The Idea of Latin America

Why do we distinguish Latin America as a region? What are the historical processes that led a vast and varied area to be treated as one, unified portion of the globe? And what is the cultural and political significance of such thinking? In this course we will treat Latin America as a discourse, an idea whose origins and permutations are deeply embedded in history. We will explore the question of how the idea of Latin America emerged, and how unique cultural, environmental and political configurations fuelled its growing acceptance. The course will be divided into four units: 1) an introduction; 2) Environment; 3) Language; and 4) The World.

The introduction will present the idea of Latin America and the debates that sustain it. In Unit Two, we will ask how environmental imaginaries were seized upon to argue that the region be considered a unified whole, complete with unique subjectivities and distinct eco-social communities. Unit Three will then consider the role of language and culture, asking how the region’s spoken languages and the language used to speak about the region undergirded projects of conquest, consolidation and resistance. Finally, in Unit Four, we will ask how global historical phenomena were mapped onto local constellations of power and culture and consider some ways in which the idea of Latin America has been resisted by historically marginalized groups.

Language of instruction: English

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