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Social Movements in Latin America (LAS 274)

Spring 1999, Gettysburg College
Wiedensall Hall 401, MWF 1:10-2:00
Office: 413 Wiedensall Hall
Marc Becker
Office Hours: MWF 11:00-12:00
Phone: 337-6296


Citizenship in Latin America has traditionally been highly exclusionary. From Independence well into the twentieth century, only white, wealthy males were allowed to participate in society. How has the other 97% of the population (Indians and Africans, poor people, and women) struggled to overcome the economic and political barriers which prevented their full participation in society? What is the nature of popular responses to authoritarian political systems in societies where power, wealth, and prestige are excessively polarized?

This course examines contemporary social movements in Latin America. How have common people attempted to break down systems of domination to create a more inclusionary and empowered society? We will explore the successes and failures of a variety of popular movements, including populism, feminism, Black movements, peasant and Indian movements, urban movements, labor movements, and environmental movements. We will analyze each of these movements from the experiences of the lower classes, ethnic populations, and women. What has been the response of these challenges to civil society?


You are expected and required to attend every class session, and you are responsible for the material covered in the lectures, readings and films, and for any announcements made in class. You will also be required to attend the lectures and films in the Area Studies Symposium (Social Movements in Latin America). Unexcused absences will negatively affect your grade.

If you have suggestions for improving the class, please bring these to my attention. In order to improve the quality and value of the class, through consensus the class can modify the syllabus and assignments. I will post class schedule updates and other information related to the class on the web site. If you have a disability or any conflicts which may affect your class performance, please bring this to my attention immediately so that we can make arrangements for this to be a positive learning experience for you.


There are five required books for this class as well as readings which will be placed on reserve in the library. Read the assignments before class so that you are prepared to carry on an intelligent discussion of the material in class. Lectures will complement the readings and assume the base level of knowledge which they present, so it is critically important that you keep up with the readings.

  • Foweraker, Joe. Theorizing Social Movements. Boulder: Pluto Press, 1995.
  • Harvey, Neil. The Chiapas Rebellion: The Struggle for Land and Democracy. Durham: Duke University Press, 1998.
  • Levine, Robert M. Father of the Poor? Vargas and His Era. Cambridge. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1998.
  • Miller, Francesca. Latin American Women and the Search for Social Justice. Hanover: University Press of New England, 1991.
  • Sinclair, Minor, ed. The New Politics of Survival: Grassroots Movements in Central America. New York: Monthly Review Press, 1995.


This course makes use of a web site and a web-based discussion board ( to extend the scope of the class beyond that of the immediate classroom setting. Class schedule updates, additional information on assignments, study guides, and other resources and information related to the class will be posted to the web site. Please use the discussion board to ask questions, continue class discussions, and as a resource to help you with assignments and exams. You are expected and encouraged to make active use of these resources. Please let me know if you need assistance in using these resources.

Assignments and grades

Course grades will be based on the following assignments. I will place more information on these assignments on the class web page. The two essays are to be three-pages long, typed, double spaced, include citations and a bibliography, and follow good essay form. The format should follow either the MLA or Kate Turabian's A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses and Dissertations. See the guide "The Writing of a Historical Essay or Research Paper" on the class web page for additional advice on the format of your papers. Grades on late assignments will be penalized one-half of a letter grade for each day that they are late.

First essay (10%, February 12). This essay should examine populist forms of government in the first half of the twentieth century. What did these governments seek to accomplish? How successful were they in addressing problems of exclusion and domination?

Midterm exam (10%, March 12). This exam will be part essay and part identification, and will ask you to analyze the social movements we have studied in the first half of the class.

Second essay (10%, April 9). This essay should critique the challenge which feminism in Latin America has presented to traditional concepts of democracy. How have women used their position in society to push political demands? How have these roles varied by their class and ethnic status?

Quizzes (10%). Periodic pop quizzes over the readings.

Symposium reflection papers (10%). Write and post to the discussion board on the class web page a short essay analyzing the lectures in the Area Studies Symposium. These essays should include a paragraph describing the content of the event, and a paragraph reflecting critically on its importance. These are due before the next class period following the event. For extra credit, you may write and post critiques of the other films and performances in the symposium series.

Internet exercise (10%, February 19). Locate and annotate at least five Internet sites related to the topic of your final project (see below). Post this annotated list of sites to the class web page. I will provide technical advice to those who need help with HTML.

