Three CLACS professors are going to teach in the Freshman Honors Program next semester. They explained why their field is particularly important to share with first year college students.
Pamela Calla, an anthropologist, Visiting Associate Professor at the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies at NYU and director of the Observatory on Racism of the Universidad de la Cordillera in La Paz, Bolivia, is going to teach the course Women in Social Movements in Latin America.
The overarching theme of this seminar is the exploration of women’s political agency in terms of emancipatory thought and action in diverse social movements throughout Latin America.
More concretely, the course focuses on indigenous and other popular sectors as well as middle class movements concentrating on the ways in which women bring new meanings and vitality to diverse forms of struggle in these movements. A central consideration in this exploration is the historical relation between movements and states and the gendered logics that enter in the negotiations between the two.
“This is not a usual course,” said Calla. “A course like this is important because from the start students can be introduced to a different voice in Latin America: that of women who had an amazing trajectory in their struggles. Students will learn that the world is very complex; they will understand how voices get marginalized in the social movements arena. Analysis of social movements and women’s struggle will be informed by testimonies of both activists and academics. Because Academia itself is not homogeneous; it encompasses hegemonic positions, but also fringes and marginalities.”
Edgardo Pérez Morales, Assistant Professor and Faculty Fellow of Latin American and Caribbean Studies, will teach the seminar Pirates, Privateers and Other Maritime Renegades of the Caribbean.
Pirates, privateers and runaways of the sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth century Caribbean fought, stole, lied and killed in order to make a living and either to collaborate with or oppose bosses and empires. Today, the Jolly Roger – the pirate flag – is clearly displayed in toys and makes for compelling cinematic moments. In real life, however, flying that flag was a criminal act punishable with the death penalty. How must we think of Francis Drake, the most feared privateer of the 1500s, in the age of Jack Sparrow, the most renown of the fantasy pirates of our days?
Pérez Morales believes this subject is important to share with first year college students, explaining that “The social history of pirates and other social outcasts of the Caribbean maritime world is one particularly rich field to help students transition from high school learning to college level learning. While in high school most students are preoccupied with learning about American history, in college even classes about American history are now illuminated by transnational dynamics. Learning about sailors, pirates and runaways is a very specific way to understand how and why societies throughout the world were in intense contact with each other centuries before the arrival of the Internet. The pirates are just an excuse to understand the history of the Caribbean and the world in more dynamic and sophisticated ways.”
Katherine Smith is Assistant Professor and Faculty Fellow of Latin American and Caribbean Studies. She focuses her research on religious frameworks for understanding displacement, death and regeneration in the Caribbean. She has studied urban Vodou and contemporary Haitian art for more than ten years.
Next semester she will teach the course Haiti Today: Culture, Politics and Crisis. The course takes an interdisciplinary approach to understanding the historical, political and cultural forces that shape life in Haiti today. The readings will place Haitian economic development, environment, religion and culture in a global context. The focus will be primarily on the period from the fall of the Duvalier dictatorship in 1986 to the present. The struggle to realize a system of democratic governance has characterized this period of Haitian history. More recently, Haiti has faced the challenges of rebuilding the material and social infrastructure destroyed by the earthquake of 2010. This has been an unprecedented period of crisis for a nation whose past has always been difficult. Particularly close attention will be given to how Haitians understand their world today as conveyed through artistic, literary, historical and anthropological lenses.
Haiti will serve as a case study to talk about global issues. Smith said that when studied in a thorough and serious way, contemporary Haiti can challenge common assumptions about the entire world. Students will explore the universal meaning of democracy and learn to think about it beyond a minimalist way as just a matter of voting. They will be challenged to think of democracy extensively, comprising a whole set of economic and social rights.
The role of the US and its relationship with Haiti will also be discussed. There is a n assumption that the US acts democratically abroad, but by studying the story of occupations, interventions and coups in Haiti, students will find out that this is not always the case. The class will also explore music and popular religion as artistic and cultural expressions, and this will be framed in the discourse about democracy. Studying Vodou in a critical way, in particular, will question stereotypes about black magic, racism, imperialism and the view of the country as backward and superstitious.
With diverse and interdisciplinary approaches, CLACS freshman honors courses give first-year students exposure to highly engaging and intellectual topics as an introduction to the field of Latin American and Caribbean studies.
Posted by Camilla Querin – MA Candidate at CLACS / Museum Studies