With Roosbelinda Cardenas

This course explores central topics in contemporary Latin American society and politics by reading recent ethnographic works. The course does a very brief historical introduction to the region and then moves on to analyze current issues by focusing on how historical landscapes of difference and inequality are challenged and reproduced. Our entry point will be the neoliberal turn, which began in the 1970s Chile and continued throughout most of Latin America in the 80s and 90s. In order to get a firm grasp on the term, we will devote significant time to a broad theoretical discussion of “neoliberalism.” We will then turn to situated ethnographies that provide a more in-depth portrait of how neoliberalism has transformed various facets of rural and urban life in Latin America including agrarian politics, the state, violence, democratization, immigration, as well as the impact of all of these on racial, gender, and class (in)equality. Towards the end of the course, we will consider some of the ways in which social actors in the region have begun to resist or circumvent neoliberal hegemony and, in the process, constructed what some are calling post-neoliberalism or even anti-neoliberalism. Unlike its predecessor, post-neoliberalism is not a cohesive political project but rather a fragmented and uneven set of responses and propositions. Hence, this final part of the course will necessarily be more exploratory. Part of our challenge will be figuring out what kind of change is taking place in Latin America today.

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