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download pdfRace and Ethnicity in Latin America (JINS 338)

Spring 2017, Truman State University
BT 2224, MWF 2:30-3:20
Office: MC 227

Marc Becker
Office Hours: typically MWF 12:30-1:15 & W 4-5:30
Phone: x6036

How have Latin Americans constructed and interpreted racial, ethnic, class, and gender identities and ideologies? We will begin this course with a theoretical discussion of race, class, and gender, and then proceed to an evaluation of how they intersect and influence each other in a Latin American context. How do these identities help us understand Latin American history and culture? What functions have these identities played in Latin American societies, and how have they influenced cultural, economic, and political developments? How have the intersections of these identities contributed to the emergence of new forms of identity that contribute to the rich diversity that is Latin America? Throughout this entire process we will constantly critique our assumptions of these categories in order to understand better the purposes they play in society.

Junior Interdisciplinary Writing Enhanced Seminar
This course focuses on intersections between disciplines, and interrogates their assumptions on race, class, and gender. We will emphasize the political and social roles that race, class and gender have played in Latin America, examine how various disciplines have interpreted these political and social changes, and then use this critique in order to reflect on the roles of race, class and gender in our own societies. Upon completion of this course, students should be able to demonstrate knowledge of how content from several disciplines interacts through classroom discussion, written reactions to the readings, and other assignments. Our goal is to transcend dichotomies that pit disciplines against each other and instead move toward an integrated synthesis that reflects the benefits of utilizing the tools of various disciplines to understand a problem.

Writing Enhanced
This is a writing-enhanced course, which means that writing is central to the seminar, and that we will emphasize cognition, process, and product. Cognition is not an isolated process, but rather an integral, active part of our activities. This class will emphasize writing as a process and will encourage both deep reflection on and deep revision of student writings. Written assignments in this class require students to write for a variety of audiences including private reflective essays on identity, collaborate essays to inform classmates, and analytical essays that portray higher levels of thought.

Following are the required books for this class. Several additional articles will also be posted to Blackboard. Read the assignments before class so that you are prepared to carry on an intelligent discussion of the material in class.

Gates, Henry Louis. Black in Latin America. New York: New York University Press, 2011. ISBN: 9780814738184
Lesser, Jeff. Immigration, Ethnicity, and National Identity in Brazil, 1808 to the present. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013. ISBN: 9780521145350
Wade, Peter. Race: An introduction. Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2015. ISBN: 9781107652286
Wearne, Phillip. Return of the Indian: Conquest and Revival in the Americas. Philadelphia [Pa.]: Temple University Press, 1996. ISBN: 1-56639-501-1

Assignments and grades
Course grades will be based on the following assignments. You can check your grade progress on the class Blackboard web page (grades are calculated out of a total of 1000 possible points, and not the percentage of completed assignments as displayed in Blackboard). Assignments are due at the beginning of class, and I do not accept “drop and run” papers or papers submitted without the physical presence of the student. Grades on late assignments will be penalized 10 percent for each day that they are late. You are free to submit assignments electronically, but I will not acknowledge receipt nor provide feedback on such submissions. You may verify receipt and grade on Blackboard. Successful completion of all assignments is required to receive credit for this class.

Assignment                                                                                         Points
Identity self-awareness study                                                            100
Home discipline handout                                                        100
Response papers                                                                    500
Participation                                                                           100
Race and ethnicity essay                                                        200

Identity self-awareness study. This essay asks you to reflect on the construction of identities through an examination of your own identity. See below for more information on this assignment.

Home discipline handout. We will break the class into groups according to discipline. Discuss what holds a discipline together (subject matter, methodology, shared assumptions, theories, concepts, ideas), who do practitioners of that discipline do or study, and what topics or issues related to race, class and gender in Latin America might one study using that discipline. Write up a handout on how your discipline views these issues for posting to Blackboard and present it to the class. See below for a list of suggested epistemological questions to consider in this essay, but do not write the handout simply as answers to the questions.

Response papers: Prepare a one-page typed response to each day’s reading. Identify the author’s main arguments and disciplinary assumptions, and examine the use of sources, methodology, and theory. Provide your own assessment or critique of the readings, including how effectively each author engages issues of race and ethnicity. In writing your essays:

  • Identify one main point in the reading that strikes you as most interesting or important
  • Don’t just summarize the contents—exploring significance is more important
  • Be sure to engage the entire reading
  • Acknowledge authorship, especially since I want you to engage the authors’ main arguments and the evidence that they use, their use of sources, methodology, and theory
  • Be sure to provide your own assessment or critique of the readings.

Discussion questions: For each class period post one question or discussion topic related to the readings to the class google drive ( If a document for that reading does not already exist, please create a new one. If someone else has already raised the theme you planned to post, it is perfectly fine to expand on that post. Please clearly label your contribution with your name.

Discussion leaders: For each class period, one student will sign up on the class google drive ( to lead the discussion (organize the discussion questions into a logical flow) and another to moderate discussion (run stack) to assure that everyone has equal space to speak.

Participation: This is a discussion-based class. Exchange of ideas, personal thoughts, arguments, and perspectives is the central benefit of the class format. We are not here to impress one another, but to engage in an honest dialogue about crucial issues. Please be mindful that we may not all have the same level of expertise, and that everyone's unique perspectives are of equal importance. We need to respect one another while challenging alternative perspectives. As you cannot participate in discussion if you are not present, unexcused absences will be taken out of your participation grade. Inappropriate use of electronics during class will also negatively affect the participation grade. Discussion will be graded at the end of the semester based on the following criteria:

  • Depth and content: participation beyond mere opinions; keeping discussion open for further development; ask yourself: can peers respond to my comments?
  • Consistency: daily engaged involvement; paying attention to the comments of others
  • Leadership: encouraging peers to participate; being prepared to discuss that day’s readings (and how they relate to those of previous class periods)
  • References: to readings, experiences, and/or past discussions

Race and ethnicity essay: How have your views on race and ethnicity changed throughout this course? This final essay should draw on the readings from this class, be typed, double-spaced, about 20 pages long, and include citations, a bibliography, and page numbers.

Introductory readings

Templeton, Alan R. "Biological races in humans." Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 44, no. 3 (September 2013): 262-71.
Mills, C. Wright. "The Sociology of Stratification." In Power, Politics and People: The Collected Essays of C. Wright Mills, edited by Irving Louis Horowitz, 305-23. New York: Oxford University Press, 1963.
Scott, Joan W. "Gender: A Useful Category of Historical Analysis." American Historical Review 91, no. 5 (December 1986): 1053-75.
Bakewell, Peter. "Colonial Latin America." In Latin America, Its Problems and Its Promise: A multidisciplinary introduction, edited by Jan Knippers Black, 77-85. Boulder Colo.: Westview Press, 2011.
Conniff, Michael. "Latin America Since Independence: An Overview." In Latin America, Its Problems and Its Promise: A multidisciplinary introduction, edited by Jan Knippers Black, 86-98. Boulder Colo.: Westview Press, 2011.

Final Exam:   Thursday, May 11, 1:30-3:20

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