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Race, Class and Gender in Latin America (JINS 338)

Fall 2007, Truman State University
MC 209, W 6:30-9:20
Office: KB 225A

Marc Becker
Office Hours: W 1:30-3:30
Phone: x6036


How have Latin Americans constructed and interpreted racial, ethnic, class and gender identities and ideologies? We will begin this course with a theoretical discussion of race, class, and gender, and then proceed to an evaluation of how they intersect and influence each other in a Latin American context. How do these identities help us understand Latin American history and culture? What functions have these identities played in Latin American societies, and how have they influenced cultural, economic, and political developments? How have the intersections of these identities contributed to the emergence of new forms of identity that contribute to the rich diversity that is Latin America? Throughout this entire process we will constantly critique our assumptions of these categories in order to understand better the purposes they play in society.

Junior Interdisciplinary Writing Enhanced Seminar

This course focuses on intersections between disciplines, and interrogates their assumptions on race, class, and gender. We will emphasize the political and social roles that race, class and gender have played in Latin America, examine how various disciplines have interpreted these political and social changes, and then use this critique in order to reflect on the roles of race, class and gender in our own societies. Upon completion of this course, students should be able to demonstrate knowledge of how content from several disciplines interacts through classroom discussion, written reactions to the readings, and other assignments. Our goal is to transcend dichotomies that pit disciplines against each other and instead move toward an integrated synthesis which reflects the benefits of utilizing the tools of various disciplines to understand a problem.

Writing Enhanced

This is a writing-enhanced course, which means that writing is central to the seminar, and that we will emphasize cognition, process, and product. Cognition is not an isolated process, but rather an integral, active part of our activities. This class will emphasize writing as a process and will encourage both deep reflection on and deep revision of student writings. Written assignments in this class require you to write for a variety of audiences including private reflective essays on identity, collaborate essays to inform classmates, and analytical essays that portray higher levels of thought.


Our goal in this class is to challenge existing assumptions, engage alternative viewpoints, and encourage critical thinking. Through the study of human experiences, we seek to empower ourselves to be better citizens, and to provide ourselves with the skills necessary to play a positive and educated role in society. We need to be active constituents rather than mere recipients of our education. To accomplish those tasks, we should strive to create an open and supportive learning environment. Regular attendance and active participation are also necessary. Please drop me a note if you are unable to attend, or if you have any concerns or suggestions for improving the class.


Following are the required books for this class. There will also be several additional articles to read. Read the assignments before class so that you are prepared to carry on an intelligent discussion of the material in class. Do not wait until the last minute to buy these books since about half-way through the semester the bookstore will return unsold copies to the publisher.

Galeano, Eduardo. Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent. New York: Monthly Review Press, 1998. ISBN: 0-85345-991-6

Kellogg, Susan. Weaving the Past: A history of Latin America's indigenous women from the prehispanic period to the present. New York: Oxford University Press, 2005. ISBN: 0195183282

Sansone, Livio. Blackness Without Ethnicity: Constructing Race in Brazil. New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2003. ISBN: 0-312-9375-5

Wearne, Phillip. Return of the Indian: Conquest and Revival in the Americas. Philadelphia [Pa.]: Temple University Press, 1996. ISBN: 1-56639-501-1

Assignments and grades

Course grades will be based on the following assignments. You can check your grade progress on the class Blackboard web page (there is a total of 1000 possible points in the class). More detailed information on the written assignments will be posted to the web page. I do not accept "drop and run" papers. Grades on late assignments will be penalized 10 percent for each day that they are late. Successful completion of all assignments is required to receive credit for this class.

Assignment Points
Race/class/gender essay 200
Home discipline essay (Sept 12) 100
Identity self-awareness study (Sept 12) 100
Review essays (5 x 100 points) 500
Participation 100

Race/class/gender essay: The first day of class you will write in class a short essay summarizing what you know about race, class, and gender. When you hear these words what comes to your mind? I will collect these papers and return them to you at the end of the semester. You will then write an essay on how your views have changed throughout this course. How has what you learned in this class helped you understand how race, class, and gender interact and continue to be a persistent force in society? This final essay should be typed, double-spaced, probably about 10 pages long, and include citations, a bibliography, and page numbers.

Home discipline essay. We will break the class into groups according to discipline. Discuss what holds a discipline together (subject matter, methodology, shared assumptions, theories, concepts, ideas), who do practitioners of that discipline do or study, and what topics or issues related to race, class and gender in Latin America might one study using that discipline. Write up a handout on how your discipline views these issues and present it to the class. See below for a list of suggested epistemological questions to consider in this essay.

Identity self-awareness study. This essay asks you to reflect on the construction of identities through an examination of your own identity. See below for more information on this assignment.

