Power and Violence in Latin America and the Caribbean

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Power and Violence in Latin America and the Caribbean

Summer 2016: Costa Rica

Instructor’s Name: Dr. Caitlin E. Fouratt
Office Number LA3-100B
E-Mail Caitlin.fouratt@csulb.edu

Catalog Description

This course examines the history and cultural politics of dictatorship, revolution, and violence in Latin America and the Caribbean. Uses literature, film, history, and political theory to examine how power and violence intersect with race, ethnicity, gender, and nationalism.

Course Description

According to the United Nations, Latin America and the Caribbean is the most unequal region in the world. Much of this inequality and poverty is the legacy of centuries of social and political conflicts and economic crisis. This course seeks to understand current social, economic, and political conditions in the region through an exploration of how violence and power have been wielded historically.

We will look at the history of violent encounters, starting with the colonial period, but focusing particularly on revolution, dictatorship, and their aftermath in the 20th and 21st centuries through a series of country case studies. Our explorations will take us from Central American banana republics, to the men and women who were disappeared in the Argentine “Dirty War,” to current issues of rising crime and gang violence. We will pay special attention to.

As a study abroad course to Costa Rica, the course offers students an opportunity to examine these issues first-hand through travel and study. While much of Latin America has experienced decades of armed conflict, military dictatorships, and high levels of violence, Costa Rica is known as the Central American exception. The country eliminated its army in 1948 and has invested heavily in education and healthcare systems, which are largely seen as a model for the region. Yet, today Costa Rica too is plagued by inequality and a declining quality of life. The course will combine lectures and class discussion with relevant site visits and guest lectures from local experts to critically examine legacies of violence and instability today, the role of the U.S. in regional instabilities, and Costa Rica’s reputation as an exception in the region.

Course Objectives

Upon successful completion of I/ST 476 students will be able to:

  • Critically analyze contemporary social, economic, and political conditions in Latin America and the Caribbean in light of historical conflicts and inequalities, with particular attention to a critical understanding of Costa Rica’s exceptionalism

  • Discuss the basic social, economic, and political factors that contributed to civil wars and revolutions in the 20th century in Latin America

  • Discuss the United States’ political and economic role in the region historically and contemporary relations between the U.S. and countries’ of the region

  • Analyze primary materials and sources, both written and visual, to construct arguments about the cultural dimensions of war and the peace process.

  • Compare different authoritarian regimes and revolutionary movements in the region, understanding the causes and consequences of each

  • Communicate a sensitivity to and understanding of multiple perspectives, including race, gender, and class

  • Develop and articulate their own views about power and violence in argumentative, evidence-based essays

Course Policies

Although this is a study abroad course, all the usual course policies apply.

Late policy: Assignments submitted late without a prior agreement will be penalized by the reduction of one third grade per 24-hour period. Thus an assignment with a grade 92 submitted on Tuesday instead of Monday will receive a final grade of 89. In the case where an assignment is due both on BeachBoard and in hard copy, both versions must be submitted on time in order to avoid the penalty.

Students with disabilities: If you have a documented disability and require additional time or other help for assignments, you must obtain verification from the Disabled Students Services Office located in Brotman Hall. The number is 562-985-5401.

Classroom technology: Research shows that using laptops to take notes in a lecture actually hurts your ability to learn material. However, laptops have been shown to help students in group work and experiential learning. So, to maximize your learning in class, you are prohibited from taking notes on laptops, tablets, etc. but encouraged to use them during group work or in-class exercises. You are also allowed to bring your readings on laptops/tablets, since I know that printing costs (both financial and environmental!) can be quite high. However, please some prepared to class every day with a notebook and pen/pencil for note taking. Students who are concerned about this policy or who have special needs that require their use of a laptop should consult with the professor.
Additionally, I do not permit students to take pictures of the white board as a form of note-taking.
Classroom etiquette: please abide by the etiquette guidelines established on the first day of class.

NO reading of extraneous material in class;

NO radios, headsets, iPods, or any other distractions;

NO conversations other than those directed at the class;

NO cell phones, no texting. If you must have one out for any reason, see me before class.

