Teaching Latin America 2019

In January 2019, I teach “Peoples and Cultures of Latin America and the Caribbean” as a one-month anthropology course at Hartwick College. I first taught this as a one-month J-Term course in 2009, and I first blogged about it in a 2012 teaching post. That post became part of a series which includes the 2016 Teaching Latin America and Caribbean Anthropology and the Final Student Projects as well as the May 2013 “Anthropologists Studying Immigration in the United States.”

These posts are all cataloged in the Latin America index tag for the site, which also includes related blog-posts such as (most recently) a query on how to write an introductory anthropology textbook for undergraduates in Brazil.

I am excited to revisit this class, but also quite nervous. I last taught the class in 2016–in the intervening years, I took students to Bolivia during J-Term and was on sabbatical. Also, the compressed one-month format makes things pretty intense. (Here is the ANTH 237 Course Outline.)

Books for teaching Latin America anthropologically

In the 2016 version of this course, I taught with the Harry Sanabria textbook Anthropology of Latin America and the Caribbean. However, this textbook, originally published in 2005 was already getting pretty dated. At first I was excited to learn that there is a second edition coming out from Routledge. And while for a bit it looked like it would be ready for my January class, it now seems to be forthcoming in April 2019.

What this did give me an opportunity to do was to revisit what I had originally wanted to use as my textbook back in 2012, Deborah Poole’s edited A Companion to Latin American Anthropology. At the time, this book was only available as a very expensive hardcover. Now, the price has come into an acceptable range. It’s a promising and unique resource. Of course, these selections will now need quite a few updates. My plan is to mobilize students to find relevant updates and supplements, by tracking out what has happened in that country or region; what the anthropologist or researcher has done since writing that article; and checking out related films, short videos, or music.

Books for teaching the Caribbean historically

Over the years I’ve rotated a number of books through teaching Latin America. Since this year the Poole Companion is basically a reader that will open onto other materials, I am limiting the books to two that have worked well. I still find Matthew Restall’s Seven Myths of the Spanish Conquest (see this extended 2013 blog-post on Indigenous Allies and the Politics of Empire). I remain annoyed that Restall sees his revisionist history as allied to Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs, and Steel, as Restall’s work thoroughly up-ends Diamond’s deterministic account. Nevertheless, Restall’s main points remain useful.

I am also continuing to use Three Ancient Colonies: Caribbean Themes and Variations by Sidney Mintz. Although Three Ancient Colonies is hardly Mintz’s most famous (or hard-hitting) work, I find the retrospective, historical, and story-telling aspects to be quite effective.

Please let me know what you think in the comments below. Suggestions welcome!

Resources on Teaching Latin America 2019

On Facebook, got some great feedback from Rodrigo Bandelj Ruiz:

There are plenty of resources that you could possibly include and many local anthropologists that you might wanna look at. For instance, for understanding not only the anthropological work in Latin America but the historical reality a recommendable work is that of Everyday Forms of State Formation: Revolution and the Negotiation of Rule in Modern Mexico. Pablo Gonzales Casanova and his Internal Colonialism. Bonfil Batalla and his Mexico Profundo. Also, Lins Ribeiro is a really good source when looking at Brazil as well as Darcy Ribeiro. In Bolivia, Silvia Ribera for feminist scholarship.

There is a really good book (philosophy) but essentially good for anthropologist trying to understand modernity in Latin American context, that is Bolívar Echeverria: La modernidad de lo Barroco. However as it is in Spanish there is a text in English written by one of Bolívar’s friends, Critical Marxism in Mexico by Stefan Gandler. This last book will work very well in understanding Latin America. Also, Marcello Carmagnani and his The Other West, as well as almost any book of Angel Palerm or Serge Grusinzki. There are many others, but Spanish is the main language. I hope those can be useful as sometimes it is good to make a text compilation for class rather than a book which comprises some articles. I am glad to help colleagues trying to understand the place I am from.

For an available online syllabus, I am finding useful this Winter 2018: Anthropology of Latin America course by Professor Nancy Postero. Postero is the author of the 2017 The Indigenous State: Race, Politics, and Performance in Plurinational Bolivia. Also helpful is the May 2015 Latin America: People, Places, and Power by Professor Nia Parson. Parson is the author of the 2013 Traumatic States: Gendered Violence, Suffering and Care in Chile.

From Twitter, Valentina Pellegrino writes: “Alcida Rita Ramos! Her take on indigenism is impressive, Fernando Coronil and Luis Guillermo Vasco to understand activist anthropology.” Alcida Rita Ramos does appear in the Companion to Latin American Anthropology with a chapter titled “Disengaging Anthropology.” This blog has collected some tributes to the late Fernando Coronil. I will also hope to incorporate work by Luis Guillermo Vasco when we read “Colombia: Citizens and Anthropologists” by Myriam Jimeno in the Companion.


To cite: Antrosio, Jason. 2018. “Teaching Latin America 2019.” Living Anthropologically website, https://www.livinganthropologically.com/teaching-latin-america-2019/. First posted 18 December 2018.

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