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Key Issues and Texts: Interpretations of Latin America

Seminar 1: José Carlos Mariátegui: Pre-Conquest Legacies, Inchoate Societies and Creative Marxisms (Pedro Mendes Loureiro)

This session engages with Mariátegui’s classic work 7 Ensayos de Interpretacíon de la Realidad Peruana, particularly the first six essays, to explore three main topics. First, his conception of the pre-conquest economic and social reality of Peru and how this continued to influence the country at the time of writing. In particular, his notion of an indigenous communism and his reading of ‘the indigenous question’ will be explored. Second, the session will interrogate his notion of an ‘inchoate’ society that combined an indigenous communism, a colonial feudalism, and an incipient capitalism. It will be explored how this allegedly defined particularities for Latin America and the implications this had for social struggles and dynamics. Third, drawing on the points above, the session will explore how and to which extent Mariátegui developed a creative contribution to Marxist theory from Latin America. It will question whether he went against predominant orthodoxies and challenged Western views of development and revolutionary dynamics.

Key text

  • Mariátegui, J.C., 1988. Seven interpretive essays on Peruvian reality. University of Texas Press. (Copies available in the libraries.)

Or in Spanish:

Further reading

  • Aricó, J., 1980. Mariátegui y los orígenes del marxismo latinoamericano. México, Siglo XXI.
  • Beigel, F., 2001. Mariátegui y las antinomias del indigenismo. Utopía y praxis latinoamericana: revista internacional de filosofía iberoamericana y teoría social, (13), pp.36-57.
  • Gonzalez, M., 2019. In the red corner: the Marxism of José Carlos Mariátegui. Chicago: Haymarket.
  • Löwy, M. and Duggan, P., 1998. Marxism and romanticism in the work of José Carlos Mariátegui. Latin American Perspectives25(4), pp.76-88.
  • Quijano, A., 1995. Raza, etnia y nación en Mariátegui: cuestiones abiertas. Estudios latinoamericanos2(3), pp.3-19.
  • Webber, J.R., 2015. The indigenous community as “living organism”: José Carlos Mariátegui, Romantic Marxism, and extractive capitalism in the Andes. Theory and Society44(6), pp.575-598.

Seminar 2. Sérgio Buarque de Holanda: Latin American political forms (Pedro Mendes Loureiro)

Based on Sérgio Buarque de Holanda’s book Raízes do Brasil, this session explores the author’s contribution to understanding the specificity of political forms in Brazil and Latin America. The session discusses how Brazil’s Iberian heritage, the country’s pattern of land occupation and urbanisation, and the economic forms that ensued developed into forms of political organisation. In particular, the session explores Holanda’s notion of the ‘cordial man’ (who acts from the heart), his discussion of how and why the public-private divide was different in Brazil and in Europe, his view of development and progress, and his understanding of (Brazilian) patrimonialism. Throughout the discussion, particular attention is paid to the channels through which the Brazilian ‘roots’ are transmitted into the present; the implicit or explicit vision Holanda has of European modernity and how this influences his analysis of Brazil; and how he understands the creative potentials, as well as the enduring constraints, that emerge from Brazil’s history, its colonial past and its ensuing specificities.

Key text

  • Holanda, S.B., 2016. Raízes do Brasil: edição crítica. Companhia das Letras. (Copies available in the libraries.)

Or in English:

  • Holanda, S.B., 2012. Roots of Brazil. University of Notre Dame Press. (Copies available in the libraries.)

Further reading

  • Avelino Filho, G., 1990. Cordialidade e civilidade em Raízes do Brasil. Revista Brasileira de Ciências Sociais5(12), pp.5-14.
  • Costa, S., 2014. O Brasil de Sérgio Buarque de Holanda. Sociedade e Estado29(3), pp.823-839.
  • Monteiro, P.M., 2009. As raízes do Brasil no espelho de próspero. Novos estudos CEBRAP, (83), pp.159-182.
  • Rezende, D.L., 2018. Patriarcado e formação do Brasil: uma leitura crítica de Oliveira Vianna e Sérgio Buarque de Holanda a partir do feminismo. Revista Ágora, (22).
  • Waizbort, L., 2011. The misunderstanding of democracy: Sergio Buarque de Hollanda, Raizes do Brasil, 1936. Revista Brasileira de Ciências Sociais26(76), pp.39-62.


