Culture and violence

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Fall 2015
Faculty: Steve Niva (International Politics, Middle East Studies), Lab 1-1005, 867-5612,; office hours Tuesdays 3-4.

Catalina Ocampo (Latin American literature and culture), Seminar 2-E4112, 867-6714,; office hours Tuesdays 3-4.

Program Description:

Periods of war and organized violence are also periods of cultural production. Wars and violence both make and unmake cultures and societies. This two-quarter program will examine the production of culture in a variety of wars and violent contexts drawn largely from the Middle East and Latin America in the 20th and 21st centuries. In the fall, we will focus on the impact on these societies of the invasion and occupation of Iraq, the civil war in Guatemala, and the effect of the “war on drugs” in Mexico. In the winter, we will look at how insurgencies and resistance movements work through culture in Mexico and Israel-Palestine as well as looking at the complex intersection of guerrillas, paramilitaries, government forces, and cartels in Colombia. In all of these cases, we will study representations of violence in literature and art, as well as cultural production and resistance by artists observing and responding to violence.

The primary learning goals of the program include obtaining a thorough knowledge of cases of war and violence and developing an understanding of cultural production in Latin America and the Middle East; developing skills in literary and artistic interpretation, critical thinking, analytical and creative writing, and cross-cultural communication. The program’s objective is to push us to think more deeply about how violence can transform cultures and how cultural production can be mobilized to disrupt cycles of violence.

Program Schedule:




9-12: Lecture/Workshop/Film

(LIB 1540)

10-1: Lecture/Workshop/Film

(SEM 2 E1105)

9-12: Lecture/Workshop/Film

(SEM 2 E1107)

1-3: Seminar

(Steve – LAB1 3033)

(Catalina – LAB1 3064)

1-2:30: Seminar

(Steve – SEM 2 E 2107)

(Catalina – SEM 2 E 2109)

2:30 – 3:00: Overview of Following Week

Required Book List:
*Please note that this is not the complete list of all the readings for our program, but only the list of books you should purchase or rent for our program. All the books below are available at the Greener Bookstore. Additional required readings can be found in pdf on our Canvas site.

  • Carolyn Nordstrom, Shadows of War:  Violence, Power and International Profiteering in the 21st Century

  • Riverbend, Baghdad Burning:  Girl Blog From Iraq

  • Hassan Blasim, The Corpse Exhibition, and other stories from Iraq

  • Wafaa Bilal, Shoot An Iraqi:  Art, Life and Resistance Under the Gun

  • REMHI:  Guatemala:  Never Again (Recovery of Historical Memory Project)

  • Francisco Goldman, The Art of Political Murder

  • Juan Pablo Villalobos, Down the Rabbit Hole:  A Novel

  • Alfredo Corchado, Midnight in Mexico:  A Reporter’s Journey Through A Country’s Descent into Darkness

General Program Expectations:

  1. Attendance: attendance is mandatory. Faculty will deduct credit if a student misses more than 5 individual class sessions, the equivalent of one week (please note that we have two class sessions on Tuesdays and Fridays). These absences must absorb any illnesses, medical appointments, court dates, observance of religious holidays, personal or family emergencies, obligations to college athletic competitions, alarm clock or transportation fiascos, etc.  Please note that credit earned is a function of attendance and completion of program work. The table gives the credit loss due to attendance only.

Percent of Classes Attended (late arrival and early departure can count as partial absences)

Credit loss

90 – 100%


80 – 89%


70 – 79%


60 – 69%


0 – 59%


If a student misses a class, it is the student’s responsibility to obtain information from classmates. It is not the responsibility of the faculty member to go over missed announcements, materials, etc.

  1. Late Assignments: all assignments must be completed on time and turned in online, including reading assignments. Assignments turned in late will not be accepted.

  1. Participation: active participation and collaboration during all class activities is essential.

  1. Canvas Site: everyone will link their email address to Canvas and check both their e-mail and the Canvas site regularly for program announcements.

  1. Seminar Readings: everyone will bring to class their own copy of seminar readings including seminar readings from the web.

  1. Cell Phone Use: No use of cell phones during class events. Use of laptops and electronic readers requires prior approval.

