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Sample Syllabus: History 644

HST 644: Latin America Reading Seminar
The College at Brockport, Fall 2008, 105C Brown Bldg. (The Fishbowl), M 6-9:15 pm.
Dr. Anne Macpherson, 138 Brown Building,, 395-5683
Office Hours: M 11:30-12:30, T 2-3, F 9:30-10:30

Course Description
Latin America stands out in world history, first as an isolated region with a distinct pre-1400s human history, then as the first region massively impacted by the imperial expansion of western Europe and the development of modern capitalism, then as the first region of the so-called “Third World” to throw off imperial rule and become “post-colonial,” and finally as the first region to be affected by the United States’ rise to global power status and to resist U.S. influence.
In this seminar we will first read a sweeping text by a leading historian of Latin America (Chasteen) to give us all a solid grounding in the history of the region. We will then read two books on the conquest period and the problems of interpreting colonial documents, one a classic monograph on the Maya (Clendinnen), the other a collection of various historians’ interpretations of the Pueblo revolt (Weber). We then jump to the important late nineteenth/early twentieth century period of peak elite racism in Latin America, which we will examine through a comparative monograph on Mexico, Argentina, and Brazil (Stepan), a classic Brazilian novel (Amado), and a work of historiographical critique focused on Cuba and the United States (Pérez). After a week on the debate between “social science” and “cultural studies” approaches to historical inquiry, we end with two monographs that cover longer stretches of the twentieth century. Each one epitomizes promising trends in current Latin American historiography – a gendered labor history from Chile (Klubock) and an environmental history from Honduras (Soluri). Both are focused on U.S. corporations operating in Latin America.
As an MA reading seminar, HST 644 will consist of weekly group discussion of assigned readings, with extremely minimal lecturing only as needed. There will be individual student presentations of common readings and extra readings (see below). Attendance is the most basic expectation – you should only miss if you are really sick.  


Course Materials
In addition to scanned articles and book chapters available on our course Angel page under Lessons, you will need the following books, in the order listed:  

  1. John Charles Chasteen, Born in Blood and Fire: A Concise History of Latin America 2nd. ed. (Norton 2006) DO NOT BUY THE FIRST EDITION!!
  2. Inga Clendinnen, Ambivalent Conquests: Maya and Spaniard in Yucatan, 1517-1570, 2nd. ed. (Cambridge 2003). DO NOT BUY THE FIRST EDITION!!
  3. David J. Weber, What Caused the Pueblo Revolt of 1680? (Bedford St. Martin’s 1999).
  4. Nancy Leys Stepan, “The Hour of Eugenics”: Race, Gender, and Nation in Latin America (Cornell 1991).
  5. Jorge Amado, Tent of Miracles (Wisconsin 2003) PLEASE GET THIS EDITION!!
  6. Louis A. Pérez, The War of 1898: The United States and Cuba in History and Historiography (UNC 1998).
  7. Thomas Miller Klubock, Contested Communities: Class, Gender, and Politics in Chile’s El Teniente Copper Mine, 1904-1951 (Duke 1998).
  8. John Soluri, Banana Cultures: Agriculture, Consumption and Environmental Change in Honduras and the United States (Texas 2005).



1. General Participation 40%. Group discussion of readings is the wonderful core of HST 644, and all 600-level seminars. If you are new to a History graduate seminar setting, you should know that the expectation is that you finish the week’s reading, are able and willing to demonstrate a knowledge of the author’s arguments and evidence, and that you have a set of analytical questions and opinions about the reading. Together we will share those analyses, listen to each other, debate each other respectfully, and help each other come to deeper insights about both the history and historiography of the week. Students who behave in the following ways repeatedly will see this portion of their grade suffer: silence, repetition of others’ points without adding anything or questioning anything, vagueness, not listening to others or responding disrespectfully to others, dominating discussion and/or directing all comments to the professor instead of to the group, deliberately creating unproductive tangents. Questions about things in the reading that confused you are of course appropriate. I will let you know by midterm how you’re doing on participation.  


2. Leading Common Readings 25%. Each of you will have the opportunity to lead discussion three times during the semester. This means that you do all the common reading but take special responsibility for one part of it. On the nights you sign up for, you will hand in a 3-4 page paper and give a 5 minute presentation. In both written and verbal forms, you must: a) briefly lay out the author’s topic, main arguments, types of sources used (i.e. do not give an extensive summary of the reading), b) offer an analysis of the reading’s strengths and weaknesses, c) briefly state how you think the reading relates to the common reading as a whole. The verbal presentation must in addition end with a provocative question or two aimed at getting group discussion going. Example: “What do you think of the author’s argument that…?” or “Do you agree with my view that the author had insufficient evidence to claim that…?” Not: “Did that battle really happen on that date?” In the past, students who have done best on this assignment have been succinct on a) and given ample room to b) and c).  


3. Presenting Extra Readings 15% Each of you will have one opportunity to present an extra reading to the seminar – please choose from the list in the syllabus. You will hand in a 5-6 page paper and give a 10 minute presentation that cover requirements a) and b) as above but which also make an argument as to how the extra reading sheds light on the common readings. Confirms? Complicates? Challenges? Provides a contrast? Fleshes out? It is not a good idea to lead discussion and present an extra reading on the same night.  


