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LAS1010 : An Introduction to Latin America

  • Offered for Year: 2020/21
  • Module Leader(s): Dr Patricia Oliart
  • Lecturer: Dr Jorge Catala-Carrasco
  • Owning School: Modern Languages
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
Semester 1 Credit Value: 10
Semester 2 Credit Value: 10
ECTS Credits: 10.0


In consonance with the overall aim of the degree offered in the School of Modern Languages, the general aim of this module is to introduce students to the geography, politics, and key social and historical issues that allow a complex understanding of contemporary Latin America. Other aims are to provide a multidisciplinary overview and understanding of post coloniality in Latin America, to provide context and initial knowledge of issues to be taught in other SPLAS modules, and finally to familiarize students with a wide range of sources and research resources on Latin America.

Outline Of Syllabus

The module follows a diachronic approach, bringing a historical perspective to contemporary issues.
With a combination of lectures, seminars and workshops. The first half provides a historical framework to understand the place that what we now call Latin America has in the world. The relevance of the “the coloniality of power” is introduced through the study of the nation building processes as they happened in a selection of countries. The importance of race relations and cultural tensions in these processes is dealt with throughout the module. The semester ends with a fourth block on the relationship between this socio-historical background and the contemporary cultural production.

The second half of the module presents a closer look at the political ideas and ideological trends that inspired political and social movements throughout the 20th century. The tense relationship between Latin America and the US is also explored in its economic, social and political implications between 1950 and 1980. Finally current attempts to overcome major development challenges are studied.

Semester 1: Characteristics of the territory and first peoples. The contributions of ethno history and anthropology

- The encounter with the West. Spanish and Portugal Colonial expansion to the Americas
- Nation building processes and the idea of race in Latin America after Independence
- Latin American cultural production: Dealing with tradition and modernity. Cinema, music and literature.

Semester 2: Ideology, politics and contemporary challenges.

- The short Twentieth Century: The emergence of “The People” in ideology and politics.
- From 1950 to 1980: Times of Hope and unrest
- Military dictatorships and The National Security Doctrine. What Truth Commissions revealed.
- In search of stability and development: Neo Liberal State reforms for the XXI Century.
- Political changes and new challenges for Latin America.

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion181:0081:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture241:0024:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching62:0012:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyProject work140:0040:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study431:0043:00N/A
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

Each topic is dealt with a combination of lectures, assigned readings and guided seminar small group discussions that are shared with the larger seminar groups. Readings combine both primary sources and scholarly articles that allow students to go further in their understanding of a particular set of issues. The final essay will invite students to look independently into the different areas of study emerging from the lectures.

The portfolio will develop initial research skills allowing students to identify and critically comment on relevant sources (in English and Spanish) on a topic or country case study of their interest.

Assessment Methods

The format of resits will be determined by the Board of Examiners

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Portfolio1M30Portfolio of chosen topic using sources in English and Spanish. 1000 word commentary written in Spanish.
Essay2A702500 word essay in English.
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

Students can decide on the topic for the portfolio from the start of the semester based on the booklet information. There will be plenty of opportunities for planning and discussion during regular office hours and surgery hours. The portfolio allows the assessment of students’ criteria for selecting sources, their ability to process and comment on information to discuss one topic of their interest, their criteria to identify and critically examine primary and secondary sources.

SEMESTER ONE ONLY STUDY ABROAD: The coursework assessment needs an earlier submission date but otherwise remains unchanged.

Reading Lists