NO packing up before class is dismissed.
Our class discussion and activities are closely tied to the readings, and we will often refer to them in class. So, you MUST bring the day’s readings with you to class every day. Readings posted to BeachBoard may be printed or you may bring them on a laptop or tablet – but NOT on your smartphones. Coming to class without the readings is coming unprepared.
Absences: As a study abroad class, your attendance at all sessions is mandatory. All absences will be noted, and habitual absence will affect the final grade. University Attendance Policy PS 01-01 defines excused absences as 1) illness or injury to the student; 2) death, injury, or serious illness of an immediate family member or the like; 3) religious reasons (California Educational Code section 89320); 4) jury duty or government obligation; 5) University sanctioned or approved activities (such as athletics). Students are responsible for all materials in the texts, lectures, film screenings, and discussions. I do not respond to e-mails in which a student asks what he/she missed because of an absence. If you miss a class, please ask a classmate to bring you up to speed.

Tardiness: Consistent tardiness is not acceptable and will result in a grade deduction. Tardiness for field trips affects us all, as we cannot leave until the entire group is present. You need to let me know ahead of time if you are going to be late or will need to leave early. It is a disruption to the class and discourteous to your classmates to disrupt the class through late arrival. In the event that you are late, I suggest you ask a classmate whether you missed any important information covered at the beginning of class. I will not reiterate such information to you at the end of class.

Shared Community” and Respect: Discriminatory statements of any kind negate the education process and will not be tolerated. This course adheres to the University’s “Principles of Shared Community.” We will be discussing some sensitive and controversial issues about race, gender, and migration status this semester, so students are expected to show respect for one another and the instructor in all classroom and course interactions, especially during class discussion. This includes respect for other’s time – students are expected to arrive on time for class – and attention – students are expected to pay attention to one another during class. Texting, messaging, and other online distractions will not be tolerated during class.


Because one of the goals of this course is for students to experience as much as possible of Costa Rica, I have decided not to require you to purchase a book for the course. All readings will be available for download on BeachBoard. Please be sure to download/print the readings before you leave, as internet connections are not always reliable or fast enough for good downloads. You do not need to print all the readings, you may have them on your computer, ipad, etc, but you will be expected to bring the readings with you to class every day.

Since you do not need to purchase a book, be prepared to budget a small amount of money $30-40 for activities that may come up during our trip but that were not previously planned. For example, an impromptu field trip or event.

Readings should be completed BEFORE coming to class on the day they are assigned.

Assignments and Grading

This course is only 3 weeks long and includes international travel, so it is quite an intense experience. As such, your grade for the course will reflect a number of assignments in the field in Costa Rica as well as in class activities, discussions, and written assignments.

Written assignments should be uploaded to BeachBoard dropboxes the same day they are due.

Attendance and participation


Field reports

  • Race in Latin America

  • Banana/Coffee Plantations

  • Travel and tourism reflection

  • Urban poverty and violence



Final project

  • Presentation

  • Gringo’s Guide”





Attendance and Participation (15%): Attendance at all class sessions, including pre and post-trip are mandatory. Participation in class discussions, field trips are key to a successful experience for all of us.

Field Reports: You will write a series of short field reports based on field trips and out of class assignments. These field reports should draw on your observations, conversations, and experiences in Costa Rica. You should then use class readings and concepts to analyze these observations. Please see the field report format guide for further instructions and a prompt for each field report topic.


Race in Latin America 10%

Banana/Coffee Plantations 10%

Travel and tourism reflection 10%

Urban poverty and violence 10%

Final project Gringo’s Guide (25%):

Because of our short time frame, there are many topics we will not be able to cover in this course. This assignment provides an opportunity for you to research and analyze a topic you are interested in in the region. The assignment has various parts:

  1. Choose a topic relevant to the course. Examples might include the 2009 coup in Honduras (and U.S. involvement), the current political turmoil in Brazil or issues leading up to the Summer Olympics, the murder of Honduran environmental activist Berta Cáceres, the Ayotzinapa disappearances and the Mexican state, among others. Please choose your topic BEFORE we leave for Costa Rica. You will be expected to explain your topic to the group in our first class session.

  2. Newspaper research: Find English (or Spanish) language newspapers from the country you’re researching. Follow your topic in the news, from when it first appears through our time in Costa Rica.