Seminar 3. Fernando Henrique Cardoso and Enzo Faletto: centre-periphery relations, structural constraints to development and dependency (Pedro Mendes Loureiro)

This session explores what is arguably the most famous interpretation of Latin America, dependency theory, in the version of Cardoso and Faletto. This session will counterpoise Cardoso and Faletto’s theory to other versions of dependency theory, such as that of Ruy Mauro Marini, and to the ECLAC’s (the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean) structuralist reading of (the constraints to) economic development. These interpretations all ascribe a central role to the international position of Latin American countries, from which springs the position of dependency, but the mechanisms that produce the latter and their economic and political implications differ widely. This session will thus explore, especially in Cardoso and Faletto’s version of dependency but also in the other theories, what is meant by dependency; what is the relationship between dependency and (obstacles to) development; how does dependency, an international relation, express itself internally; and what are the central political implications of dependency.

Key text

  • Cardoso, F.H. and Faletto, E., 1979. Dependency and development in Latin America. Univ of California Press. (Copies available in the libraries.)

Or in Spanish:

  • Cardoso, F.H. and Faletto, E., 1996. Dependencia y desarrollo en América Latina: ensayo de interpretación sociológica. Siglo xxi. (Copies available in the libraries.)

Further reading

  • Boianovsky, M., 2010. A view from the tropics: Celso Furtado and the theory of economic development in the 1950s. History of Political Economy42(2), pp.221-266.
  • Furtado, C., 1976. Economic development of Latin America: historical background and contemporary problems. Cambridge University Press.
  • Marini, R.M., 1973. Dialéctica de la dependencia. México: Era.
  • Palma, G., 1978. Dependency: a formal theory of underdevelopment or a methodology for the analysis of concrete situations of underdevelopment? World development6(7-8), pp.881-924.
  • Prebisch, R., 1967. Hacia una dinámica del desarrollo latinoamericano (Vol. 2). Ediciones de la Banda Oriental.
  • Santos, T.D., 1970. The structure of dependence. The american economic review60(2), pp.231-236.


Seminar 4. Silvia Rivera Cusicanqui: coloniality and internal colonialism, political forms and intersectional inequalities (Aiko Ikemura Amaral)

This session explores Silvia Rivera Cusicanqui’s work through the book Violencias (Re)Encubiertas en Bolivia. The discussion will focus on four interconnected issues which, together, reveal forms of violence that underlie notions and practices of development and modernity in Latin America. First, her articulation of racialised forms of exclusion and stratification, internal colonialism, and the process of mestizaje. Second, her discussion of the connections between patriarchy and colonialism, which lead to theorisations about the position of indigenous and mestizo women in structures and networks of power. Third, her views about non-Western political forms in Latin America, in particular the tension between the ayllu democracy and liberal democracy. Finally, her usage of the notion of non-coetaneous contradictions to identify the articulation in Bolivia of colonial, liberal and populist forms, structures and rationalities. In these four issues, the session approaches Rivera’s work as both an interpretation of forms of violence that underlie development and as an exploration of emancipatory potentialities.

Key text

Further reading

  • Mignolo, W.D., 2001. La Contribución De Xavier Albó Y Silvia Rivera Cusicanqui A La Reestructuración De Las Ciencias Sociales Desde Los Andes. Rev. Venez. de Econ. y Ciencias Sociales7(3), pp.175-195.
  • Miñoso, Y.E., Correal, D.G. and Muñoz, K.O. eds., 2014. Tejiendo de otro modo: Feminismo, epistemología y apuestas descoloniales en Abya Yala. Popayán: Editorial Universidad del Cauca.
  • Rivera Cusicanqui, S., 1986. Oprimidos pero no vencidos. Luchas del campesinado aymara y quechua de Bolivia 1900-1980. Geneva: Instituto de Investigaciones de las Naciones Unidas para el Desarrollo Social.
  • Rivera Cusicanqui, S., 1996. Ser mujer indígena, chola o birlocha en la Bolivia postcolonial de los años 90. La Paz: Ministerio de Asuntos Étnicos, Género y Generaciones.
  • Rivera Cusicanqui, S. 2012. Ch'ixinakax utxiwa: A Reflection on the Practices and Discourses of Decolonization. South Atlantic Quarterly, 111(1), 95-109.
  • Rivera Cusicanqui, S. and Soria, V. A., eds., 2015. Antología del pensamiento crítico boliviano contemporáneo. Buenos Aires: CLACSO.
  • Cusicanqui, S., 2018. Un mundo ch'ixi es posible. Ensayos desde un presente en crisis. Buenos Aires: Tinta Limón.

Seminar 5. Walter Mignolo: the invention of Latin America, coloniality and modernity, and the decolonial option (Pedro Mendes Loureiro)

This session approaches the ‘decolonial reading’ of Latin America through Walter Mignolo and his book The Idea of Latin America. The overarching goal of this session is to engage with the proposition that the conquest of the Americas had much deeper and more radical implications than other interpretations assume. The title of the book alludes to this, indicating that the very idea of Latin America is born out of colonialism and lives through the enduring coloniality of knowledge and power. In particular this session explores the argument of the allegedly inextricable association between modernity and coloniality, the origin of racism in the colonial project and its enduring presence, and the defence of a decolonial option for the region.

