About this course

The course will introduce students to the main political, cultural, and social dynamics that shape historical and contemporary region of Latin America. In order to approach complex realities of the continent and its peoples, our in-class conversation will be guided by the important concepts from political and social theory. Having in mind that the topics to be discussed are important for thinking not only Latin America but also the construction of each and every political society, the main orientation of the course is to initiate in-class discussion and encourage the exchange of perspectives coming from the lived experiences and personal histories of course participants. In this sense, while taking the actual socio-political development of Latin America as the main subject of our inquiry, in-class work will attempt to establish dynamic communication with the knowledge produced on this region. With this in mind, we will discuss the impact and legacy of colonialism, disadvantaged geopolitical position, hopes for development, significance of racism and nationalism, military violence, question of feminism, and importance of popular culture and political pedagogies for both Latin America and our own corner of the world.

Lesson 1

In order to prepare for the main part of our course in this introductory lecture we will inquire into the historical event that largely determined the historical path of the continent that we call Latin America. The main concepts that will guide our understanding of these societies are those of the state, political community, social contract, sovereignty, citizenship, and longue-durée. For the starters, and in order to get a sense of the problematic understanding of the man who is called the discoverer of the region, please read the text ‘Indians in protest against Columbus’. Also, please take a look at the video ‘Latin American revolutions crash course’ so that you get a sense of the historical process that brought to the independence of this region from the Spanish Kingdom, and which resulted in the creation of the modern nation-states in Latin America. This lecture will serve for all of us to get a sense of the context that we will be discussing throughout the next two weeks.

Key concepts: state, political community, social contract, sovereignty, citizenship, longue-durée.

Lesson 2

In this lecture we will explore the social, political, and economic context of 20th century Latin America. Most important topic to be discussed is the role of a developmentalist state as an endogenous attempt to position Latin American countries at the level of developed nations through the implementation of policies of import substitution industrialization (ISI). Likewise, in this session we will tackle the questions of Mexican and Cuban revolutions, and introduce political phenomena of Peronist Argentina, Brazil under Getulio Vargas, and specific democratic Chilean road to socialism undertaken by Salvador Allende. In order to prepare for the class please read the article ‘Crno-Bijeli svijet: Kako razumijeti Venezuelu?’ and also watch the video ‘Chilean economic success’.  

Key concepts: import substitution industrialization, developmentalist state, Washington consensus, neoliberalism, autarky.

Lesson 3

Today we will examine problems of underdevelopment in Latin American countries by using the concepts and theories developed in the region by local intellectuals. Among these, the most important ones that we will cover are world-system theory and dependency theory, both of which are interrelated and that are globally relevant for thinking about the position of peripheral countries within the wider international order. In order to prepare for the class please see the documentary ‘The Battle for Venezuela’. This oil rich country, which has become quite prominent in the international media throughout the recent decades, will be the case study from which we will relate to wider issues that affect the region as a whole on its historical path to (under)development.

Key concepts: world-system, dependency theory, Dutch disease, underdevelopment, autonomy.

Lesson 4

Today we take a break from the strictly political field and submerge into the magical realism of Latin American culture. Still, while taking the political aspect of culture into account, we explore the social life of the region through the cultural production theory. Here, we will question the effects that cultural representation has on the political landscape itself, and in this sense we explore what can for  example Netflix TV show ‘Narcos’ tell us about the reality of the region while at the same time asking what it could hide. We also look for examples of cultural opposition found in the works of Mexican painter Frida Kahlo, the anti-imperialist Puertorican music of Calle 13, or the feminist Chilean popstar Ana Tijoux. In order to prepare for the class please read the nobel prize speech of Gabriel Garcia Marquez – The solitude of Latin America and watch the following videos: Ana Tijoux – Shock, Calle 13 – Latinoamérica, Narcos, El Otro Chile, Frida.

Key concepts: cultural production theory, magical realism.

Lesson 5

In today’s class we explore the perplexing historical and contemporary process of construction of political communities in Latin American continent. With this in mind, we analyze the effects that the realities of colonialism, internal colonialism, mestizaje (mixing), and blanquemiento (whitening) have had for the construction of imagined communities known as nation-states in this part of the world. In order to prepare for the class, please in addition to this video also see the following news clips: Brazil racism, Race in Brazil, Race in the Caribbean, Race in the Andes, Anti-blackness in Brazil’s media; Race Mexico.

