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Master of Arts in Latin American Studies - Social Sciences

This is an archived copy of the 2012-13 catalog. To access the most recent version of the catalog, please visit


  • Mauricio Tenorio


Please see entry for Center for Latin American Studies for the list of the Latin American Studies faculty committee, also available at .

The Center for Latin American Studies administers a Master of Arts degree program in Latin American Studies. The Master of Arts program is a one year program of graduate studies that provides students with a thorough knowledge of the cultures, history, politics, and languages of the region. Students benefit from various resources that put the University of Chicago at the forefront of research and scholarship on Latin America, including world renowned faculty, top quality library resources, graduate workshops, and field research grant opportunities. Please see the Center for Latin American Studies entry in the Graduate Announcements for full details on Center resources. The Center also administers a Bachelor of Arts (major and minor) in Latin American Studies (for details please see ).

The master’s program attracts students who will benefit from interdisciplinary training in a highly individualized and flexible program. Each student works closely with faculty and the program advisor to design a customized curriculum, define an area of scholarly research, and write a master’s paper. Students take advantage of the program’s flexibility to advance their academic and/or career objectives before making a major professional or educational commitment. Some students approach a research interest from a multidisciplinary perspective. Others strengthen their training in a single discipline as it relates to Latin American Studies, or explore new fields.

Through the M.A. Proseminar, the required common core of the master’s program, students gain a critical understanding of the major theoretical approaches, principal research methods, and current trends in Latin American Studies. During the winter quarter of the Proseminar students develop the proposal for their master’s paper. The master’s paper is meant to demonstrate the student’s ability to apply formal training in Latin American Studies toward a specific and original research problem. Primary Latin Americanist faculty at the University of Chicago serve as guest lecturers in the Proseminar to introduce students to their research.

The master’s program provides students with the opportunity to develop and enhance skills and knowledge appropriate for careers related to Latin America or as preparation for further graduate work or professional training. Graduates of the program enter or return to careers for which the master’s degree is increasingly an entry-level requirement, including secondary and higher education, government, business, and various cultural organizations and non-profit agencies. Others enter doctoral and professional degree programs with support and advice from Latin American Studies staff and faculty.

Admission to the Master’s Program

Prospective students to the Master of Arts program in Latin American Studies may apply to the program through the Division of the Social Sciences or through the Division of the Humanities and will receive the degree from the division through which they have been admitted.

Information on How to Apply

The application process for admission and financial aid for all graduate programs in Humanities is administered through the divisional Office of the Dean of Students. The Application for Admission and Financial Aid, with instructions, deadlines and department specific information is available online at: .

Questions pertaining to admissions and aid should be directed to or (773) 702-1552.

The application process for admission and financial aid for all graduate programs in Social Sciences is administered through the divisional Office of the Dean of Students. The Application for Admission and Financial Aid, with instructions, deadlines and department specific information is available online at:

Questions pertaining to admissions and aid through Social Sciences should be directed to or (773) 702-8415. Most of the documents needed for the application can be uploaded through the online application. Any additional correspondence and materials sent in support of applications should be mailed to:

The University of Chicago
Division of the Social Sciences
Admissions Office, Foster 105
1130 East 59th Street

Foreign students must provide evidence of English proficiency by submitting scores from either the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or the International English Language Testing System (IELTS). Current minimum scores, etc., are provided with the application.

Students who wish to earn a Ph.D. degree should apply to a degree program in one of the graduate departments or committees in the Division of the Humanities or the Division of the Social Sciences. Foreign students should be advised that in the United States completion of a master’s degree program is generally not a prerequisite to entering a Ph.D. program.

Program Requirements

Upon entering the program, students will work under academic direction of the CLAS Associate Director to develop a specific program of study, cultivate their research interests, and identify a faculty advisor for their master’s paper. The basic components of the master’s program are described below.


A fundamental requirement of the program is proficiency in one of the spoken languages (other than English) of Latin America and the Caribbean. This requirement normally will be met in Spanish or Portuguese. However, substitution of an Amerindian language (such as Aymara, K'iche' Maya, or Yucatec Maya ) or a language spoken in the Caribbean (such as Hatian Creole) is permissible with the approval of the program advisor. Petitions for substitution will be evaluated in light of the student’s prior competency and curricular program and the adequacy of instructional resources in the substitute language. Advanced Proficiency Examinations will be administered to evaluate the entering student’s language skills. Students usually meet the language requirement through the Advanced Proficiency Examination in Spanish or Portuguese.