  1. Program Events: students will be expected to present at one open-mic session (quality can be variable) but note that students are expected to make delicious food for all program potlucks at the risk of losing full credit if the food is below standards of tastiness.

Assignments for Credit:
Turning in assignments:

  • All typed assignments should use a 12 point font such as Times or Times New Roman.

  • Your documents margins should be set at 1” top/bottom/left/margins.

  • Each page must be numbered at the bottom.

  • For all hard copies, please staple the pages of your papers.

  • All assignments should include a list of works cited, and cited references in MLA format.

  • All assignments should be turned in on Canvas before the due date and time noted on your grid (no late assignments will be accepted). Please also bring a hard copy of the assignment on the first day of class after the due date.

Weekly Seminar Papers:

The purpose of seminar papers is to help you reflect on the week’s readings, make connections between readings and other program activities, and practice the skills of synthesis and analysis. All seminar papers should be between 200-300 words and include a list of works cited.

  • Analysis: what and how (due Tuesdays before 8:30 am): Write a one-page response to the text assigned for Tuesday that analyzes:

    1. What context or issues the author/text is responding to: be specific in noting the particular characteristics of the conflict that the author is bringing to light, using a quote as an example.

    2. How the author is responding to this context in terms of the reading’s form and formal strategies: be specific and use a quote that illustrates your argument.

  • Insights/Questions (due Fridays before 8:30 am): Write a one-page response to the material from the week that discusses some examples of

  1. New learning or insights from the readings, lectures, or activities of the week: try to use the phrasing “I learned that” (rather than “I learned about...”) and note where and how you arrived at this insight.

  2. A question you still have about the material and topics from the week: before stating your question, please contextualize it and give your reader an idea of the reading or program activity that elicited this question for you.

Analysis Essays (x 2):

These two essays intended to give you practice in academic writing and develop skills in written analysis and argumentation, including the capacity to develop and support a thesis statement.

  1. Responding to War: Write an 6-8 page analytical essay that compares two of the three responses to the war in Iraq we have read in class (Riverbend, Blasim, Bilal) in terms of their content, form, and effect. Develop a thesis from your analysis and construct a title that reflects your thesis.

  1. Art as Intervention: Write an 6-8 page analytical essay that discusses at least 3 writers (or 2 writers and one artist) from the cases of Guatemala and Mexico. Discuss how their texts/artworks illuminate but also try to intervene in contexts of extreme violence. What does each text/artwork illuminate about its context? What does it leave in the shadows? Why? What is it trying to do? How is it trying to intervene in its context? Develop a thesis from your analysis and construct a title that reflects your thesis.

Creative Writing Assignments (x 3):

The purpose of creative writing assignments is to give you practice in responding creatively through various forms of writing while allowing you to explore your own relationship to the materials we will be studying. You will be writing a blog post, a poem, and one more creative writing exercise structured around practices of memorializing. You will receive more details on the creative writing assignments during the workshops. These workshops are designed to generate material and prepare you for these assignments, and do not assume any previous experience with creative writing.
Collaborative Reflections (x 3):

Collaborative reflections are intended to strengthen your skills in collaborative group work and provide you an opportunity for synthesis of the material learned. You will participate in a collaborative reflection workshop at the end of each case study (Iraq; Guatemala; Mexico). We will a) seek to understand the form and nature of the violence in each case; b) consider the aesthetic and artistic forms of the responses to this violence and c) produce something in small groups that illuminates both a) and b).
Final Collaborative Reflections:

At the end of the quarter, instead of an individual final examination or final paper/presentation, we will build on the collaborative reflection workshops from the quarter and do one final collaborative reflection where we will compare and contrast the three cases of culture and violence that we have studied and produce a final piece of reflective work.

Program Portfolio Format and Contents

Your portfolio materials (all assignments with comments from faculty) must be kept in a 3-ring binder with labeled dividers based on the categories listed above. All materials in the portfolio should be typed. Your name needs to appear both on the outside of your binder and on the first page of your portfolio.


  • Week 5, Wednesday: Mid-quarter portfolio turned into faculty

  • Week 10, Friday: Final portfolio turned in to faculty prior to evaluation

Below you will find a list of resources on campus that offer support to students in a variety of areas. Please seek them out if you feel that you need them: they are valuable support structures to our academic work.

