The Program in Latin American Studies (PLAS) promotes the study of the histories, cultures, societies, and political systems of Latin America and the Caribbean at the Johns Hopkins University. PLAS’s curricular offerings and extracurricular activities provide undergraduate and graduate students with opportunities to explore the rich political, aesthetic, intellectual, and scientific traditions of Latin America. Drawing on faculty expertise across the disciplines, PLAS aims to generate new perspectives on Latin America, the Caribbean, and the Latinx experience in the United States. PLAS coordinates an undergraduate minor in Latin American studies.
Information about PLAS may be found on its website: http://krieger.jhu.edu/plas
Cross-listed courses applicable to the PLAS minor include:
AS.010.205 (01) Art of Mesoamerica
This course provides a basis for the study of Mesoamerican visual cultures and urban settings. We will explore the artistic production of the Olmec, Maya, and Aztec as well as works created by the artists of Teotihuacan, Monte Albán, and West Mexico. With a focus on aesthetics and cultural function, case studies range from stone sculpture, painted ceramics, and screenfold codices, to architectural complexes from Mexico and Central America. Themes to be discussed include: representations of humans and deities, monumentality and rulership, mutilation and destruction of monuments, and ritual and political significance of materials.
AS.010.398 (01) Tombs for the Living
Centering on the tomb as the unit of analysis, this course examines the cultural and material aspects of death and funerary ritual. Case studies are drawn from North America, Mesoamerica, and the Andes. Collections study in museums.
AS.010.350 (01) Body and Soul: Medicine in the Ancient Americas
This course examines curative medicine in the Americas through its visual culture and oral histories. Philosophies about the body, health, and causes of illness are considered, as are representations of practitioners and their pharmacology. Case studies are drawn from cross the Americas (Aztec, Moche, Aymara, Paracas, American SW). Collections study in museums, Special Collections.
AS.100.115 (01) Modern Latin America
A class combining Latin American history since independence and digital humanities (revised with 2021 student feedback). Students will build guided research projects while thinking about questions of republicanism, freedom and unfreedom, migration, and development.
AS.100.379 (01) Brazil History and Cultures: A Glance from Baltimore
Using textual and visual documents (including books from Peabody Library), we will examine the contrasts of Brazilian history and culture, and its connections with 19th and 20th century Baltimore.
AS.140.685 (01) Histories of Reproduction
While there is a vast literature on reproduction in a global context, this course will focus on the arc of what we might call decolonial histories of reproduction—those that center issues of justice, freedom, intimacy, and agency, as well as cultural negotiation, conflict, and change. Students will write critical histories of reproduction, with attention to the ways in which reproductive politics interface with institutions that exert hegemonic, racialized, gendered, and ableist forms of state power and colonial power. We will also appreciate the ways in which reproduction interacts with other—non geographically-bound, non-institutionalized, and non-state mediated—forms of biopolitical power. We will analyze how the historiography has evolved over time and discuss future directions in the field.
AS.190.306 (01) Latin American Politics and Society in Comparative and Historical Perspective
The seminar will introduce students to the political and economic trajectories of Latin America as a whole and of individual countries, including Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, and Chile. Special attention will be paid to the long-term trajectory of the political regime (democracy versus dictatorship) and of economic development (variations in GDP per capita). Competing theories, from economic dependence to historical institutionalism, will be examined for their contribution to our understanding of Latin America’s relative economic backwardness and low quality democracies.
AS.211.294 (01) Freshman Seminar: Soccer in Brazil: Opium of the Masses
Futebol offers a unique perspective on politics, race and citizenship in Brazil. This course seeks to understand Brazilian culture through the historic national pastime of futebol. In addition to the main textbooks chosen for the class, by reading a variety of texts from newspapers, academic journals, fiction and film, students will be able to find their own approach to understanding the phenomenon of futebol within the social and political traditions of Brazil. No knowledge of Portuguese is required, but those who can read in Portuguese will have an opportunity to do so. Everyone will learn some Portuguese words and expressions. This class may count toward the Minor in Portuguese.
AS.211.394 (01) Brazilian Culture & Civilization
Did you know that Brazil is very similar to the United States? This course is intended as an introduction to the culture and civilization of Brazil. It is designed to provide students with basic information about Brazilian history, politics, economy, art, literature, popular culture, theater, cinema, and music. The course will focus on how Indigenous, Asian, African, and European cultural influences have interacted to create the new and unique civilization that is Brazil today.
