Identity Issues in Contemporary Latin American History: An Intercultural Approach

Pontificia Universidad Católica de Valparaíso

Course Description

  • Course Name

    Identity Issues in Contemporary Latin American History: An Intercultural Approach

  • Host University

    Pontificia Universidad Católica de Valparaíso

  • Location

    Valparaíso and Viña del Mar, Chile

  • Area of Study

    History, Latin American Studies

  • Language Level

    Taught In English

    Hours & Credits

  • Contact Hours

  • Recommended U.S. Semester Credits
  • Recommended U.S. Quarter Units
  • Overview


    In contemporary Latin American History of Ideas a division is frequently made between a center and an identity tradition. The center tradition would emphasize the; we-want-to-be-like-the-center, meaning that the traditions are directed at how best to implement ideas from the center, mostly referred to either Europe or the USA. The identity tradition would emphasize the; we-want-to-be-like-ourselves, meaning that we need to find our own roots and lead ourselves. This course is an introduction to the main issues of the identity tradition.

    The separation between center and identity appears at first sight a political and theoretical divide. But what is more interesting is that it represents a much deeper divide in the Latin American mentality, something visible not just in the history of ideas but also in general everyday experiences. The Intercultural approach is meant to draw forth this link between the theoretical insight and the common experience by relating the ordinary experience of the teacher and the students with the theoretical tradition.

    The reason for focusing on the contemporary identity tradition is partly because this is where we find the most original distinction from the traditional western mentality and partly because this is where the most critical approach to Latin American is to be found, reflected both theoretically and in common experience.

    This course will work with a limited number of texts of primary as well as secondary nature that displays central problems in the identity traditions in the 20th century. The modules will be based on different themes related to identity throughout contemporary Latin American History and each theme will be centered on the questions and the problems that have sparked its existence. Themes will include discussions on race, name, origin, authority as well as ideas on dependency and liberation.
    The course will consist of discussions based on oral presentations in class by the teacher as well as by the students. Furthermore the students will prepare papers on themes that will be the basis for the presentations and the spark of the discussions. The presentations of themes will demand not just the theoretical part but also that each student presents a brief explanation of a personal intercultural experience with Latin American o Chilean society which draws a relation to the theoretical content. In doing so we try to ask the questions; how do these (theoretical) problems appear to us in real life?, and how can this add to our understanding of the theoretical content? The course is a didactic and intercultural attempt at relating our practical life world to our theoretical world.

    General Objectives

    To provide the student with a general and critical overview of the central identity problems in
    contemporary Latin American history.

    Specific Objectives

    To provide a relevant didactic link between personal intercultural experiences in Chilean/Latin
    American society and the theoretical content of the central identity problems.

    What is expected from the student
    Dialogical and pre-active participation in the reading and the analysis of the central idea-historical


    Implementation will be through a combination of interactive classroom lectures based on the
    reading, the presentation and the analysis of texts with idea-historical content, and the discussion
    of these theories in light of own intercultural experiences.
    The language of the course will be English.


    The assessment will consist of participation in class (25%), written papers (50%) and presentations
    by students (25%).


    The course comprises of several modules that are separated into central identity issues of ideahistorical
    - The question of race. Latinamericanism and indianism
    - The question of our name and being. Ariel or Caliban.
    - The question of progress. Development and dependency.
    - The question of the origin of Latin American in History and Philosophy.
    - The question of Authority, Discipline and Freedom in Latin American pedagogies.
    - The question of liberation.


    Martí, José, Selected Writings, Penguin Group, New York, 2002
    Zea, Leopoldo, The Latin-American Mind, University of Oklahoma Press, Norman, 1963.
    Rodó, José E., Ariel, University of Texas Press, Austin, 1988.
    Retamar, R. F., Caliban and other essays, University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, 1989.
    Mariatágui, J. C. Seven Interpretive Essays on Peruvian Reality, University of Texas Press, Austin, 1988.
    Vasconcelos, J. The Cosmic Race, John Hopkins Uni. Press, Baltimore, 1979.
    Ramos, Samuel. Profile of Man and Culture in Mexico, University of Texas Press, Austin, 1972.
    Wallerstein, I. World-System Analysis: An Introducion, Duke University Press, Durham, 2004.
    Freire, P. Pedagogy of the oppressed, Penguin, London, 1970
    Dussel, E. The Invention of the Americas, Eclipse of "the other" and the Myth of Modernity, Continuum, New York, 1995, (25-10-2012)
    Mignolo, Walter D., The Idea of Latin America, Blackwell, Malden, 2005
    Gracia, J. J. E. And Millán-Zaibert (ed), E, Latin American Philosophy for the 21st Century, The Human Condition, Values, and the Search for Identity, Prometheus, New York, 2004.
    Larrain, J. Theories of Development: Capitalism, Colonialism and Dependency, Polity, Cambridge, 1991.
    Larraín, J, Identity and Modernity in Latin America, Polity Press, Cambridge, 2000.

Course Disclaimer

Please note that there are no beginning level Spanish courses offered in this program.

Courses and course hours of instruction are subject to change.

Eligibility for courses may be subject to a placement exam and/or pre-requisites.


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