CLAS is excited to share ten new Latin America & Caribbean Studies (LACS) courses, offered across disciplines, for Autumn 2020. For a full course list of all LACS courses for Autumn, click here.



  • Courses are listed in numerical order by the LACS course number.
  • Cross-lists are noted in parentheses.
  • All courses listed here count toward the LACS Major/Minor course requirements, unless otherwise indicated.
  • Numbering guide:
    • 10000: General education and introductory
    • 20000: Intermediate or advanced undergraduate
    • 30000, 40000, 50000+: Graduate or professional school
    • 20000/30000: Mixed undergraduate/graduate

LACS 21720 (FREN  21720)

Histoire, superstitions et croyances dans le roman francophone contemporain
Michele Kenfack
TR 1:00–2:20PM

Superstitions and traditional beliefs are an integral part of African and Caribbean cultural identities. Based on myths, legends and proverbs, they were usually passed down orally. This course explores and critically analyzes their literary representations: how do contemporary authors rethink, reframe and rewrite myths and legends that primarily stems from an oral tradition? How are these stories used as a framing device to interrogate contemporary historical events? The course emphasizes cultural and socio-political connections through some close readings and discussions. Readings include texts by Mariama Bâ, René Depestre, Véronique Lordinot, Gisèle Pineau and Véronique Tadjo.

PQ: FREN 20500 or 20503. This is an introductory-level course.


LACS 22520 (SPAN 22520)

Slavery as Metaphor in Latin America
Isabela Fraga
MW 4:10–5:30PM

This course will examine the long-lived trope of slavery as a metaphor-for love, sex, god, and imperial domination-in the Iberian Atlantic from the seventeenth to the late-nineteenth centuries. Focusing on literary, spiritual, and political texts, we will explore the ways in which slavery as a metaphor has informed understandings and conceptions of actual slavery in Ibero-America. What happens when a captive writes a poem about being enslaved to their lover? What does it mean for a slave master to define their relationship to Europe in terms of bondage? How must we read spiritual writings and religious sermons depicting God as a "true master" in slave-holding territories? In addition to these questions, we will analyze the presence of enslaved people in literary texts written by white Creole authors in order to explore how they shape modern conceptions of freedom and whiteness. Readings will include literary texts by Cuban and Brazilian authors, religious sermons, literature written by slaves and former slaves, as well as independentist letters and pamphlets. In addressing the ubiquity of slavery both as a trope and as a concrete system of labor exploitation and capital accumulation, students will be able to better recognize the material implications of cultural artifacts, and to build connections between the Spanish, Portuguese, and Brazilian empires.


LACS 22620 (SPAN 22620)

Food, Culture and Writing in the Early Modern Spanish Atlantic
Daniela Gutierrez Flores
MW 6:30–7:50PM

This class will engage critically with Iberian and Latin American food studies by focusing on iconic everyday food commodities whose history is deeply rooted in colonization, slavery, imperial expansion and evangelization. Students will examine the presence of foods-such as maize, chocolate, sugar, potato and chili- in early modern literature, travel narratives, natural histories and historical documents in order to reflect upon issues like cultural interaction, identity formation and difference in the context of the Spanish Empire. We will read texts such as those by Fernández de Oviedo, Inca Garcilaso de la Vega and Guamán Poma, as well as unpublished recipes and cookbooks. We will also engage with hands-on research and reconstruction of early modern recipes to gain insight into historical techniques and materials. Early modern sources will be put in dialogue with contemporary issues like gastronomic prestige, food justice and sustainability. In doing so, students will be provided with critical tools to analyze the political, economic, gender and racial implications of contemporary discourses of food.


LACS 23083/LACS 32335 (ANTH 23083, ANTH 32335, GLST 23083, HMRT 23083)

A Latin American Anthropology of Violence and Conflict in Latin America
Erin McFee
Tr 2:40–4:00PM

This course explores the dynamics of conflict and organized violence in Latin America through a combination of Latin American fiction and documentary films and ethnographic and other relevant research. The following are some of the interrelated topics that we will cover, which draw primarily from scholars not only of Latin America, but also in Latin America: non-state armed groups, transnational criminal networks, international cooperation and humanitarian intervention, human rights abuses and activism, gendered experiences of violence and its aftermath, and the state. We will begin our work in contemporary conversations about these topics throughout the region and weave in readings from the globally dispersed foundational thinkers who have informed these conversations. Students will develop a case study of their choosing over the quarter and receive in-class instruction on forming and managing effective writing groups to facilitate their projects. Significant flexibility is also possible for those who want to incorporate their coursework into the development of a larger research project.

PQ: Course materials and discussions will be in both Spanish and English; Spanish fluency required.


LACS 26330/36330 (ANTH 26330/36330)

Making the Maya World
Sarah Newman
T 2:40–5:30PM

What do we know about the ancient Maya? Pyramids, palaces, and temples are found from Mexico to Honduras, texts in hieroglyphic script record the histories of kings and queens who ruled those cities, and painted murals, carved stone stelae, and ceramic vessels provide a glimpse of complex geopolitical dynamics and social hierarchies. Decades of archaeological research have expanded that view beyond the rulers and elites to explore the daily lives of the Maya people, networks of trade and market exchange, and agricultural and ritual practices. Present-day Maya communities attest to the dynamism and vitality of languages and traditions, often entangled in the politics of archaeological heritage and tourism. This course is a wide-ranging exploration of ancient Maya civilization and of the various ways archaeologists, anthropologists, linguists, historians, and indigenous communities have examined and manipulated the Maya past. From tropes of long-hidden mysteries rescued from the jungle to New Age appropriations of pre-Columbian rituals, from the thrill of decipherment to painstaking and technical artifact studies, we will examine how models drawn from astrology, ethnography, classical archaeology and philology, political science, and popular culture have shaped current understandings of the ancient Maya world, and also how the Maya world has, at times, resisted easy appropriation and defied expectations.

