Fall 2020. LAST100 “Introduction to Latin American Studies” provides an overview of the culture and society of Latin America from ancient to contemporary times, and from Argentina to Mexico. Particular attention is paid to the ways in which the region is constructed and represented, and to the cultural politics of race, gender, and class.

Participation and Attendance

You are expected to come to class having done the reading and prepared to contribute.

Though there is a significant asynchronous (any-time) component to this course, our synchronous (real-time) sessions face to face are vital. You are expected to attend at least one Zoom session per week. These will not be lectures, but opportunities for you to talk, ask questions, listen to your peers, and work collaboratively to understand the material. You need to attend, having done the reading and written your blog post, and be prepared to engage in discussion.

If you miss more than two weeks over the semester without written justification (such as a doctor’s note), your grade will be affected (A to A-; B+ to B, etc.); if you miss more than three, your grade will go down by a full letter (A to B; B+ to C+, etc.). And if you come to class unprepared, i.e. without having done the reading or written your blog, you may be marked down as absent. Failure to complete your blog entries or to comment on other students’ blogs can seriously affect your grade.

On the other hand, if you keep up with these requirements, there is every chance you will receive a good grade overall.


Readings are available online (from this website). Many of them are taken from Alec Dawson, Latin America Since Independence: A History with Primary Sources (2nd Edition. London: Routledge, 2014). This textbook also has a companion website.


  • weekly posts on a blog, discussion questions, and comments on classmates’ blogs (25%)
  • a midterm (15%) and a final exam (15%), both of which will be take-home
  • a short research and writing assignment (10%)
  • a group video project (25%)
  • participation (10%)

Assignments are to be handed in on time; late assignments will not be accepted.

Further Study and Reading

You are strongly advised to keep up to date with news from Latin America. You are also encouraged to read in your own time on Latin American history and culture. The following are overviews that also indicate further directions for study:

  • Galeano, Eduardo. Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent. Trans. Cedric Belfrege. New York: Monthly Review Press, 1974.
  • Green, Duncan. Faces of Latin America. London: Latin America Bureau, 1991.
  • Munck, Ronaldo. Contemporary Latin America. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003.
  • Swanson, Philip, ed. The Companion to Latin American Studies. London: Arnold, 2003.
  • Winn, Peter. Americas: The Changing Face of Latin America and the Caribbean. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995.

Course Convener

The course convener is Jon Beasley-Murray. I will usually be on Zoom for an hour both before and after our real-time sessions, if you want to chat or have questions, or we can make an appointment for other times.

You should feel free to get in touch with me if you have any queries or problems. It is always better to deal with any issues as they arise rather than to keep quiet and hope they go away!