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HSTLAC 280 A: Drug Wars In Latin America

Protestor carrying a sign that reads "We are made to disappear"
Meeting Time: 
TTh 1:30pm - 3:20pm
SMI 407
Ileana Rodriguez-Silva
Ileana Rodriguez-Silva

Syllabus Description:


Any mention of the Drug War or the Drug Trade immediately conjure images of unrestrained violence, corruption, and criminality in Latin America. That is, once again countries south of the US border are depicted in global news outlets and popular media as inherently chaotic and self-destructive. This course will take on a historical reading of the local, regional, and global politics and economic dynamics that render certain mood-altering substances as legal while others are subjected to serious state surveillance or are outright criminalized at different moments in time. The class explores the business side of the Trade and the War against it, especially in the twentieth century, to unearth the forces of production, market, transportation, investment, and consumption that make these endeavors so profitable. We will elucidate how this so-called informal economy is, in fact, well entrenched within longstanding, powerful institutions such as political parties, elected officials, militaries, police, corporations (real state, hydroelectrics, mining, forestry), and banking and finance organizations, all with extended transnational links. We will be asking, who are ultimately benefiting from the apparent mayhem? Simultaneously, we will pay attention to the racialized, classed, and gender logics that infuse meaning into these processes.The drug war indeed has unleashed terror and death. It has led to dispossession, migration, and family disintegration, shaping everyday life in fundamental ways. For others, it has afforded upward mobility, authority, and consumption power. We will have the opportunity to explore forms of cultural expression that register these transformations and its affects (i.e. fear, disorientation, frustration) as well as has contributed to the production of new ethics and aspirations.

This course includes a mix of lectures with weekly seminar-style discussions based on assigned books and articles. Assessment hinges primarily on class participation, weekly reading reflections, two exams, and a 12-page final paper.

Catalog Description: 
Analyses "War on Drugs" in Latin America as political, economic, and socio-cultural construct. Investigates local, regional and global dynamics rendering some mood-altering substances as legal while subjecting others to prohibitionist policies at different historical times. Explores racial, class and gender logics shaping these processes. Examines how informal economies are well entrenched within longstanding, transnational institutions.
GE Requirements: 
Diversity (DIV)
Individuals and Societies (I&S)
Last updated: 
December 2, 2019 - 5:12pm