  3. Status updates: You will be asked to give some informal background and status updates in-class, especially on the relationship between your project and class materials.

  4. Presentation (10%): Prepare a 5-10 minute presentation on your topic to be given in class during our final days in-country. You should present visuals – video, powerpoint, or a poster. You will give your presentation as part of a mini-conference that we will put together for the last day of class in Costa Rica. I will break you into panels composed of related topics. Each panel will present on their topics, give a sense of the relationships between individual projects, and then we will discuss each set of projects as a large group.

  5. Final paper (15%): Your final paper should be a 1-2 page “gringo’s guide” to your topic. Give background, a summary, and a brief analysis of the issue that a foreigner should know about the topic. This analysis should draw on course readings as well as the news media. Include a bibliography. The guide should be visually attractive and easy to read for non-experts (that is, it can be in bullet point format, include illustrations, images, graphs, etc. to make your point). You should bring enough copies of your “gringo’s guide” to the final conference to share with your classmates. Works cited should be included.

Class schedule

Class will meet at 2pm in the ICDS seminar room, unless otherwise noted. In the case of field trips, etc., we will let you know what time to meet at ICDS.






Readings due


Pre-departure meeting



Day 1

Sunday, July 10

Travel day and arrival in SJO

 NAPA bulletin on being a good traveler

Journal assignment: What do you know about Costa Rica? Latin America?

What are key issues in Latin America you’re interested in? What have you seen in the news?

What are your expectations for this trip/course? For yourself as traveler?

Day 2:

Monday, July 11

ICDS orientation session

Low, Setha M. “Spatializing Culture: The Social Production and Social Construction of Public Space in Costa Rica.” American Ethnologist 23, no. 4 (1996): 861–879.
Final project topic due

Journal Assignment: Initial impressions and observations about your home; neighborhood; the city

Things to think about: how do Costa Ricans interact with each other? Men & women? With you? Use of space, public transportation and cars, streets…

Day3: Tuesday, July 12 2:00 - 3:30 p.m.

Lecture #1: Main Challenges for Sustainable Development in Costa Rica Karol Acón, MPA Harvard University

Costa Rica reader selection (Skim the piece by Rafael Calderón Guardia)

Journal Assignment (Monday and/or Tues):

Critical reflection on reading +

Spend an hour or two in a plaza or parque (in downtown San José – or the new Barrio Chino boulevard is an option – or in San Pedro, near your host family’s house). What do you observe? How does this compare to what we read about in Low’s piece about the Parque Central and Plaza de la Cultura? What do you notice about who uses the space and how? Using Low’s concept of social construction of space, how does this differ by gender, age, ethnicity in the plaza you observed v. in the reading?

Day 4: Wednesday, July 13

Field trip: National Museum/Jade Museum

Peter Wade, “Race in Latin America.” In A Companion to Latin American Anthropology. Deborah Poole, Ed. Blackwell (2008).

Journal assignment:

Critical reflection on Wade +

Look at the exhibits/listen to our guide. What are the national origins stories they tell about Costa Rica? What unites the country? What are some national values, principles that are important to national identity?

Day 5: Thursday, July 14

Race in Costa Rica/Latin America

Sharman, Russell Leigh. “The Caribbean Carretera: Race, Space and Social Liminality in Costa Rica.” Bulletin of Latin American Research 20 (2001): 46–62.

Assignment: (should be done before readings on race) Ask your host family, a neighbor, another Costa Rican about different regions and groups of people in Costa Rica: What are they like? Who lives in what region? Once you’ve asked about the different regions, ask about immigrant groups – who are the biggest group of immigrants? Where do they live? What do they do here? What are they like? If it hasn’t come up already, tell them you’re going on a field trip to the Limón province. Ask about the province specifically.

Analysis: What did your interview reveal about Costa Ricans’ understandings of race and ethnicity? What is the local/national racial hierarchy? How does this compare with what you know about elsewhere in Latin America? How does it relate to the readings on race? How does this line up with what you learned in the museum fieldtrip/city tour about Costa Rican history? (This is Field Report #1)

Day 6: Friday, July 15

Banana Republics: Lecture and fieldtrip
Day-trip #1: Visit to a banana or pineapple plantation in the Guápiles/Sarapiquí area

Bourgois, Philippe. “Conjugated Oppression: Class and Ethnicity among Guaymi and Kuna Banana Workers.” American Ethnologist 15, no. 2 (1988): 328–348.