Key concepts: internal colonialism, mestizaje, racism, nation-state, blanqueamiento, imagined community.

Lesson 6

In this class we will explore realities of postcolonialism in Latin America. The main focus of the lecture will be to ask if the end of official colonialism signified the end of colonial organization of the social world. In order to tackle this complicated question we will use the tools of decolonial theory, which will help us understand the residues of colonial thought within nation-states that developed in the aftermath of independence movements. In order to come to the contemporary moment, we will use the case study of Bolivia and its indigenist revival under the leadership of President Evo Morales. This case will serve us to exemplify how official order and its memory can be quite a political thing, which can be turned upside down (pachakuti) with the coming of new political forces to power. Finally, we will explore the meaning of plurinationalism as a new conceptual frame for organizing complicated communities, asking ourselves if this may offer an interesting lesson for our part of the world as well. In order to prepare for the class read the text ‘Remembering as resistance: decolonizing Bolivia’s history‘ and also see the video ‘Bolivia’s thirst for change’.

Key concepts: postcolonialism, decoloniality, indigenism, plurinationalism, pachakuti, invented tradition.

Lesson 7

Taking recent feminist movements in Argentina and Chile as a starting point, we will discuss the feminist question in general. In this sense, we will ask what is feminism, for whom or for what does it fight, and how do we understand it in opposition to patriarchy? We also submerge into the relevance of feminism for our region in general and your lives in particular. Here, we will mostly try to define the general contributions of feminist perspective to both social theory and social change. In this sense, we will elaborate most particularly on the meaning of  feminist standpoint epistemology and situated knowledge, asking how they provide larger contribution for the understanding of the the social world and its perspectives, ones that are developed by groups positioned unequally within the its hierarchy and historical structures. In order to prepare for this class please read the text by Gaby Hinsliff ‘The rapist is you’, ‘The making of feminist democratic revolution’ by Ivette Hernandez, and ‘Meksiko-Protesti zena protiv nasilja’ by Sandra Barba.

Key concepts: feminism(s), situated knowledge, standpoint epistemology.

Lesson 8

During today’s lecture we will discuss the relevance of violence for the construction of political communities. Also, we will explore the meaning of memory for the contemporary political outlook and dynamics of a certain society. While we take as starting point military dictatorships that developed in South America during the 1970s, we will bring the discussion in contemporary times by underlining the persisting presence of militaristic logic in the construction and maintenance of social orders in both Latin America and Southeast Europe. In order to prepare for this class please watch the videos ‘The right to live in peace’, ‘Where does the violence begin’, and ‘I write Rap with R for Revolution’, and read the text ‘Knjizevnost i kultura sjecanja’. 

Key concepts: military state, violence and political community, memory politics.

Lesson 9

In this lecture we will explore the ‘pedagogy of the oppressed’, theoretical and methodological approach to education developed by Brazilian critical pedagogist Paulo Freire. The main focus of the session will be to explore how this theoretical approach can be applied for understanding the high school protest in both Chile and Bosnia-Herzegovina. We will also examine the meaning of the school as a central element of the state’s ideological apparatus. With this in mind, we will investigate how the school protests entered into the communication with the state structures over the precise definition of the social world and the way in which the political community should be organized. In order to prepare for the class please watch the documentary ‘Chile rising’, the short video ‘Pedagogy of the Oppressed’, the music video ‘The dance of those left behind’, and read the text ‘Obrazovanje i demokracija: Paulo Freire u Jajcu’. 

Key concepts: pedagogy of the oppressed, ideological state apparatus.

Lesson 10

The final lecture will be used to reflect upon what we have done throughout the past two weeks. With this in mind, the guiding line of the analysis will be to look for the ways in which we could think about the realities of Latin America and Southeast Europe together. In order to prepare for the class read the articles ‘What do Bosnia, Brazil and Bulgaria have in common? and ‘Ko ce ovdje sanjati revoluciju’, and try playing the following ‘Nanopesos’ game. Most importantly, bring your questions to the class. Finally, we will organize a small quiz that we have prepared as a group so that we can commemorate the time spent together at MSYP 2020.


Igor Stipić