Course Requirements

The standard course requirement is nine quarter courses, to be met as follows: the M.A. Proseminar in Latin American Studies; five courses in Latin American and Caribbean Studies; and three elective courses. Students are expected to fulfill the language requirement through proficiency examination, and complete the master’s program in three quarters of course work. In consultation with the program advisor, the student will select three elective courses suited to individual curricular interests. These courses may be selected from the offerings in the divisions and professional schools of the University. Non degree graduate level courses at the University completed prior to admission to the master’s program may be used in fulfillment of elective requirements, upon approval of the program advisor.

Credits towards the Master of Arts in Latin American Studies must be taken at the graduate level (courses designated as 30000 or above). However, certain lower level courses may be accepted, at the discretion of the program advisor. All course requirements can be met in three academic quarters.

The Master’s Paper

In addition to the course requirements outlined above, every master’s degree candidate is required to submit a master’s paper. This paper is meant to demonstrate the student’s ability to apply formal training in Latin American and Caribbean studies toward a specific research problem developed over the course of the program. The research and writing of this paper will be conducted under the guidance of a faculty advisor. A student may register for the course LACS 40300 Master’s Paper Preparation, which is arranged on an individual basis with the faculty advisor for the project. This course, while optional, may be counted as one of the five required Latin American Studies core courses.


Courses pertinent to the Latin American area are offered through the individual departments and committees of the Divisions of the Social Sciences and the Humanities, and through the University’s professional schools. Please refer to the listings in these Announcements and in the quarterly Time Schedules for specific offerings. Additionally, special courses are offered by senior visiting Latin Americanist faculty through the Center’s Tinker Visiting Professorship. Each quarter the Center compiles a comprehensive list of Latin American and Caribbean courses to be offered at the University available at

For additional information about the Master of Arts in Latin American Studies program, please see or call (773) 702-8420.

Latin American & Caribbean Studies Courses

LACS 30401. Intensive Study of a Culture: Lowland Maya History and Ethnography. 100 Units.

The survey encompasses the dynamics of first contact; long-term cultural accommodations achieved during colonial rule; disruptions introduced by state and market forces during the early postcolonial period; the status of indigenous communities in the twentieth century; and new social, economic, and political challenges being faced by the contemporary peoples of the area. We stress a variety of traditional theoretical concerns of the broader Mesoamerican region stressed (e.g., the validity of reconstructive ethnography; theories of agrarian community structure; religious revitalization movements; the constitution of such identity categories as indigenous, Mayan, and Yucatecan). In this respect, the course can serve as a general introduction to the anthropology of the region. The relevance of these area patterns for general anthropological debates about the nature of culture, history, identity, and social change are considered.

Instructor(s): J. Lucy     Terms Offered: Autumn

LACS 30603. Image and Text in Mexican Codices. 100 Units.

,In most Mesoamerican languages, a single word describes the activities that we would call “writing” and “painting.”  This seminar will investigate the interrelationships between image and text in Central Mexico both before and immediately after the introduction of alphabetic writing in the 16th century. We will also review art historical and archaeological evidence for the social conditions of textual and artistic production in Mexico, and how these traditions were transformed under Spanish colonial rule. We will consider the materiality of text and image by working with facsimiles of Mesoamerican books in the Special Collections of the Regenstein Library. At the end of the course, students will have acquired a basic literacy in Aztec and Mixtec writing systems, and will have refined their ability to look productively and write elegantly about art. 

Instructor(s): C. Brittenham     Terms Offered: Spring
Equivalent Course(s): ARTH 20603,ARTH 30603,LACS 20603

LACS 31700. Slavery and Unfree Labor. 100 Units.

This course offers a concise overview of institutions of dependency, servitude, and coerced labor in Europe and Africa, from Roman times to the onset of the Atlantic slave trade, and compares their further development (or decline) in the context of the emergence of New World plantation economies based on racial slavery. We discuss the role of several forms of unfreedom and coerced labor in the making of the "modern world" and reflect on the manner in which ideologies and practices associated with the idea of a free labor market supersede, or merely mask, relations of exploitation and restricted choice.

Instructor(s): S. Palmié     Terms Offered: Not offered 2012-13; will be offered 2013-14
Equivalent Course(s): ANTH 22205,ANTH 31700,CRES 22205,LACS 22205

LACS 31900. ¿Cuerpos Desechables? Estéticas de la No-Vida en las Literaturas Hispanoamericanas (de la Conquista al siglo XXI) 100 Units.