LACS 26386 (HIST 26321, CRES 26386, ANTH 23003)

Greater Latin America
Diana Schwartz Francisco
TR 9:40–11:00

What is "Latin America," who are "Latin Americans" and what is the relationship among and between places and people of the region we call Latin America, on the one hand, and the greater Latinx diaspora in the US on the other? This course explores the history of Latin America as an idea, and the cultural, social, political and economic connections among peoples on both sides of the southern and eastern borders of the United States. Students will engage multiple disciplinary perspectives in course readings and assignments and will explore Chicago as a crucial node in the geography of Greater Latin America. Some topics we will consider are: the origin of the concept of "Latin" America, Inter-Americanism and Pan-Americanism, transnational social movements and intellectual exchanges, migration, and racial and ethnic politics.

Note: Students enrolled in this course will be able to complete all requirements of this course remotely. In-person elements of this course will be optional.


LACS 29007 (HIST 29007, AMER 29007, CRES 29007)

Capitalism and Revolution in the Atlantic World
Oliver Cussen
TR 1:00-2:20PM

What was the relationship between the "Age of Revolutions" and the rise of capitalism? This course places the social and political upheavals in France, Haiti, and the Americas between 1776 and 1821 in the context of broader developments in the long eighteenth century, including innovations in finance (debt, credit, banks, corporations), the expansion of overseas commerce and colonial slavery, and the emergence of Enlightenment political economy. Above all, we will consider the extent to which the institutional and intellectual structures of the world economy determined both the causes and the outcomes of the revolutions. Readings will cover long-standing debates in the scholarship concerning social class and revolution; the imperial origins of national consciousness; humanitarian reform and the abolition of slavery; colonialism and industry; and the legacy of eighteenth-century revolutions in the twenty-first century.


LACS 42103 (ENGL 42103, CMLT 42103,  SPAN 42103)

Hemispheric Studies
Rachel Galvin
W 12:40–3:50PM

This course examines Hemispheric Studies approaches to the literatures and cultures of the Americas, which combines a commitment to comparatism with attention to the specificities of local contexts ranging from the Southern Cone to the Caribbean to North America. Theories drawn from American Studies, Canadian Studies, Caribbean Studies, Latin American Studies, Poetry and Poetics, Postcolonial Studies, and U.S. Latinx Studies will be explored in relation to literature written primarily but not exclusively in the 20th and 21st centuries by writers residing throughout the Americas. We’ll examine recent, innovative studies being published by contemporary scholars working with Hemispheric methods across several fields. We’ll also consider the politics of academic field formation, debating the theories and uses of a method that takes the American hemisphere as its primary frame yet does not take the U.S. as the default point of departure; and the conceptual and political limitations of such an approach. No knowledge of Spanish, French, or Portuguese is required.


LACS 42310 (FREN 42310, CMLT 42310,  PORT 42310, SPAN 42310)

World Literatures in Dialogue: Latin American and Francophone Perspectives
Khalid Lyamlahy & Victoria Saramago
MW 1:50–3:10PM

This course aims to explore the major debates that have surrounded the concept of “world literature” in both Latin American and Francophone contexts. Building upon a wide range of critical works (Said, Casanova, Damrosch, Apter, Moretti), it highlights the significance of the concept of world literature in two different yet equally instructive and often intersecting contexts.
In the French-speaking world, this course will draw on the Manifesto “Toward a 'World Literature' in French” (2007) signed by eminent writers from areas as diverse as Sub-Saharan Africa (Mabanckou, Waberi), North Africa (Ben Jelloun, Sansal), Indian Ocean islands (Ananda Devi, Raharimanana), and the Caribbean (Condé, Laferrière). Some of the key questions that will be studied include the critique of “Francophonie,” the question of multilingualism and its manifestations, and the relationship between world literature and cosmopolitanism.
In a similar vein, the course will explore the expanding corpus of Latin American scholarship on the topic (Kristal, Siskind, Hoyos) in relation to the contributions of Latin American authors (Bolaño, García Márquez, Indiana, Lisboa, Oloixarac). This portion aims to revisit some of the topics and issues present in contemporary scholarship on world literature as they relate to earlier Latin American theory and criticism, and to discuss major contemporary works that directly intervene on world literature debates today.


LACS 56205 (ANTH 56205)

The Human Environment in South America
Alan Kolata, Mareike Winchell
T 1:00-3:50PM

This course examines the reciprocal production of humans and environments over time and space, focusing regionally on the Andean and Amazonian regions of South America. In recent years, a flurry of new scholarship in and about this part of the world interrogates the ways that cosmo-politics (how more-than-humans shape political life), new ontologies (emergent ways of being or forms of existence), and broader collaborative zones of social and environmental worlding interrupt reigning paradigms of human exceptionalism. This course takes up these provocations and links them to an older cannon of ethnographic and ethnological research (and colonial speculation) concerning pre-colonial religiosities, land settlement, property regimes, and exchange networks in South America. Legal, political, and religious histories of indigenous dispossession and resistance, transformation and uplift configured people variously as Indios, idolaters, imperfect Christians, forced laborers, campesinos, and indigenous citizens—in short, in accordance with deeply divided, non-integrationist visions of humanity. Indigenous groups were perceived and presented themselves as combined with and holding telluric attachments to place and land. This distinct human-environment matrix at time dispossessed people, but it has also animated popular movements for indigenous and peasant rights, territorial sovereignty, and religious freedom.