This course offers a synthetic introduction to historical and contemporary theories of development in Latin America with a special emphasis on critical perspectives. Drawing upon an interdisciplinary set of readings in history, sociology, political science, geography and anthropology, we will pay careful attention to the ways a study constructs, employs or challenges the idea of “development.” This critical reading of development literature will also lead us to explore a range of regional issues in Latin America including indigenous politics, urban poverty, informality, neoliberalism, migration, gender relations, and environmental politics. As a graduate seminar, students will be expected to engage not only class readings but also the writing and work-in-progress that they bring to the table.
The trajectory of the course will move across three major sets of questions. The first part, “Theoretical Foundations,” traces development paradigms in Latin America historically. We will pay special attention to the social and political theories that shaped various approaches to development in the region. This first part of the seminar will therefore provide both an overview of the political-economic context in Latin America and a grounding in the theoretical frameworks for understanding development literature. The second part of the course, “Development: A View from the Margins,” will be more critical, problematizing the idea and discourse of development. We will also consider possible alternatives to development or ways of addressing poverty and inequality that push beyond development frameworks in Latin America. Finally, we examine the “Violence of Development” or the ways different actors and social movements on the ground have contended with, challenged, or otherwise engaged with development projects. Exploring a range of historical, political, social, and economic issues in contemporary Latin America, these ethnographies will also lead us to re-examine theories of development encountered throughout the semester.