Review essays. Critically evaluate the readings from each of the five sections of the class in terms of what disciplinary assumptions and perspectives the authors bring to the subject, and how effectively they engage interactions between issues of race, class and gender. How do the authors present Latin America? What interpretative framework do they employ, and what are the implications of those decisions? These essays should be typed, double-spaced, probably about 3 to 5 pages long, and include citations, a bibliography, and page numbers.

McNair Research Presentations. Attend at least one of the McNair Research Presentations on Wednesday, September 26, 2007 in Violette Hall 1000 from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. During that evening's class we will discuss the Our McNair scholars will be presenting the results of their summer research projects. This year a number of different fields will be represented including, English, Biology, Health, Theater, Political Science, Business, Psychology, Communication, Sociology, Economics, and History. The presentations reflect our programs emphasis on "interdisciplinarity", which is very much in keeping with the Liberal Arts Tradition here at Truman.

Class Schedule

Weeks 1-3: Theory

Michael J. Bamshad and Steve E. Olson, "Does Race Exist?" Scientific American (December 2003):

Portes, Alejandro and Kelly Hoffman. "Latin American Class Structures: Their Composition and Change during the Neoliberal Era." Latin American Research Review 38, no. 1 (February 2003): 41-82.

Scott, Joan W. "Gender: A Useful Category of Historical Analysis." American Historical Review 91, no. 5 (December 1986): 1053-75.

Michael Seipel, Interdisciplinarity: An Introduction,

Weeks 4-6: Class

Galeano, Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent.

Weeks 7-9: Gender

Kellogg, Weaving the Past.

Weeks 10-12: Race

Sansone, Blackness Without Ethnicity.

Weeks 13-15: Ethnicity

Wearne, Return of the Indian: Conquest and Revival in the Americas.

Final Exam: Friday, December 15, 6:30-9:20

Epistemological questions for your discipline

  • What kind of problems solving occurs in your discipline? What tools do practioners of your discipline use to solve problems?
  • What is the main goal of your discipline?
  • What types of jobs/careers do people in your discipline find themselves carrying out?
  • What stereotypes do others have of people who work in your discipline?
  • What other disciplines do you draw on?
  • Does your discipline have any theories? If new theories come up, how do you test them?
  • What are some methods of research in your discipline?
  • What do people in your discipline find important in the world?
  • What conflicts do you run into in your discipline?
  • What constitutes a fact?
  • Do you think your discipline has an audience? If so, who is it?
  • What kind of events would cause your field to change over time?
  • Would you consider your epistemology more objective or subjective?
  • How does your world view differ from other disciplines' world views?
  • Do you use emotion or intuition to solve a problem?
  • Why do you do research?
  • In 50 years will your discipline be more important or less important than it is today?
  • What are the major problems in your field?
  • What separates your discipline from discipline X?

Identity self-awareness study

This assignment is designed to lead you to think more critically about race, class, and gender in Latin America through an analysis of your own identity and what that means to you. This project will be developed in two stages.

Part I

Think about your own identity as a person. It may help for you to talk with your friends or family members to think through this process. What are your values and beliefs? Items and issues you might want to think about in analyzing who you are may include:

  • gender
  • religion
  • class or socioeconomic status
  • age
  • geographic location
  • family heritage
  • race or ethnicity
  • exceptional abilities
  • education
  • nationality/citizenship
  • occupation
  • language
  • sexual orientation or civil status
  • political beliefs

Take the items that are appropriate for you, add others that are important to you, and draw a pie chart indicating what percentage of your identity each item comprises. For example, above is an example of how such a chart might look for me. In class, briefly present your chart to the class, and we will discuss the implications of what comprises an identity.

Part II

The second part of this assignment is to write an essay reflecting on your identity. Please feel free to utilize the assigned introductory readings in this class as a guide to help you think about these issues. Questions you might consider in writing this essay are:

  • What label would you place on your identity?
  • What factors have helped form your identity?
  • How do other aspects of your identity interact with each other?
  • What role have race/ethnicity, class, and gender played in your family's history?
  • How does your identity affect your daily life?
  • How do you think your identity will affect your future? What bearing does it have on your political and economic prospects?
  • How does your identity affect your values, beliefs, and purpose in life?
  • Does your identity change as you are in different environments (do you think of yourself differently here at college than you might at home)?

The essay should be typed, double spaced, include citations and a bibliography as appropriate, and follow good essay form. I am not so much interested in the length of the essay as the depth of thought you exhibit, but three to five pages might be an appropriate length. There are no right or wrong answers for completing this assignment. I will grade the essay based on how well you think about and present the issues involved in this question. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions or hesitations with this assignment.

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