“History is the fruit of power, but power itself is never so transparent that its analysis becomes superfluous. The ultimate mark of power may be its invisibility; the ultimate challenge, the exposition of its roots.” – Michel-Rolph Trouillot
This is a historical methods and skills class. The above quote illustrates one of our course’s core lessons: that history is produced by people with varying levels of power. It is the task of the historian to study the past, to interpret and communicate the past, with this notion in mind. The goal of the class is for you to gain a working knowledge of how history is produced and to practice your own interpretive skills on both primary and secondary sources. We will pursue this goal in three phases: First, by familiarizing ourselves with our historical subject. Second, by doing historiographical analysis of the secondary sources we’ve read. Finally, by conducting research on primary sources. This course has a heavy load in reading and writing, but our small size will allow for deep engagement with the material and your communication skills.
The subject of the class is Latin American Cities in the Twentieth Century. There are over 600 million Latin Americans on the planet and 80% of them live in cities. Over 100 million live in informal, often precarious settlements commonly referred to as slums or shantytowns. Since the 1950s, eight cities – Buenos Aires, Mexico City, Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, Belo Horizonte, Bogotá, Lima, and Santiago – have grown to become the region’s largest with populations near or above 10 million. How and why the region is so urbanized and why certain cities have grown with their own particularities will guide our first phase of readings and discussion. We will then, like auditors, examine why the histories of cities have been written in they manner they have before concluding with an opportunity to find and interpret relevant primary sources.
1. William Beezley, Judas at the Jockey Club and Other Episodes of Porfirian Mexico (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1987). – either edition, preferably second
2. Angel Rama, The Lettered City, trans. John Charles Chasteen (Durham NC: Duke University Press, 1996).
3. Alan Gilbert, The Latin American City (London; New York: Latin America Bureau, 1998). – preferably second or any revised edition
Grading and Assignments
10% In-class participation
15% Quizzes (12, lowest grade dropped)
5% Two short reflection essays
25% Unit 1 Exam
25% Historiography Essay
25% Primary Source Analysis
4.0 92-100% 2.0 68-73
3.5 86-91 1.5 62-67
3.0 80-85 1.0 57-61
2.5 74-79 0.0 0-56
You are allowed one unexcused absence. For every following unexcused absence you will lose .5 grade points (e.g. 2 total unexcused absences during the semester would reduce your 3.0 to a 2.5).
If you anticipate that you will not complete an assignment time, please contact me and explain the situation. If you do not get in touch before the deadline passes, I will not accept late work without a legitimate and documentable reason.
In accordance with Michigan State University’s policies on “Protection of Scholarship and Grades” and “Integrity of Scholarship and Grades,” students are expected to honor principles of truth and honesty in their academic work. Academic integrity means, amongst other things, not plagiarizing. Plagiarism includes submitting someone else’s work (words, ideas, etc.) as their own or knowingly permitting another student to copy and submit their work. Additional discussion of academic integrity is available on the Ombudsman’s website.
Students with Disabilities
Michigan State University is committed to providing equal opportunity for participation in all programs, services and activities. Requests for accommodations by persons with disabilities may be made by contacting the Resource Center for Persons with Disabilities at 517-884-RCPD or on the web at rcpd.msu.edu. Once your eligibility for an accommodation has been determined, you will be issued a verified individual services accommodation (“VISA”) form. Please present this form to me at the start of the term and/or two weeks prior to the accommodation date (test, project, etc). Requests received after this date will be honored whenever possible.