  • The Writing Center: The Writing Center supports all students at every stage of their writing, and offers tutoring for all skill levels and types of writing (including academic essays, creative writing, and evaluations).

Contact: Library 2304, (360) 867-6420,

  • Academic Advising: Academic Advising provides support in understand how college works and how to develop the skills to succeed, how to navigate Evergreen's curriculum, choose programs and courses to meet your interests and goals, identify and develop an area of emphasis, prepare for advanced study, connect with campus resources and support systems, and improve study and time management skills.

Contact: Library 2153, (360) 867-6312,; Drop-ins Monday–Thursday: 1–5 pm and Friday: 1–4 pm.

  • First Peoples Multicultural Advising Center: First Peoples is open to all members of the Evergreen community. It tailors services to support students of color and seeks to be inclusive of other dimensions of identity such as ability, gender and sexual orientation, and socioeconomic class, among others. First Peoples offers academic, social, and personal advising, support in navigating Evergreen (including guidance in connecting with other campus resources), support in improving study and time management skills, as well as a series of community-building and educational events.

Contact: Library Building 2153, (360) 867-6467,,

  • TRiO Student Support Services: TRiO offers support services for students who are first generation, low-income, or who have a recently documented physical or learning disability. TRiO/KEY services include courses for academic credit, workshops, events, academic advising, study groups, financial literacy and financial aid guidance, leadership development, career development, graduate/professional school preparation, and cultural enrichment programs.

Contact: Library 2106, (360) 867-6464,,

  • Student Health and Counseling Services: The Student Health Center provides basic health services, offers health education, and helps coordinate care when community referrals are necessary. The Counseling Center provides consultation, evaluation, and counseling services for students dealing with issues impacting their well-being.

Contact: Seminar I 2110, (360) 867-6200 (Health), (360) 867-6800 (Counseling),

    • WEEKS

    • Tuesday

    • Thursday

    • Friday

    • Sunday


    • 1

    • AM Introduction: Syllabus/ Covenant, Intro lectures

    • PM Seminar: Community-building, Seminar strategies, Setting up Field Trip

    • Workshop (Catalina): Responding to Violence: Form, Content, Effect

    • DUE 8:30 am: Seminar paper (insights/questions)

    • AM Workshop (Steve): 9/11 and the Making and Unmaking of American Culture

    • PM Seminar: Nordstrom, Shadows of War (pgs. 1-39) + Hedges, “Introduction” from War is a Force that Gives us Meaning

    • 2

    • Field Trip to Seattle:

    • 1:00 – 4:00 – Workshop on Nordstrom and Bookstore Scavenger Hunt

    • (@Elliott Bay Book Company, Seattle)

    • 4:00 – 5:00 pm – Free time

    • 5:00 – 6:00 pm – Q&A with Bryan Doerries

    • (@Elliott Bay Book Company, Seattle)

    • 7:30 pm - “The Healing Power of Theater” (@ Town Hall, Seattle)

    • *Bring a copy of your notes from the field trip to class.

    • Debrief from Field Trip: Art as Response

    • Workshop: Culture and Violence: Ethical Questions

    • DUE 8:30 am: Seminar paper (analysis: what and how)

    • AM Workshops:

    • 9 – 10:30: Learning Across Significant Differences (First Peoples)

    • 10:45 – 12:00 – Relating to Violence

    • PM Seminar: Nordstrom, Shadows of War (40-81, 141-end)

    • DUE 5 pm: Field Trip Reflection (bring hard copy to class on Tuesday)

    • IRAQ

    • 3

    • DUE 8:30 am: seminar paper (analysis: what and how)

    • AM Lecture/Film (Steve): Unmaking Iraq

    • PM Seminar: Riverbend, Baghdad Burning (pgs. 1-178)

    • Writing Workshop # 1: Blogs

    • DUE 8:30 am: Seminar paper (insights/questions)

    • AM: Lecture/Film (Steve): Violence as a Detail (Catalina Absent)

    • PM Seminar: Corpse Exhibition (Corpse Exhibition; The Killers…; Green Zone…; Madman; Iraqi Christ; Composer; Song of Goats; Reality/Record; Nightmares…)

