GHUM 252: Latin America - Home

bienvenidos, bem-vindo - You have arrived at my home page for GHUM 252: Latin American Cultures and Identities. These pages are designed to offer information, answer questions you may have about the course, and provide some resources for your introduction to the diverse peoples, cultures and history of Latin America. If you have any questions about the course or site or suggestions please do not hesitate to discuss them with me.

My office is in Jackson Hall room 209. Office hours are Wednesday 10:00-12:00 and 1:30 to 3:30. I will also meet with you by appointment at an other time if those times conflict with your schedule. My office phone is 568-7318 and my email is

Course Description - Dr. Kristen McCleary and I designed this course together to introduce students to the vast complexity that makes up the region now known as Latin America. We want you to learn about the many cultures of Latin America by gaining an understanding of the historical background of the various strains, ways of knowing, and types of expressions that contributed to local and regional cultures that emerged in Latin America. Together we will trace the transformation of cultural forms from before the period of contact between the old and new worlds, through the time of colonial rule, in to the present. You will learn to apply appropriate methods of analysis to interpret basic cultural forms and periods through an examination of literature, music, dance, artistic expressions, culinary arts, and religious practices. You and your fellow students will analyze and discuss assigned works in class, and work together to develop a better understanding of the complex region and its peoples.

Student Responsibilities - There are no formal discussion sections for this class though participation is an important part of your success and that of the class. The structure of class time will vary from day to day and will consist of conversations, small group discussions, and other activities. Most days will include a mixture of lectures and other types of work mentioned above, some days will be devoted to relating the readings to other class work.
The readings and time in class will be a mix of not only factual information about the people and cultures of Latin America but will also include interpretations and ways of understanding complex issues. For these reasons it is important that you attend class and keep up with the readings. You will be held responsible for the materials covered in class and in the readings.

Policies - Late papers will be penalized unless you obtain prior approval (one half grade per day). I will only accept papers in the specified format unless you obtain prior approval.
Attendance will not be taken regularly but a substantial portion of your grade depends on your engagement with the class. If you choose to attend infrequently it will negatively impact your grade.
In class I expect you to be attentive, participate, and contribute towards creating a scholarly environment.

Students are responsible for registering for classes and for verifying their class schedules on e-campus.
The deadline for adding a Fall Semester class without instructor and academic unit head signatures is Tuesday, September 2, 2008. Between Wednesday, September 3, 2008 and Thursday, September 11, 2008, instructor and academic unit head signatures are required to add a class for Fall Semester 2008.
No student will be allowed to register for a Fall Semester class after Thursday, September 11, 2008. No exceptions will be made to these deadlines.

Writing is essential. It is the general policy of the history department that instructors should help students improve their writing skills and to understand that there is a direct relationship between thinking clearly and writing clearly. Here's how I'll evaluate (i.e. grade) your writing:
1) Focus on the issue (does the writing deal with the problem?)
2) Evidence (does it support its position with adequate data?)
3) Coherence (does the argument develop its points systematically?)
4) Scope (does it deal with all aspects of the question?)

I encourage you to study together; however, you are bound by the Honor Code in taking exams and in writing your papers. As per university guidelines, students must sign the Honor Code on all papers and exams in order to have the grade received officially recorded. Please consult with me if you have any questions about the Honor Code.
I expect you to be courteous to each other. In a large class, manners are especially important.

COURTESY DURING CLASSES. It is disruptive to others to arrive late to class or to leave early. Do not do it. If you know that you will have to leave class early, sit near the door so that you can exit as quietly as possible. If you arrive late, enter quietly and take the nearest seat. Also, please turn off all phones, and other electronic devices.
COURTESY IN DEBATE. Disagreement is an important part of intellectual discussion, and arguing out issues is critical to a university education. Therefore, you should expect to disagree with the ideas or opinions of others, especially in class discussions. Please always disagree in a respectful manner. Treat others as you would like to be treated.

Assignments and grading -

Writing assignment = 25%
This consists of a short research paper [5 to 6 pages] on a topic of your choice related to Latin America, a specific country in Latin America, or a particular group or type of cultural expression. Topics need to be approved. You must submit a topic prospectus to me no later than Oct 23. The prospectus should be a paragraph briefly sketching out your idea for the paper that includes a tentative thesis and a short list of some of the sources you intend to use. Your paper should incorporate 3 to 5 appropriate sources for your topic that may include books, journal articles, newspapers or other media. I strongly encourage you to use spanish or portuguese language resources if you have the language skills (even if you are just learning now!) The purpose of the prospectus is to act as a consultation so that I can assist you in finding a project with which you can succeed and so that I can help you identify sources. Start early and talk to me about the paper if you have any doubts or uncertainties.
Reading Journal 20%
You must write a reaction to one of the readings every week. Your comments can vary but should show your engagement with the material in some way. You can write a personal reaction but you should go beyond shock or surprise to raise questions and/or propose answers about the materials you are reading. Your responses should be no more than a paragraph or two per week unless otherwise directed. I will collect a few random journals every week so you need to bring your journal with you to class every day. You should have at least one entry by Thursday (class time) of the second week of the semester. I will mark the reactions with a check (√) system as follows: a check means you did a good or satisfactory job; a check plus is outstanding (I don’t give many of these for reactions/responses); a check minus means there are some issues that need to be addressed and you should pay attention to my comments and you also might consider meeting with me.
In addition to the reading responses I will also assign a few longer writing assignments (specific reactions or responses) from time to time during the semester.
Participation = 15%
Mid-term Exam = 20%
Final Exam = 20%