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Issues and Texts: Race, Racism and Anti-Racism in Latin America and the Caribbean

Seminar 1: Introduction: Researching Race, Racism and Anti-Racism (Rachell Sanchez-Rivera) 

This section provides an introduction to critical studies of race and racism in Latin America and the Caribbean. It will provide an overview of the course and signpost what our teaching team will be focusing on throughout the term. This section will touch upon the construction of race and racism through ideas around ‘purity of blood’, the coloniality of power, and the role of science in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Key issues

  • Definitions of race and racism
  • Researcher positionality
  • Objectivity/subjectivity in science

Required reading:

Seminar 2: Colonialism, Slavery, and Race in the Early Modern Caribbean (Hank Gonzalez) 

The Caribbean Basin has been called the womb of capitalist modernity.  As a poetic device this analogy employs the extreme danger, trauma, and pain of childbirth.  This lecture dwells upon the irony that early modern free markets could not have possibly emerged as they did without the demographic and economic power of forced labor.  The Atlantic traffic was distinguished from other forms of slavery not simply because of its exceptionally larger volume but also because it helped to create the first fully global networks of mass commodity exchange.  With slaves functioning as a kind of human energy commodity and a human hard collateral, their labor made possible exploitation of global geographical comparative advantages in ways that far exceeded empires of antiquity and that helped usher in the Anglo-Dutch financial revolution.  Along with the distant but partially comparable region of Brazil, the 'circum-caribbean' received the overwhelming majority of the slaves trafficked to the Americas.  This week's lecture readings and discussions center on the political economy of the early modern Caribbean, ground zero of the 'Columbian Exchange' and the interrelated 18th century booms in Sugar and Coffee.  The human commodity was the sine qua non of the other key commodities that were the very stuff of modernity: silver, sugar, coffee, chocolate, cotton, and tobacco. 

Key issues

Required reading:

  • Curtin Philip D. 2010. The Rise and Fall of the Plantation Complex Essays in Atlantic History. 2nd ed. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ebook
  • Blackburn Robin. 2010. The Making of New World Slavery : From the Baroque to the Modern 1492-1800. London: Verso. ebook

Seminar 3: The History of Contraceptives in Latin America and the Caribbean (Caroline Rusterholz)

This lecture will offer an overview of key issues pertaining to birth control and family planning in Latin America over the twentieth century. Spanning several national territories (Brazil, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Chile, Jamaica and Peru) this lecture will explore the relationship and the tensions between ideas of motherhood, the medical profession, the catholic Church and international and national family planning programs. In addition, we will also focus on instances where Latin American countries have served as laboratories to experiment with birth control technologies. Particular attention will be paid to how race, class and gender have intersected in the development and (forced) implementation of family planning policies and the ways that indigenous and local populations have mobilised to claim reproductive rights and denounced instances of abuses.

Key issues:

Required reading:

  • Briggs, Laura. Reproducing empire: Race, sex, science, and US imperialism in Puerto Rico. Vol. 11. Univ of California Press, 2002, in particular chapter 3, 4, 5, pp. 74-162. ebook
  • Bourbonnais, Nicole. "Class, Colour and Contraception: The Politics of Birth Control in Jamaica, 1938-1967." Social and Economic Studies (2012): 7-37.
  • Necochea López, Raúl. A History of Family Planning in Twentieth-Century Peru. 2014, as much as you can (chapter 4 compulsory)
  • Pieper Mooney, Jadwiga E. "Re‐visiting Histories of Modernization, Progress, and (Unequal) Citizenship Rights: Coerced Sterilization in Peru and in the United States." History Compass 8.9 (2010): 1036-1054.ebook
  • Pieper, Mooney, Jadwiga E.. The Politics of Motherhood : Maternity and Women's Rights in Twentieth-Century Chile, University of Pittsburgh Press, 2009. Chapter 1, 2, 3. ebook
  • Sanchez-Rivera, R. (2020) “The Making of La Gran Familia Mexicana: Eugenics, Gender, and Sexuality in Mexico”, Journal of Historical Sociology
  • Vasquez Del Aguila, Ernesto (2022) Precarious Lives: Forced sterilisation and the struggle for reproductive justice in Peru, Global Public Health, 17:1, 100-114.

Seminar 4: Contemporary forms of Racism: From the Multiculturalist Turn to Environmental Racism (Rachell Sanchez Rivera)

Since the 1980s, many countries in Latin America and the Caribbean have progressively adopted multicultural policies and constitutions that recognize the distinct cultural contributions of Indigenous and Afro-descendant populations and offer them certain legal resources and protections. These policies break with the myths of racial democracy and post-racial ideologies promoted by twentieth-century Latin American governments, yet many argue that the "multicultural turn" has enabled new state-led strategies of exclusion and oppression toward racialized communities. In this session we will critically explore the contemporary developments of multiculturalist practices to observe the ways in which postracialism affects communities from different angles: from environmental racism in the region (with a special focus on Puerto Rico) to meme production and the use of ‘jokes’ in a ‘postracial’ era.


