Africana & Latin American Studies First Year Courses

DirectorM. Moran

The Africana and Latin American Studies Program is an interdisciplinary program that studies the histories and cultures of the peoples of Africa, the Caribbean, and Latin America, and of African Americans in the United States. It draws heavily from several disciplines in the humanities (art, language, literature, music) and the social sciences (anthropology, archaeology, economics, geography, history, political science, and sociology), as well as educational studies, philosophy, psychology, religion, and writing and rhetoric. This provides students with critical methodological cross-disciplinary skills that are increasingly demanded by employers and graduate schools. The program offers a major and a minor in four different concentrations: African, African American, Caribbean, and Latin American studies. It examines the indigenous civilizations of these regions and studies the impact of migration, imperialism and colonialism, racism, nationalism, and globalization in shaping the lives, ideas, and cultural identities of their inhabitants. The focus on the cultural roots of several ethnic minority groups now living in the United States is vital for preparing students to function effectively in an increasingly multicultural society of the future.

Students pursuing a major or a minor in one of the concentrations of Africana and Latin American studies are encouraged to take advantage of the multiple program-sponsored study-abroad opportunities in Africa, the Caribbean, and Latin America which give them first-hand lived experiences in those societies that considerably enhance their classroom knowledge.



An interdisciplinary course that introduces students to the field of Caribbean Studies. It uses literature, film, and the music of the region to explore the historical, societal, cultural, political, and economic development of the Caribbean. It also explores gender issues in the region. It is one of the required courses for students who seek to participate in the West Indies Study Group.

Explores how the idea of "Latin America" came to be and the various political purposes it has served from the colonial encounter to the contemporary moment. This is not a traditional survey course that gives an overview of the regional mosaic we have come to call "Latin America." Instead, it illuminates how the very notion of Latin America as a discrete world-region has been conjured and politicized at key historical moments, emphasizing the underlying social inclusions, exclusions, and global relations fueling these multiple (re)inventions. In addition to the central themes of race, nature, and anti-imperialism, the crucial role of the United States as an interventionist foreign power also looms large in this story.

The archipelago of islands and mainland nations called the Caribbean constitutes a complex montage of races, ethnic groups, languages, and nations. Stretching from Guyana in South America to as far north as the Bahamas, minutes from the coast of Miami, the region is joined by a common history of slavery, imperialism, and resistant self-definition. This course studies literature, film, and music of the region to trace a socio-cultural history of the Caribbean. What are the continued effects of slavery and imperialism on the Caribbean? How does African-Creole culture in particular respond to these continued effects? How do tourism, advertising, music, and film inform/construct people’s relationship to the Caribbean in the global present?

The Latin American country Peru evokes dramatic and conflicting images of spectacular natural settings, ancient ruins, cosmopolitan cities, shantytowns, street children, poverty and more. It is a country of extremes. This course offers an interdisciplinary inquiry into this ecologically and culturally diverse land. The course begins by exploring the distinct geography and ecology of the central Andean region (rainforest, mountains, desert, and ocean) in order to understand how these features have shaped the societies that inhabit the region of present-day Peru. This involves analyzing the evolution and organization of Pre-Columbian societies, paying special attention to the Inca civilization. It also examines the ideologies, institutions and practices introduced with the Spanish conquest and era of colonialism in order to understand their impact on indigenous society and their relevance to the state of underdevelopment that characterizes contemporary Peru. Study of present-day Peru juxtaposes rural and urban life, the ties between the two spheres, and the crisis conditions that enveloped both ways of life until recently. Specific issues include the internal armed conflict, the coca culture and cocaine economy, shantytowns and land invasions, oil extraction and indigenous resistance, among other compelling issues. Throughout the term, this course emphasizes the many paradoxes of this intriguing land.

Examines the complex geographic, historic, social, racial, literary, political, and artistic fabric of Cuba. Historical readings explore major themes of Cuban history, while literary and personal narratives provide insight into social and political realities. These themes are complemented by a study of Cuban film, dance and music as agents of identity formation.