    • DUE 5pm: Creative Writing # 1, Blog posting (bring hard copy to class on Tuesday)

    • 4

    • DUE 8:30 am: seminar paper (analysis: what and how)

    • AM Lecture (Steve and Catalina): Artistic Interventions (aka “Cultural Guerrilla Methods”) + visit to “Sensations that Announce the Future” @ Evergreen Gallery

    • PM Seminar: Shoot an Iraqi (all)

    • Writing Workshop # 2: Academic Writing

    • DUE 8:30 am: Seminar paper (insights/questions)

    • AM Synthesis: Collaborative Reflection on Iraq + Open Mic

    • PM Seminar: Shoot an Iraqi (all)

    • DUE 5 pm: Analysis Essay # 1, First Draft (bring 4 copies to class on Thursday)


    • 5

    • DUE 8:30 am: seminar paper (analysis: what and how)

    • AM Lecture (Steve): Text and Context in Guatemala: Truth Commission

    • PM Seminar: REMHI Report (all)

    • *Please bring 4 hard copies of the first draft of your analysis essay # 1 to class.

    • Writing Workshop # 3: Peer Review of Essay # 1

    • Workshop: Silence and Remembering

    • DUE 8:30 am: Seminar paper (insights/questions)

    • AM Film: Pamela Yates (dir.), When the Mountains Tremble

    • PM Seminar: REMHI Report (all)

    • DUE: Analysis Essay # 1, Final (bring hard copy to class on Tuesday)

    • 6

    • DUE 8:30 am: seminar paper (analysis: what and how)

    • AM Lecture (Catalina): Tragedy and Violence

    • PM Seminar: Goldman, The Art of Political Murder

    • Film: Pamela Yates (dir.), Granito: How to Nail a Dictator

    • DUE 8:30 am: Seminar paper (insights/questions)

    • AM Synthesis: Collaborative Reflection on Guatemala + Open Mic

    • PM Seminar: Goldman, The Art of Political Murder

    • DUE: Creative Writing # 2:

    • Memorial (bring hard copy to class on Tuesday)

    • MEXICO

    • 7

    • DUE 8:30 am: seminar paper (analysis: what and how)

    • AM Lecture (Catalina): Innocence and Guilt in “Narco-literature”

    • PM Seminar: Villalobos, Down the Rabbit Hole

    • Film: Shaul Schwarz (dir.), Narco Cultura

    • DUE 8:30 am: Seminar paper (insights/questions)

    • AM Workshop: Mexican Artists Responding to Violence

    • PM Seminar: essays on Mexican artists (on Canvas) + Villalobos

    • DUE: Analysis Essay # 2, First Draft (bring 4 copies to class on Thursday)

    • 8

    • DUE 8:30 am: seminar paper (analysis: what and how)

    • AM Lecture (Steve): Mexico and the “War over Drugs”

    • PM Seminar: Corchado, Midnight in Mexico

    • *Please bring 4 hard copies of the first draft of your analysis essay # 2 to class.

    • Writing Workshop # 4: Peer Review of Essay # 2

    • DUE 8:30 am: Seminar paper (insights/questions)

    • AM Workshop: Geographies of Violence

    • PM Seminar: Corchado, Midnight in Mexico

    • DUE: Analysis Essay # 2, Final (bring hard copy to class on Tuesday)

    • 9

    • DUE 8:30 am: seminar paper (analysis: what and how)

    • AM Lecture (Catalina): Violence, Poetry, and Silence

    • PM Seminar: Alma Guillermoprieto, “Mexico: The Murder of the Young”; Poets for Ayotzinapa (selections) (both on Canvas)

    • Writing Workshop # 5: Poetry

    • DUE 8:30 am: Seminar paper (insights/questions)

    • AM Synthesis: Collaborative Reflection on Mexico + Open Mic

    • PM Seminar: Sara Uribe, Antígona González (selection); Javier Sicilia, “Open Letter to Mexico’s Politicians and Criminals” (both on Canvas)

    • DUE: Creative Writing # 3: Poem + Framing (bring hard copy to class on Tuesday)

    • Conclusion

    • 10

    • Final Collaborative Reflection, Part I

    • Final Collaborative Reflection, Part II

    • Poetry Reading + Open Mic, Potluck, Conclusion

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