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HSTLAC 185 A: Race, Gender, and Class in Latin America and the Caribbean

Meeting Time: 
TTh 1:30pm - 3:20pm
JHN 102
Ileana Rodriguez-Silva
Ileana Rodriguez-Silva

Syllabus Description:


The multiple regions and peoples comprised under the rubric of “Latin America” or the “Caribbean” are too vast and complex to cover in any survey course. Facing this insurmountable task, we can only aspire to gain an overview of significant historical processes that have marked the individuals and communities inhabiting and passing through these varied landscapes.

The first half of the course focuses on the workings and reproduction of colonial society. While we will explore pre-conquest polities in the American, European, and African continents with some detail, we will concentrate our efforts on studying the formation of the Portuguese and Spanish macro-polities comprising the disparate geographical areas and peoples of the Iberian Peninsula, Western coast of Africa, the Mediterranean, Asia, and the Americas. We will place particular attention to the Spanish and Portuguese endeavors in the Americas to govern, economically exploit, and morally/culturally shape the lives of Native communities, African enslaved peoples, colonizers of various backgrounds, and their racially mixed offspring. Simultaneously, we will explore the myriad of ways in which peoples challenged, subverted, or simply negotiated in their everyday life the regimes of rule imposed upon them.

The second half of our course focus on the processes of Independence and the tribulations of building modern nation-states out of previously colonized territories. Like earlier colonial subjugation, the “nation” was another arrangement to organize power and has led to continuous struggles–often, violent ones—about the terms of inclusion and exclusion. The search for “progress” and “modernity,” later the need for “development through industrial modernization,” and recently the call for globalization  and “free trade” have legitimized the continuing subjugation of large sectors of the Indigenous, Black, poor, women, and LGBT+ populations in the Americas. These innovations in subjugation, the new forms of colonialism, have unleashed severe social upheavals, political processes through which subordinated and racialized populations have forged impressive alternative models of sociability. Concomitantly, we will investigate the Liberal forms of imperial subjugation that emerged in the Americas since late nineteenth-century: i.e. the U.S. and the financial institutions supporting global capitalism. These conflicts mentioned above remain at the heart of present-day social movements in these spaces. 

Student evaluation is comprised of reading quizzes, discussion boards, few short writing assignments, and mid-term and final exercises. As of now, the university is planning for in-person instruction so we should plan for lecture meeting times twice a week with discussion sections on Fridays led by a Teaching Assistant. If in need to move virtually, we will make changes to our format in order to make it a combination of pre-recorded lectures and required Friday virtual meetings.


This course counts as a foundations class for the Diversity Minor. It means that students who pursue the Diversity Minor would have to earn only 20 more credits to satisfy its requirements. For more information about this opportunity, contact Lorna T. Hamill, academic advisor of the Diversity Minor Program ( and/or visit:

Catalog Description: 
Explores the power struggles generated by imperial expansion, colonialism, and processes of nation-formation (1400 to the present) in the forging of Latin America and the Caribbean. Examines how gender, race, sex, and class became crucial means to sustain, navigate, and challenge domination as well as to imagine alternative futures.
GE Requirements: 
Diversity (DIV)
Individuals and Societies (I&S)
Last updated: 
May 1, 2021 - 7:22am