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Key Texts and Issues: The Politics of Nature in Latin American Culture (MT 2021)

Primary texts are listed for each seminar. You will be expected to have studied all primary texts set for each seminar, together with some of the secondary reading suggested in the bibliographies. Links are given in the bibliographies to online articles, and some additional material is available as PDFs to download from Moodle.

Some key issues relating to each seminar are identified – you may wish to focus on one or more of these in a seminar paper or an essay.

Seminar 1: Nature and Empire: Natural Histories and Colonial Rule (Stephanie Rohner)

Primary texts

  • Cieza de León, Pedro. Crónica del Perú. El señorío de los Incas. 1553. Caracas: Biblioteca Ayacucho, 2005. Parte I, capítulos CVIII-CX. [See the engravings in the first edition]
  • Fernández de Oviedo, Gonzalo. De la natural hystoria de las Indias. Toledo: Por industria de maestre Remon de Petras, 1526. [Available online in Internet Archive]
  • Sahagún, Bernardino de. Historia general de las cosas de Nueva España. c. 1577. México: Editorial Porrúa, 2013. Libro XI: capítulos 1, 4, 7, 9-11 [See also the manuscript’s paintings]

Key issues

  • Empirical observation and the crisis of classical authority
  • Taxonomies and colonialism
  • First engravings of the New World’s nature
  • Indigenous knowledge and technologies
  • Mining and imperial power  

Bibliography

Seminar 2: Romanticism: Reinventing América as Nature  (Carlos Fonseca)

Primary texts

  • Excerpts from Von Humboldt’s Personal Narrative of a Journey (Introduction & Chapters 1-2, 10-14 & 18) (Darwin online)
  • Selected poems from José María Heredia (iDiscover online) Poems: “En una Tempestad” “Niágara” “En el Teocalli de Cholula” “Al Popocatéptl” “Al Océano”
  • Andrés Bello’s Silva a la agricultura de la zona tórrida (biblioteca virtual universal)
  • Introduction to La naturaleza en disputa (Gabriela Nouzeilles ed.) (Moodle)

Key issues

  • Sublime aesthetics
  • Nature and politics
  • Critique of Enlightenment ideals
  • Nature/culture and nature/history dichotomies
  • Nature as event versus nature as peaceful garden
  • The legacy of the natural history paradigm

Required Readings 

  • W.J.T. Mitchell, Landscape and Power (University of Chicago Press), Introductory Chapter “Imperial Landscape” (Moodle)
  • Introduction to La naturaleza en disputa, edited by Gabriela Nouzeilles (Moodle)
  • Graciela Montaldo, “La Naturaleza bajo sospecha,” in Gabriela Nouzeilles ed, La naturaleza en disputa (Buenos Aires, Paidos, 2002). (Moodle)
  • JB Harley, “Maps, Knowledge, Power” in Denis Cosgrove and Stephen Daniels, The Iconography of Landscape (Cambridge UP, 1989). (Many college libraries, UL & pdf. semantics) (Moodle)
  • Jens Anderman, Part 2 “Maps” in The Optic of the State (University of Pittsburgh press, 2007) (Moodle)

Bibliography
 

Seminar 3: Catastrophic Aftershocks: Nature, Disaster and Modernity (Carlos Fonseca)

Primary texts

  • Cesar Aira’s Un episodio en la vida del pintor viajero (online pdf)
  • "Ana Mendieta, cuerpo autónomo" p.29-77 (ask Librarian)   & clip 1 & clip 2
  • “Art and Death,” Introduction to Art in the Anthropocene, Heather Davis & Etienne Turpin (ask Librarian)

Key issues

  • Nature and catastrophe
  • Critiques of progressivism
  • Debates concerning the Anthropocene
  • Body and nature
  • Epidemics, AIDS, biopolitics

Bibliography

Seminar 4: Nature and Indigenous Culture in Poetry and Film (Joanna Page)

Primary texts

  • El botón de nácar (film, dir. Patricio Guzmán, Chile)
  • El abrazo de la serpiente (film, dir. Ciro Guerra, Colombia)
  • Poetry of the Earth: Trilingual Mapuche Anthology (ed. Jaime Luis Huenún Villa, 2014)

Key issues

  • Modernity and the rationalization of nature
  • Representing relational ontologies and indigenous perspectives on nature
  • Decoloniality and interculturalism
  • Science and indigenous knowledge
  • Contemporary conflicts over land use
  • Relationships between social, cultural, and environmental crisis

Bibliography
 

Seminar 5: Bioart and Ecoart: Interspecies Co-Creativity and Matters of Care (Joanna Page)

Prinary texts

  • Ana Laura Cantera (Argentina): Flujos en retornoCartografías invisibles (Life Guardian), Utópicas reconstituciones
  • Interspecifics Collective (Mexico): Micro-RhythmsSpeculative Communications
  • Kuai Shen (Ecuador/Germany): ThermotaxisOh!m1gasYupana emergente
  • Gilberto Esparza (Mexico): Plantas nómadas, Plantas autofotosintéticas
  • Ivan Henriques (Brazil/Netherlands): Jurema Action Plant

Key Issues

  • Relationships between science, technology, and ecology
  • Decolonizing nature
  • Nonhuman agency and performativity
  • Interspecies communication and co-creativity
  • Art, curation, and matters of care

Bibliography

Seminar 6: Postcolonial and Posthuman Bestiaries and Herbaria (Joanna Page)

Primary texts

  • Walmor Corrêa (Brazil): Unheimlich, imaginário popular brasileiroA expedição brasileira de Thomas Ender reconsideradaBiblioteca dos enganos
  • Alberto Baraya (Colombia): Herbario de plantas artificiales
  • Claudio Romo (Chile), Bestiario mexicano and El álbum de la flora imprudente

Key issues

  • Postcolonial/decolonial reworkings of colonial collections, cabinets of curiosities, European naturalists’ reports, bestiaries and herbaria
  • Art, science, and the expedition in Latin America 
  • Hybrid ontologies and plural ecologies
  • The decolonial politics of the neobaroque in Latin America
  • Cryptozoology, myths, and monsters
  • The recovery of popular and indigenous legends

Bibliography