Journal Assignment: Focus on the divide & conquer tactics of management. What are they? How do they benefit the company? How are they related to labor control & quality? What’s the relationship between ideological domination and economic exploitation?
Field assignment: Take notes on the plantation tour and aspects of power, identity, and race that we are/have been examining. What do you notice about gender and labor? Ethnicity and race? Environmental issues on the plantation? Economic impact of US consumer demands? The role of multinational corporation? (This begins field report #2)

Day 7: Saturday, July 16

Writing and research day (for field report + final project)

“Dialectical Bananas” in Banana Wars


Day 8: Sunday, July 17

Day-Trip #2: Visit Doka Estate coffee plantation and processing plant in Sabanilla de Alajuela for coffee tour & lunch

 Jaffee, Daniel. “Coffee, Commodities, Crisis” in Brewing Justice: Fair Trade Coffee, Sustainability, and Survival. Univ of California Press, 2014.

Day 9: Monday, July 18

Banana Republics
Debt & Dictatorships

 Chasteen: Ch 10 Reaction
Field report #1 (Race) due

 Journal assignment: How did U.S. policy trigger dictatorship in Latin America? What is bureaucratic authoritarianism, and what role did economics play in the rise of dictatorships and their reign in Latin America in the 1960s-1980s?

Day 10: Tuesday, July 19 2:00 - 3:30 p.m.

Lecture #2: From Dictatorships to Democracy in Central America

Guest lecture: Carlos Torres


Day 11: Wednesday, July 20

Memory and after-effects of war

Rebekah Park, “Life After Prison Still Feels Like Imprisonment,” in The Reappeared: Argentine Former Political Prisoners (108-144)
Field report #2 (Bananas and Coffee) due


Day 12: Thursday, July 21 2:00 - 3:30 p.m.

Lecture #3: Trapped Societies: The Case of Guatemala

Guest lecture: Daniel Matul, MBA Universidad de Costa Rica

Burrell, Jennifer L. “Introduction.” In Maya after War: Conflict, Power, and Politics in Guatemala. University of Texas Press, 2013.

Day 13: Friday, July 22


Cupples, Julie. “Love and Money in an Age of Neoliberalism: Gender, Work, and Single Motherhood in Post-revolutionary Nicaragua.” Environment and Planning A 37, no. 2 (2005): 305–322.


Day 14: Saturday, July 23


Guided tour of Carara National Park & Punta Leona beach resort

Rivers-Moore, Megan. “No Artificial Ingredients? Gender, Race and Nation in Costa Rica’s International Tourism Campaign.” Journal of Latin American Cultural Studies 16 (2007): 341–57.

We will set up a class meeting during this time to talk about tourism and travel

Day 15: Sunday, July 24


Auyero, Javier. 2000. “The Hyper-Shantytown: Neo-liberal Violence(s) in the Argentine Slum.” Ethnography. Vol. 1 (1) pp. 93.

Day 16: Monday, July 25

Day off - Anexión de Guanacaste national holiday


 I encourage you to participate in the local festivities, and to ask people what this holiday is all about! (it’s directly related to our conversations about race, national identity, and independence)

Day 17: Tuesday, July 26

Poverty and Violence in Central America
Field Trip to Casa San Lazaro soup kitchen

Day 18: Wednesday, July 27

The New Left & Crisis of the New Left

Jorge Castañeda, “The Death of the Latin American Left” NEW York Times (03/23/2016)
Blei, Daniela. “Is the Latin American Left Dead?” New Republic, April 18, 2016.

Field report #3 (Tourism) due

Day 19: Thursday, July 28 2:00 - 3:30 p.m.

Guest Lecture #4: New migration flows and their consequences for the region


Day 20: Friday, July 29

Conference: Contemporary Issues in Latin America

Final Projects and Presentations Due


Day 21: Saturday, July 30

Writing Day



Day 22: Sunday, July 31

Travel day to return to the US


August 10, 2016
TIME: TBD LA3-100 Conference Room

Trip debriefing

Field report # 4 (Urban poverty/violence) due

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