Final project (20%). Each student is required to write a research paper on a specific example of a social movement in a Latin American country. The paper must be 8 to 10 pages long, use a minimum of six scholarly sources (books and journal articles), be typed, double spaced, and include citations and a bibliography. I allow a variety of creative alternatives to research projects for this assignment (such as short stories, teaching units, web pages, etc.), but the specific requirements for these must be worked out individually with me. You must read and follow the style guidelines contained in the guide "The Writing of a Historical Essay or Research Paper" which is on the class web page. This project will be developed in a series of stages. You MUST meet every deadline. Failure to do so will result in no credit for the entire final project assignment (20% of course grade).

  • February 8: Library exercise due.
  • March 1: Project proposal, including a paragraph describing your project, the questions you seek to address with the project, a hypothesis of what you expect to find (the thesis statement of your research paper), and a preliminary bibliography of sources that you plan to use.
  • April 16: First (rough) draft of the project, which must include citations and bibliography. I expect this draft to have the form and elements of a formal research paper. The more complete your draft is, the better feedback I can give you and the more likely it will be that you will receive a good grade on the final draft.
  • May 3-5: Oral presentations in class of research project. This will be worth 5% of the course grade, or a fifth of the final project grade. In your presentation, tell us what questions you addressed in your research project, what you expected to find (your thesis), a summary of your actual findings, and your conclusions. Please feel free to include visuals and other materials in your presentation.
  • May 6: Final projects due. When handing in your final draft, please include the copy of the first draft which I corrected. I will return all of this to you at the time of the final exam.

Final exam (20%, Saturday, May 8). This comprehensive exam will be part essay and part identification.

Class Schedule

Jan 22 Introduction

  • Read: Miller, Latin American Women, ch. 1-2.

Jan 25-29 Theories of Social Movements

  • Read: Foweraker, Theorizing Social Movements

Feb 1-5 Populism

  • Tues, Feb 2 "Miracles Are Not Enough: Continuity and Change in Religion" (4 & 8 pm, Musselman Library)
  • Feb 5 Introduction to Library Resources (Meet in LIR 20 in library basement)
  • Read: Levine, Father of the poor?

Feb 8-12 Peasant Movements

  • Feb 8 Library exercise due
  • Tues, Feb 9 "Builders of images: Latin American Cultural Identity" (4 & 8 pm, Musselman Library)
  • Thurs, Feb 11 Rodolfo Stavenhagen, "The Zapatista Rebellion and Its Political Conscequences" (7:30 pm, Lyceum)
  • Feb 12 First essay due
  • Read: Harvey, The Chiapas Rebellion

Feb 15-19 Indian Movements

  • Tues, Feb 16 "Get Up, Stand Up: Problems of Sovereignty" (4 & 8 pm, Musselman Library)
  • Feb 19 Internet exercise due
  • Read: Sinclair, 1-106 (Guatemala)

Feb 22-26 Environmental Movements

  • Tues, Feb 23 "Fire in the Mind: Revolutions and Revolutionaries" (4 & 8 pm, Musselman Library)
  • Thurs, Feb 25 Margaret Kek, "Environmental Movements in Latin America" (7:30 pm, Lyceum)

March 1-5 Immigrant Movements

  • March 1 Final project proposal due
  • Tues, Mar 2 "The Latin American and Caribbean presence in the U.S." (4 & 8 pm, Musselman Library)

March 8-12 Midterm review and exam

March 15-19 Spring Break (no class)

March 22-26 Feminism

  • Thurs, Mar 25 Margarite Guzmán, "The Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo in Argentina" (7:30 pm, Lyceum)
  • Read: Miller, Latin American Women, ch. 3-5.

April 5-9 Urban Movements

  • April 9 Second essay due
  • Read: Sinclair, 109-179 (El Salvador)

April 12-16 Labor Movements

  • April 16 First (rough) draft of final project due
  • Read: Sinclair, 183-291 (Nicaragua)

April 19-23 Black Movements

  • Read: John Burdick, "Brazil's Black Consciousness Movement," NACLA Report on the Americas 25:4 (February 1992): 23-27; John Burdick, "The Lost Constituency of Brazil's Black Movements," Latin American Perspectives 25:1 (January 1998): 136-55. (Reserve)

April 26-30 Guerrilla Movements

  • Read: Miller, Latin American Women, ch. 6-8.

May 3-5 Class Presentations

Thurs, May 6 Final Review and Final projects due

Final Exam: Saturday, May 8, 1:30 - 4:30 p.m.

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