4. Synthesis Papers 20% Due Monday 12/15 by noon. The purpose of this 15-18 page paper is to review the semester’s readings and discussions in order to emerge from the “trees” (case-study details) and see the “forest” (comparative historical and historiographical issues) more clearly. You should not deal with each reading separately in a “book review” format, but rather truly compare and connect through developing a point of view about the authors’ content and methodologies.  You may want to have a distinct section on the conquest period materials. You may certainly enlarge your discussion to include graduate courses you’ve taken on other regions of the world, but this should be limited to the introduction and conclusion of the papers. In short, I’m looking for a thorough grasp of the authors’ arguments, an analysis of those arguments that connects and compares readings in an original way, and excellent organization and prose. Papers MUST be double-spaced, properly footnoted in Chicago style (60-75 footnotes would be about right), numbered in the top right corner of each page, typed in Times New Roman 12-point font with one-inch margins on all sides. Please do not use any kind of folder or cover page; simply type your Banner # at the top of the first page of text. I fully realize that you will not be able to give equal attention to all readings. Please use the intro or early footnotes to explain why you are focusing more on some, less on others, perhaps not at all on a very few. This will show that you have solid analytical reasons for your emphases and are not just letting yourself off the hook!  

Grading Standards




Grades of A and A- are indicative of excellent and very good performance at the master’s level, and a potential for success at the doctoral level. The B+ grade is indicative of good work at the master’s level. The B grade is indicative of barely acceptable/borderline work at the master’s level. Grades of B- or below are indicative of poor work that does not meet graduate expectations. As you should know, a B- average in 500 and 600 level courses will result in dismissal from the program. The biggest challenges for new MA students are: 1) finding methods for reading huge amounts of material in a limited amount of time while developing intelligent things to say about it 2) coming fully to terms with the fact that we are studying as much or more how historians do research and construct interpretations as we are studying “what happened”.

Disability Statement




Students with documented disabilities may be entitled to specific accommodations. SUNY Brockport’s Office for Students with Disabilities makes this determination. Please contact the OSD at 395-5409 or at to inquire about obtaining an official letter to the course instructor detailing approved accommodations. The student is responsible for providing the course instructor with an official letter. Faculty work as a team with the OSD staff to meet the needs of students with disabilities.

Course Schedule (all readings not from the books are on our course Angel page under Lessons)

8/25      Introductions/Syllabus/Sign-ups/Film  


9/1        Labor Day – no class  


9/8        Common reading:
            Chasteen, Born in Blood and Fire, 15-329
- I will model a “leading common readings” presentation & paper on one chapter  


9/15      Common reading:
Clendinnen, Ambivalent Conquests, 3-209 (206 pp., pp. 195-209 are primary documents, see glossary on pp. 210-11)
            - presenter for chapters 1-3
            - presenter for chapters 4-6
            - presenter for chapters 7-8 + epilogue to Part I of book
            - presenter for chapters 9-11
            - presenter for chapters 11-12 + epilogue to Part II of book  


Extra readings:
Inga Clendinnen, “Landscape and World View: The Survival of Yucatec Maya Culture under Spanish Conquest,” Comparative Studies in Society and History 22:3 (July 1980): 374-93.
Inga Clendinnen, “Yucatec Maya Women and the Spanish Conquest,” Journal of Social History (1982), 27-48
Matthew Restall, “He Wished It in Vain’: Subordination and Resistance among Maya Women in Post-Conquest Yucatan,” Ethnohistory 42:4 (Fall 1995), 577-590


9/22      Common reading:
Weber, What Caused the Pueblo Revolt of 1680? (c. 132 pp.)
            - one presenter for Preface, Note for Students, intro, chapters 1
            - one presenter for chapters 2-3
            - one presenter for chapters 4-5




Extra reading:
Roxanne Dunbar Ortiz, “The Roots of Resistance: Pueblo Land Tenure and Spanish
Colonization” Journal of Ethnic Studies 5:4 (c. 1977), 33-53.



9/29      Common readings:
Benedict Anderson, “Creole Pioneers” from Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origins and Spread of Nationalism (rev. ed.), 47-65
John Charles Chasteen, “Introduction: Beyond Imagined Communities” in
Beyond Imagined Communities: Reading and Writing the Nation in Nineteenth-Century Latin America ix-xxi
Partha Chatterjee, “Whose Imagined Community?” 3-13 of The Nation and its Fragments (Princeton 1993)
Florencia Mallon, “Indian Communities, Political Cultures, and the State in Latin America, 1780-1990” Journal of Latin American Studies 24 (1992): 35-53
Nancy Appelbaum, Anne Macpherson, and Karin Rosemblatt, “Racial Nations”, 1-31 from Race and Nation in Modern Latin America (Chapel Hill 2003),
Kim Butler, “The Politics of Culture in Salvador” from Freedoms Given, Freedoms Won: Afro-Brazilians in Post-Abolition São Paulo and Salvador (Rutgers 1998), 41 pp.