Seminar 5: Seeing race from an intersectional perspective: articulations with gender, class and sexuality in Latin America (Aiko Ikemura Amaral)

This session takes an intersectional approach to explore racialised social hierarchies and everyday experiences in Latin America. As a concept, intersectionality highlights how race works through and in relation to other dimensions of exclusion or ‘vectors of power’ such as gender, sexuality, class, origins, citizenship status etc. As an analytical lens, intersectionality allows us to observe how inequalities, practices, spaces and everyday lives are built on the multiple articulations between these dimensions. In Latin America, superposing forms of domination – colonialism, patriarchy, neoliberalism – have created variegated experiences of exclusion and privilege at the intersections, as well as new identities and potentials for struggle. In this session, we invite students to look at different case studies in order to discuss different articulations between race, sex, class and gender across the continent.

Key issues

  • Intersectionality
  • Gender
  • Sex and sexualities
  • Race
  • Class

Required reading:

  • Collins, Patricia H and Bilge, Sirma (2020) Intersectionality [second edition]. Polity Press. Chapter One: What is intersectionality?, 1-36.(Moodle)
  • Viveros-Vigoya, Mara (2016) La interseccionalidad: una aproximación situada a la dominación, Debate Feminista, 52, 1-17.(Moodle)

Additional Readings: (see Moodle)

  • Acciari, Louisa (2021) Practicing Intersectionality: Brazilian Domestic Workers’ Strategies of Building Alliances and Mobilizing Identity. Latin American Research Review, 56 (1), 67–81
  • Anderson, Mark (2009) This is Black Power we wear: Black America and the Fashioning of young Garifuna men, in Mark Anderson, Black and indigenous: Garifuna activism and consumer culture in Honduras. University of Minnesota Press, 172-200.
  • Babb, Florence E. (2012) Theorizing gender, race and cultural tourism in Latin America: a view from Peru and Mexico, Latin American Perspectives, 39 (6), 36-50. (Moodle)
  • Canessa, Andrew (2008) Sex and the citizen: Barbies and Beauty Queens in the age of Evo Morales, Travesia: Journal of Latin American Cultural Studies, 17 (1), 41-64. (Moodle)
  • Cannon, Barry (2008) Class/race polarisation in Venezuela and the electoral success of Hugo Chávez: a break with the past or the song remains the same?, Third World Quarterly, 29 (4) 731-748. (Moodle)
  • di Pietro, Pedro José Javier (2016) Decolonizing travesti space in Buenos Aires: race, sexuality, and sideways relationality, Gender, Place and Culture, 23 (5), 667-693. (Moodle)
  • González, Lélia (2018) Primavera para as rosas negras: Lélia Gonzales em primeira pessoa. Diáspora Africana. Chapters 02 and 35: A mulher negra na sociedade brasileira & Por um feminismo afrolatinoamericano, 34-53 & 307-319.
  • Maclean, Kate (2018) Envisioning gender, indigeneity and urban change: the case of La Paz, Bolivia, Gender, Place & Culture, 25 (5), 711-726. (Moodle)
  • Mollet, Sharlene (2021) Hemispheric, Relational, and Intersectional Political Ecologies of Race: Centring Land-Body Entanglements in the Americas, Antipode 53 (3), 810-830.
  • Mora, Claudia and Undurraga, Eduardo A. (2013) Racialisation of immigrants at work: labour mobility and segmentation of Peruvian migrants in Chile, Bulletin of Latin American Research, 32 (3), 294-310. (Moodle)
  • Perry, Keisha-Kahn Y. (2016) Geographies of Power: Black Women Mobilizing Intersectionality in Brazil, Meridians 14 (1): 94-120.
  • Radcliffe, Sarah A. (1990) Ethnicity, patriarchy, and incorporation into the nation: female migrants as domestic servants in Peru, Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 8, 379-383. (Moodle)
  • Stølen, Kristi Anne (1996) The power of gender discourses in a multi-ethnic community in rural Argentina, in Marit Melhuus and Kristi Anne Stølen, Machos, Mistresses, Madonnas: Contesting the Power of Latin American Gender Imagery. London: Verso, 159-183. (Moodle)
  • Viveros-Vigoya, Mara (2013) Género, Raza y Nacion. Los Réditos Políticos de la  Masculinidad Blanca en Colombia. Maguaré 27 (1): 71-104.
  • Wade, Peter (2013) Articulations of eroticism and race: domestic service in Latin America, Feminist Theory, 14 (2), 187-202. (Moodle)
  • Weismantel, Mary (2001) Cholas and Pishtacos: Stories of Race and Sex in the Andes. University of Chicago Press. Chapter 4: Deadly Intercourse. (Moodle)

Seminar 6: The politics of Race in the United States: Latinx Communities (Rachell Sanchez-Rivera)

This section will explore Latinx subjectivities in relation to racialization processes from Latin America and the Caribbean as well as the United States of America. This, in turn, will allow us to explore the innerworkings of mestizo-identifying individuals in the US. Here, we will be exploring the ways in which Latinx individuals and communities use mestizaje as a trope that gravitates from racial democracy and an assumed racelessness to producing ‘raced-based’ hierarchies.

Required reading: