Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Latin American Revolutions syllabus, Fall 2013

Latin American Revolutions: Causes, Consequences, Myths and Memories

Professor Patrick Iber
Fall 2013 / Wed. 10-12AM / 3104 Dwinelle

This course will examine the causes, consequences, and legacies of Latin America’s major revolutions of the twentieth century. It will focus on the violent social revolutions of Mexico, Cuba, and Nicaragua, as well as equally important experiments in social change in Guatemala, Chile, and contemporary Venezuela. We will put these revolutions in comparative perspective, and use more personal reflections made through memoirs and film to examine their effects on people who experienced them.  We will try to understand what why these revolutions occurred, what they changed in the societies that experienced them, and in what ways they satisfied and disappointed those who fought for change.

Course requirements

Your grade will be based on the following:

20% participation. Active participation in class is essential; our learning will be richest as more of you become involved in the conversation and debate. You should complete all readings before we meet, attend very week, and be an active participant in discussion. If you know in advance that you will miss a day, you should clear it with the instructor by email. Since we will be a large class, it is important to note that your participation will be esteemed on the basis of its quality, courtesy, and thoughtfulness, not on its quantity.

20% weekly responses. Each week you should bring a brief written response, on the order of 250-350 words, to class. Use that space to reflect on the most significant ideas of the reading, or that which you found most surprising or puzzling. You should end your paragraphs by posing a question that you would like to take up during class. These assignments will be collected and given a credit / no credit mark. You can skip one week without penalty.

20% Short paper. Prompts for a short, 4-5-page paper based on the early readings will be distributed in class on October 2nd. It will be due in class the following week, October 9th.

40% final paper, 8-10 pages. Your final paper will be short research paper, of between 2000 and 2500 words. You should consult books and articles outside of those used in class with the goal of exploring in depth a topic related to the major themes of the class. A brief paragraph explaining your plans for the final are due in class on November 27th. For those students expecting to enroll in a History 101 course this spring or next year, you may choose to write a paper prospectus instead of this research paper. The prospectus should lay out the major question of your research, the primary sources you will consult, and begin to address the historiography on the topic. If you are planning to choose this option instead of the research paper, you should talk directly with the instructor in advance. The final papers are due on December 18th.

Course texts:

John Womack, Zapata and the Mexican Revolution, New York, Vintage, 1970, $19.

Gil Joseph and Jürgen Buchenau, Mexico’s Once and Future Revolution: Social Upheaval and the Challenge of Rule since the Late Nineteenth Century, Durham: Duke University Press, 2013, $20. Please note that this book will be published on September 4, 2013.

Stephen Schlesinger and Stephen Kinzer, Bitter Fruit: The Story of the American Coup in Guatemala, Boston: David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies, 2005, $21.

Nick Cullather, Secret History: The CIA’s Classified Account of Its Operations in Guatemala 1952-1954, Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2006, $19.

Aviva Chomsky, A History of the Cuban Revolution, Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010, $20.

Reynaldo Arenas, Before Night Falls: A Memoir, New York: Penguin, 1994, $16.

Peter Winn, Weavers of Revolution: The Yarur Workers and Chile’s Road to Socialism, New York, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989, $45.

Stephen Kinzer, Blood of Brothers: Life and War in Nicaragua, Boston: David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies, 2007, $18.

Gioconda Belli, The Country Under my Skin: A Memoir of Love and War, New York: Anchor, 2003, $17.

George Ciccariello-Maher, We Created Chávez: A People’s History of the Venezuelan Revolution, Durham: Duke University Press, 2013.

Francisco Toro and Juan Cristobal Nagel, Blogging the Revolution: Caracas Chronicles and the Hugo Chávez Era, Cognitio, 2013, $25. (I recommend the Kindle edition at $9.)

To get good advice on what I will be looking for from your reading and writing, I recommend the following resources:


Week 1, September 4: Framework and Introduction to the Course

To read and discuss during class:

Alan Knight, “Social Revolution: A Latin American Perspective,” Bulletin of Latin American Research 9, no. 2 (1990): 175-202.

Week 2, September 11: Mexico, Week 1

Womack, Zapata and the Mexican Revolution

Week 3, Sep. 18: Mexico, Week 2

Gil Joseph and Jurgen Buchenau, Mexico’s Once and Future Revolution


Week 4, Sep. 25:

Schlesinger and Kinzer, Bitter Fruit

Week 5, Oct. 2:

Nick Cullather, Secret History

Week 6, Oct. 9: Che:

Short paper due in class. There is no additional reading this week.

Movie in class: The Motorcycle Diaries

Week 7, Oct 16: Cuba, Part I

Aviva Chomsky, A History of the Cuban Revolution

Week 8, Oct 23: Cuba, Part II

Reynaldo Arenas, Before Night Falls

Week 9, Oct 30: Chile

Peter Winn, Weavers of Revolution

Week 10, Nov 6: Nicaragua, Part I

Stephen Kinzer, Blood of Brothers

Week 11, Nov 13: Nicaragua, Part II

Giaconda Belli, The Country Under My Skin

Week 12, Nov. 20: Venezuela, Part I

George Cicchariello-Maher, We Created Chávez

Week 13, Nov. 27: Venezuela, Part I [Wednesday before Thanksgiving]

Frontline Documentary: The Hugo Chávez Show

If you cannot make it to class, you should watch the documentary online at http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/hugochavez/view/

Final paper plans due.

Week 14, Dec. 4: Venezuela, Part II

Jon Lee Anderson, “Slumlord,” New Yorker, 28 January 2013, pp. 40-51.

Francisco Toro and Juan Cristóbal Nagel, Blogging the Revolution, [selections]

Final papers due December 18th.

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