Key text

  • Mignolo, W.D., 2009. The idea of Latin America. John Wiley & Sons. (Copies available in the libraries.)

Further reading

  • Asher, K., 2013. Latin American decolonial thought, or making the subaltern speak. Geography Compass7(12), pp.832-842.
  • Escobar, A., 2011. Encountering development: The making and unmaking of the Third World. Princeton University Press.
  • Lugones, María (2007) Heterosexualism and the colonial/modern gender system, Hypatia, 22 (1), 186-209.
  • Mignolo, W.D. and Escobar, A. eds., 2013. Globalization and the decolonial option. Routledge.
  • O’Gorman, E., 2010 [1958]. La Invención de América. Ciudad de México: Fondo de cultura económica.
  • Quijano, A. 2000. Coloniality of Power and Eurocentrism in Latin America. International Sociology, 15(2), 215-232.
  • Quijano, A., 2000. El fantasma del desarrollo en América Latina. Revista del CESLA, (1), pp.38-55.


Seminar 6. Gilberto Freyre: interpreting Brazil, interpreting Latin America (Peter Burke)

This session will focus on Gilberto Freyre but place him in successively wider contexts.  Freyre is remembered, for better or worse, for one book, Casa Grande e Senzala (1933), but he wrote many others, including Brazil: an interpretation (1945: originally a course of lectures given in the USA) and Além do Apenas Moderno (1973) in which he discusses modernity - and post-modernity – from an ‘Iberian’ point of view.

The Brazilian context for his work includes the rival interpretations of Brazil by the two Prados, Paulo and Caio, by his friend Sérgio Buarque, and in a later generation, by Roberto DaMatta. It also includes the policies of the Vargas regime, towards which Gilberto was ambivalent.

The Latin American context for his work includes interpretations of other countries (Ortiz on Cuba, Gamio on Mexico, Martínez Estrada on Argentina, etc) as well as the continent as a whole (Svampa).

Key text

  • Freyre, G., 1947. Brazil: An Interpretation. New York: Knopf. (Copies available in the libraries.)

This book also corresponds to chapters 1-4, 6, 8 in:

  • Freyre, G., 1959. New world in the Tropics: the culture of modern Brazil. New York: Knopf. (Copies available in the libraries.)

Further reading

  • Bethell, L., 2018. Brazil: Essays on history and politics. London: Institute of Latin American Studies. ch. 1.
  • Burke, P. 1998. Elective affinities: Gilberto Freyre and the nouvelle histoire. The European Legacy, 3(4), 1-10.
  • Burke, P. and Pallares-Burke, M. L. G., 2008. Gilberto Freyre: social theory in the tropics. Oxford: Peter Lang.
  • Freyre, G., 1936. Sobrados e mucambos: decadencia do patriarchado rural no Brasil. São Paulo: Companhia Editora Nacional.
  • Freyre, G., 1946. Casa-Grande & Senzala: formação da família brasileira sob o regime de economia patriarcal. Rio de Janeiro: Jose Olympio.
  • Freyre, G., 1947. Brazil: An interpretation. New York: Knopf.
  • Freyre, G., 1959. New world in the Tropics: the culture of modern Brazil. New York: Knopf.
  • Lehmann, D. 2008. Gilberto Freyre: The Reassessment Continues. Latin American Research Review, 43(1), 208-218.
  • Lund, J. and McNee, M., 2006. Gilberto Freyre e os estudos latino-americanos. Pittsburgh: Instituto Internacional de Literatura Iberoamericana, Universidad de Pittsburgh.
  • Needell, J. D. 1995. Identity, Race, Gender, and Modernity in the Origins of Gilberto Freyre's Oeuvre. The American Historical Review, 100(1), 51-77.
  • Neil, L. 2011. Race, Periphery, Reification: Speculations on “Hybridity” in Light of Gilberto Freyre's <em>Casa-grande & senzala</em>. Cultural Critique, 79, 1-26.
  • Oliveira, A. 2017. Thirty Years Later: The Actuality of Gilberto Freyre to Think Brazil. Revista del CESLA, 20, 341-352.
  • Pallares-Burke, M. L. G., 2005. Gilberto Freyre: um vitoriano dos trópicos. São Paulo: Editora UNESP.
  • Skidmore, T. E. 1988. Gilberto Freyre (1900-1987). Hispanic American Historical Review, 68(4), 803-805.
  • Skidmore, T. E. 2002. Raízes de Gilberto Freyre. Journal of Latin American Studies, 34(1), 1-20.
  • Stein, S. J. 1961. Freyre's Brazil Revisited: A Review of New World in the Tropics: The Culture of Modern Brazil. The Hispanic American Historical Review, 41(1), 111-113.