Extra readings:
Mark Thurner, “Historicizing the Postcolonial Andean Predicament,” 1-19 of From Two Republics to One Divided: Contradictions of Postcolonial Nationmaking in Andean Peru (Duke, 1997)
Howard Winant, “The Historical Sociology of Race” 19-35 from The World is a Ghetto: Race and Democracy since World War II (Basic Books 2001)



10/6      Common reading:
Nancy Leys Stepan, ‘The Hour of Eugenics’: Race, Gender, and Nation in Latin America, 1-201
                        - presenter for introduction and chapter 1
                        - presenter for chapter 2
                        - presenter for chapter 3
                        - presenter for chapter 4
                        - presenter for chapter 5
                        - presenter for chapters 6 and 7

Extra reading:
Aline Helg, “Race in Argentina and Cuba: 1880-1930: Theories, Policies and Popular Reaction,” 37-69 of Richard Graham, ed. The Idea of Race in Latin America, 1870-1940 (Texas 1990) 

10/13    Midterm break – no class

10/20    Common readings:                                             **Different class location tonight!
Jorge Amado, Tent of Miracles, 3-374 (see glossary on pp. 377-80)
Bobby Chamberlain, “Writer, Social Critic, and Politician,” in Jorge Amado (Boston: Twayne, 1990), 1-15.

            Extra readings:
Daphne Patai, “Jorge Amado’s Heroines and the Ideological Double Standard” in Women in Latin American Literature: A Symposium (U. Mass. Amherst, 1979), 21 pp.
Nelson Vieira, “Hybridity vs. Pluralism: Culture, Race, and Aesthetics in Jorge Amado” in Brower, Fitz and Martínez-Vidal, eds. Jorge Amado: New Critical Essays (Routledge 2001), 20 pp.

10/27    Common readings:
Louis Pérez, The War of 1898: The United States and Cuba in History & Historiography, ix-xiii (just to the three-dot break on xiii) and 1-133 (138 pp.)
                        - presenter for chapters 1-2
                        - presenter for chapters 3
                        - presenter for chapter 4
                        - presenter for chapter 5
            Alejandro de la Fuente, “Race, National Discourse, and Politics in Cuba: An Overview,” Latin American Perspectives 25:3 (1998), 20 pp. + notes and bibliography



11/3      Common readings on social science vs. cultural studies approaches to history (87)

  1. Stephen Haber, “Economic Growth and Latin American Economic Historiography,” from How Latin America Fell Behind: Essays on the Economic Histories of Brazil and Mexico, 1-21
  2. Gilbert Joseph and Daniel Nugent, “Popular Culture and State Formation in Revolutionary Mexico,” from Everyday Forms of State Formation: Revolution and the Negotiation of Rule in Modern Mexico, 1-23
  3. Stephen Haber, “Anything Goes: Mexico’s “New” Cultural History,” Hispanic
         American Historical Review 79:2 (May 1999), 309-330 (HANDOUT)
  4. Florencia Mallon, “Time on the Wheel: Cycles of Revisionism and the ‘New
         Cultural History,” Hispanic American Historical Review 79: 2 (May 1999), 331-353


11/10    Common reading:
Klubock, Contested Communities: Class, Gender and Politics in Chile’s El Teniente Copper Mine, 1904-1951, 1-154
                        - presenter for intro and chapter 1
                        - presenter for chapter 2 
                        - presenter for chapters 3 & 4
                        - presenter for chapter 5




11/17    Common reading:
Klubock, Contested Communities, 155-295
                        - presenter for chapter 6
                        - presenter for chapter 7
                        - presenter for chapter 8
                        - presenter for chapter 9 and conclusion

Extra reading:
Elizabeth Hutchison, “‘El fruto envenenado del arbol capitalista’: Women Workers and the Prostitution of Labor in Urban Chile, 1896-1925,” Journal of Women’s History 9:4 (1998): 131-51

11/24    Common reading:
Soluri, Banana Cultures: Agriculture, Consumption, & Environmental Change in Honduras & The United States,1-127   
                        - presenter for introduction and chapter 1 
                        - presenter for chapter 2
                        - presenter for chapter 3 
                        - presenter for chapter 4           

12/1      Common reading:
Soluri, Banana Cultures, 128-245
                        - presenter for chapters 5 
                        - presenter for chapter 6
                        - presenter for chapters 7 & 8



Final paper due Monday 12/15 – i.e. you have 2 weeks to write if after the last class!


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Last Updated 7/21/10


Our sincere congratulations to Matty Lynn Kuhar who won the 2016 School of the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences Undergraduate Award!

Dr. Alison Parker has been invited to be this year's Harriet Jacobs Lecturer at Purdue University. Her talk is entitled Mary Church Terrell, Black Women, and the Rise of the Democratic Party. 

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History Forum will host Region 11&12 Meeting of the Association of Public Historians of New York State, on 4/30 (Saturday, from 9am to about 4pm) at McCue Auditorium (LAB104).

History Department Graduation Ceremony will be held in New York Room, Cooper Hall, at 10:30 am, May 14 (Saturday).