AS.215.407 (01) Power And Gender In Hispanic American Novels And Films
We will analyze and discuss four novels and three films impacted by gender violence and political idolatry under shattering stress. Oficio de tinieblas or The Book of Lamentations (1962) by Rosario Castellanos (Mexico). Zama (1956) by Antonio di Benedetto (Argentina). Delirio or Delirium (2004) by Laura Restrepo (Colombia). El ruido de las cosas al caer or The Noise of Things Falling (2011) by Juan Gabriel Vásquez (Colombia). In addition, we will examine in depth films by Lucrecia Martel (Argentina): the short Rey muerto (1995), La ciénaga (2001), and her own version of Zama (2017). Course taught in Spanish.
AS.217.425 (01) Latin American Ecocriticism
Increased awareness of climate change has led to a shift in the way we address and intervene in environmental issues in the new millennium. Yet the interest in making sense of the environment has a long history in literature and the arts. How have Latin American writers and artists understood and depicted their environments and environmental questions? How do the form and content of texts and cultural artifacts influence our understanding of the non-human world? Can works of fiction shape ecological transformations? In this course we will discuss texts from the early colonial period to the present, including the literary works of Graciliano Ramos, Horacio Quiroga, and Clarice Lispector; political ecology; film; Ana Mendieta’s earth-body art; contemporary experiments in bio-art; postcolonial theory; and the intersection of environmental justice with such topics as nationalism and human rights. Going beyond ecocriticism’s original focus on the Anglo-American world, we will engage recent scholarship on Latin America that sheds light on the region’s cultural and geopolitical importance to the global climate, with particular attention to Brazil. This course aims to introduce students to current debates in Latin American Ecocriticism and the Anthropocene and thus contribute to an incipient but expanding field.
AS.217.427 (01) Radical Women: Brazilian Literature, Art, and Culture
The vast body of work produced women artists and writers in Brazil has been marginalized by canonical cultural narratives, which are now being contested by a spate of scholarly and artistic projects. This course spotlights the production of women from the early twentieth century to the present, including renowned and lesser-known works. We’ll discuss art, literature, and film alongside feminist theory, exploring radicality as it relates to aesthetics and politics. How do women’s art, literature, and thought engage with and transform Brazilian cultural production? What are their contributions to global discussions about gender and sexuality? How do these works respond to historical events? Among the topics addressed are the body, feminism, race, indigeneity, and politics. We’ll study Clarice Lispector’s acclaimed stories, the first Brazilian proletarian novel written by modernist icon Patricia Galvão, known as Pagu, the diaries of Carolina Maria de Jesus, the emblematic paintings of Tarsila do Amaral, and Lygia Clark’s artwork, as well as the booming scene of contemporary cinema and poetry.
AS.230.342 (01) Resistance, Rebellion, and Revolution in Latin America
This course will examine the dynamics of transformative social change in Latin America and the Caribbean through analyses of resistance, rebellion, and revolution. Because revolutionary change is at once the most transformative and the most rare, this course will cover the exemplary cases of the Haitian, Mexican, and Cuban revolutions, but then also ask how theorists have understood the dynamics of both open rebellion and of everyday resistance in societies deeply structured by racial, gender, and class power, situated within an unequal world system. Attending to both local and global dynamics, this course will ask how Latin American dynamics have both conformed to and challenged universalist theories of social change.
AS.230.397 (01) The Political Economy of Drugs and Drug Wars
In the United States, we spend more than $100 billion annually on illegal drugs—and the government spends more than $50 billion a year to combat their sale and use. These statistics raise important and complicated social questions. This course will examine the production, sale, use, and control of illegal drugs from a historical and sociological perspective. We will have three objectives: to understand the social construction of drug use and illegality in the United States and other rich countries; to uncover the political and economic consequences of drug trafficking in those countries that produce drugs, particularly in Latin America; and to examine the political economy of drug control through the so-called War on Drugs, both domestically and internationally.
AS.360.420 (01) Humanities Research Lab: Making Maps of Mexico
Learn the basics of ArcGIS and data management as you help Prof. Lurtz publish an agricultural dataset and maps from 10 years before Mexico erupted in revolution. No experience necessary.
AS.376.342 (01) Caribbean Music
This course will explore the many genres of traditional and popular music that have emerged among the peoples and cultures of the Caribbean region and its Diaspora. We will examine the social, political, and economic issues that have shaped the region’s music and how that music may have intersected with migration, colonization, ethnicity, race and tourism. Using a “participant observation” approach, students will read about, listen to and research a variety of musical experiences within the relevant sociopolitical context. Students should expect to fully participate in discussions about the assigned readings and music, and should be prepared to conduct their own research and share their own or newly acquired knowledge of contemporary and “historical/traditional” musical themes, and local and regional artists. Our collective goal will be to enjoy as well as to think critically about music, culture and performance and within a more informed understanding of the complex, multi-varied and multi-vocal context—know as “The Caribbean”.