In this seminar we will conduct a theoretical exploration of the aesthetic procedures through which human life has been represented as expendable in Spanish-American literature from the Conquest to the twenty-first century, as well as an examination of the historical and philosophical contexts within which such figurations emerged. The course will focus on case studies that correspond to four key moments in the history of the region: conquest and colonization, slavery and the formation of national states in the nineteenth century, the triumph of a capitalist export economy at the turn of the twentieth, and the violent challenges posed by globalization and narcotráfico in the contemporary context. Among the issues and texts we may engage are Fray Bartolomé de las Casas and Francisco de Vitoria’s sixteenth-century dispute on the right of conquest and the Brevísima relación de la destrucción de las Indias, Esteban Echevarría’s El matadero, Lucio Mansilla’s Una excursión a los indios ranqueles, Juan F. Manzano’s Autobiografía de un esclavo, Manuel Zeno Gandía’s La charca, and Fernando Vallejo’s La virgen de los sicarios.

Instructor(s): A. Lugo-Ortiz     Terms Offered: Spring
Equivalent Course(s): HMRT 31901,CRES 31900,SPAN 31900

LACS 32713. Literaturas del Caribe Hispánico en el siglo XX. 100 Units.

This course will explore some key examples of the literatures of the Spanish-speaking Caribbean (Cuba, Puerto Rico, and Santo Domingo) during the twentieth century, including those of its migrant and exile communities. Questions concerning the literary elaboration of the region’s histories of slavery and colonialism, militarization, and territorial displacements will be at the center of our discussions. Among the authors we may read are Fernando Ortiz, Antonio Pedreira, Pedro Henríquez Ureña, Luis Palés Matos, Nicolás Guillén, René Marqués, Pedro Pietri, Alejo Carpentier, Ana Lydia Vega, Eduardo Lalo, and Pedro Juan Gutiérrez.

Instructor(s): A. Lugo-Ortiz     Terms Offered: Winter
Equivalent Course(s): SPAN 27401,LACS 22713,SPAN 37401

LACS 34600-34700-34800. Introduction to Latin American Civilization I-II-III.

Taking these courses in sequence is not required. This sequence meets the general education requirement in civilization studies. This sequence is offered every year. This course introduces the history and cultures of Latin America (e.g., Mexico, Central and South America, and the Caribbean Islands).

LACS 34600. Introduction to Latin American Civilization I. 100 Units.

Autumn Quarter examines the origins of civilizations in Latin America with a focus on the political, social, and cultural features of the major pre-Columbian civilizations of the Maya, Inca, and Aztec. The quarter concludes with an analysis of the Spanish and Portuguese conquest, and the construction of colonial societies in Latin America.

Terms Offered: Autumn
Equivalent Course(s): LACS 16100,ANTH 23101,CRES 16101,HIST 16101,HIST 36101,SOSC 26100

LACS 34700. Introduction to Latin American Civilization II. 100 Units.

Winter Quarter addresses the evolution of colonial societies, the wars of independence, and the emergence of Latin American nation-states in the changing international context of the nineteenth century.

Terms Offered: Winter
Equivalent Course(s): ANTH 23102,CRES 16102,HIST 16102,HIST 36102,LACS 16200,SOSC 26200

LACS 34800. Introduction to Latin American Civilization III. 100 Units.

Spring Quarter focuses on the twentieth century, with special emphasis on the challenges of economic, political, and social development in the region.

Terms Offered: Spring
Equivalent Course(s): ANTH 23103,CRES 16103,HIST 16103,HIST 36103,LACS 16300,SOSC 26300

LACS 35011. Africa, America. 100 Units.

This seminar explores the dynamic exchanges in the expressive cultures of Africa and the Americas. It examines a range of visual and material traditions that emerged and grew from the sustained contact between the two continents from the era of the Atlantic Slave Trade to the present. Class discussion, readings, assignments, and museum visits address topics such as carnival performances, santería and candomblé traditions, Vodou ritual forms, Luso-African architecture on both continents, and contemporary art.

Instructor(s): C. Fromont     Terms Offered: Winter
Equivalent Course(s): ARTH 25011,ARTH 35011,LACS 25011

LACS 35312. Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz: Broche de oro del Barroco hispánico. 100 Units.

La trayectoria lírica de sor Juana conforma, en conjunto, su manifiesto poético. Como no podía ser menos en una poeta de su tipo, la monja mexicana nunca se limitó a sólo reproducir los moldes existentes ni a respetar las convenciones literarias: se apropió de las tradiciones poéticas de su tiempo, dominadas por los hombres, las hizo suyas a base de sutiles variaciones y rupturas; las llevó más lejos que cualquier otro poeta contemporáneo. Después de sor Juana nadie emuló a Calderón, Quevedo o Góngora como ella; después de ella no volvió a haber gran poesía española hasta mucho tiempo después: el broche resplandeciente que cerró los siglos de oro fue, precisamente, la obra de esta poetisa americana; de ahí el título del curso.

Instructor(s): M. L. Tenorio     Terms Offered: Autumn
Equivalent Course(s): SPAN 25312,LACS 25312,SPAN 35312

LACS 36201. Race, Ethnicity and Politics in Comparative Perspective. 100 Units.