A multidisciplinary look at communities and identities in Bolivia, a country in the heart of South America that has captured transnational attention for its Andean panpipe music, its majority indigenous population, and its social movements. The course uses music, dance, film, history, memoir, political documents, policy reports, anthropology, and journalism to grasp different community articulations in Bolivia. Along with historical understandings of Bolivian communities, the course takes a special look at thematic issues that, while locally grounded, have global resonances: indigenous rights, water, resource extraction, neoliberalism, coca and cocaine, and Andean music and dance.

Offers an overview of various bodies of literature written in French outside of France, focusing on five main geographical areas that historically constituted the French empire: the Caribbean, North Africa, West and Central Africa, Asia, and North America. Full texts as well as excerpts from a variety of genres are studied in the context of the history and geography of those regions. Through the exploration of key literary texts, particular attention is given to the effects of colonialism on language, identity, and artistic creation. 

Language Placement Guidelines

Professor Susan Woolley 

Examines the fabric of California’s syncretic cultures in historical, geographic, sociologic, artistic, racial, literary, political, and economic contexts. The diverse settlement patterns, environmental and economic challenge/opportunity, explosion of art forms, and continuous creation of new communities often foreshadowed trends of the entire nation. Readings explore major themes and issues of California history, while literary and personal narratives provide insight into social and political realities, including the struggles of successive waves of immigrants to interact with the established populations. Artistic and architectural expressions that document cultural phenomena offer tangible examples of the creative forces that shaped Californian intellectual and physical communities. Sociological case studies as well as economic, political, and environmental reporting assist students to understand the challenges, failures, and victories of the composite California culture. Underlying all of this is a continuous study of the variegated geography of California, which has both offered and required substantial human choices. Students who successfully complete this seminar will receive course credit for CORE 172C and satisfy the Communities and Identities core requirement. 

Susan Woolley is Associate Professor of Educational Studies and Director of LGBTQ Studies. Her research focuses on gender, sexuality, and the experiences of LGBTQ students in California and New York K-12 public schools.

A survey of United States history from the era of Reconstruction to the present. Topics include post-Reconstruction racial retrenchment in the South; immigration; the rise of industrialism and the response to it by farmers and workers; Populism and Progressivism; women's suffrage and the modern women's movement; the World Wars, the Cold War, Korea, and Vietnam; the New Deal and public policy; the cultural convulsions of the 1920s and 1960s; the victories and frustrations of the Civil Rights movement; and the post-Cold War period. (US)

This historical, theological, and contextual course examines the African American religious experience, including slavery in America, the struggle for freedom and identify, the development of the Black Church, Black Muslims, the Civil Rights movement, the emergence of Black and Womanist theologies, and other expressions of African American spirituality. Course readings include writings of such historical and contemporary authors as Frederick Douglass, W. E. Du B. DuBois, Martin Luther King, Jr. Malcom X, James Cone, Albert Raboteau, Jacquelyn Grant, and Lewis Baldwin.

Through a survey of Latin American literature from its origins through the 20th century, this course examines the many forms of alternative reality that Latin American writers have created and explored. The course relates those realities to the cultural and sociological history of Latin America as well as to larger Western literary modes, such as the Baroque, Romanticism, and Surrealism. 

Language Placement Guidelines

The course explores the diversity of literary voices in Latin America, from pre-Columbian texts to the contemporary writings of Castellanos, Rulfo, and García Márquez. This survey introduces students to the most important developments in Latin American literary history as it examines questions of cultural, ethnic, gender, and class identities.

Language Placement Guidelines

Structured as an intensive composition class. Emphasis is placed on mastering the fine points of Spanish grammar in order to improve writing skills. In addition to regular class meetings, students are required to attend a series of cultural events, which may include film, theater, etc.

Language Placement Guidelines