The primary objective of this course is to offer a comparative approach to understanding the relationship between race, inequality, and politics. It focuses primarily on examples from Latin America and the United States, and is organized in three sections. In the first, we explore the relationship between capitalist expansion, the modern-nation, state and the socio-historical construction of "race." In the second section, we explore differences in political elites' approaches to question of race in the period of nation-building. Examining the cases of Cuba, Brazil, Colombia, the U.S. and South Africa, we discuss how different ethno-racial groups were incorporated into, or excluded from, the nation both through legal institutions and nationalist ideologies. In the final section, we analyze the emergence of black and indigenous social movements as a critical response to the failure of the nationalist project. Throughout the course we analyze the different ways race, ethnicity, and identity are understood in these distinct contexts, and also explore how race intersects with other axes of power, such as class and gender. (C)

Instructor(s): T. Paschel     Terms Offered: Autumn
Equivalent Course(s): PLSC 36201

LACS 36501. Brazil. 100 Units.

This course will survey the history of Brazil, 1500-2002, with emphasis on the twentieth century.  It will raise questions concerning slavery and forms of freedom, the consequences of rapid industrialization and urbanization, meanings of popular culture, and the implications of religious diversity and change.

Instructor(s): D. Borges     Terms Offered: Spring
Equivalent Course(s): HIST 16500,HIST 36501,LACS 16500

LACS 36802. Bunuel and Surrealism. 100 Units.

 Description forthcoming.

Instructor(s): Jim Lastra     Terms Offered: Winter
Equivalent Course(s): CMST 26802,LACS 26802,CMST 36802

LACS 37105. Introduction to Brazilian Culture: Essay, Fiction, Cinema, and Music. 100 Units.

During the twentieth century, literature, social thought, music and cinema were completely intertwined in Brazil. This class is an introduction to Brazilian culture through these four types of cultural production and their interaction. We will read authors such as Euclides da Cunha, Gilberto Freyre, Mario de Andrade, Clarice Lispector, and listen to samba, bossa nova, and tropicalismo.

Instructor(s): A. Melo     Terms Offered: Spring
Equivalent Course(s): PORT 27100,CRES 37100,LACS 27105,PORT 37100

LACS 38000. U.S. Latinos: Origins and Histories. 100 Units.

An examination of the diverse social, economic, political, and cultural histories of those who are now commonly identified as Latinos in the United States. Particular emphasis will be placed on the formative historical experiences of Mexican-Americans and mainland Puerto Ricans, although some consideration will also be given to the historians of other Latino groups—i.e., Cubans, Central Americans, and Dominicans. Topics include cultural and geographic origins and ties; imperialism and colonizations; the economics of migration and employment; legal status; work, women, and the family; racism and other forms of discrimination; the politics of national identity; language and popular culture; and the place of Latinos in U.S. society.

Instructor(s): R. Gutierrez     Terms Offered: Autumn
Equivalent Course(s): HIST 28000,CRES 28000,GNSE 28202,HIST 38000,LACS 28000

LACS 38013. Brazil and the Global South. 100 Units.

In this course, we will examine the cultural and literary relationships between Brazil and Lusophone African Countries, and Brazil and Spanish America. As most contemporary comparative studies in literature (Postcolonial Studies, Marxism, World-Systems Theory applied to Literature) have been focused on the dichotomies between colonizer/colonized, western/non-western, center/periphery, North/South, Prospero/Caliban, one question ensues: how should one account for this relationship between two “third-world,” “non-western,” “underdeveloped” countries? Would this South-South relationship be emulative or collaborative? What kind of power dynamic was engendered among those countries? We will try to answer those questions.

Instructor(s): A. Melo     Terms Offered: Winter
Equivalent Course(s): PORT 28000,LACS 28013,PORT 38000

LACS 39000. Latin American Religious, New and Old. 100 Units.

This course will consider select pre-twentieth-century issues, such as the transformations of Christianity in colonial society and the Catholic Church as a state institution. It will emphasize twentieth-century developments: religious rebellions; conversion to evangelical Protestant churches; Afro-diasporan religions; reformist and revolutionary Catholicism; new and New-Age religions.

Instructor(s): D. Borges     Terms Offered: Autumn
Equivalent Course(s): HIST 29000,CRES 29000,HCHR 38900,HIST 39000,LACS 29000,RLST 21400

LACS 40305. The Inka and Aztec States. 100 Units.

This course is an intensive examination of the origins, structure, and meaning of two native states of the ancient Americas: the Inka and the Aztec. Lectures are framed around an examination of theories of state genesis, function, and transformation, with special reference to the economic, institutional, and symbolic bases of indigenous state development. This course is broadly comparative in perspective and considers the structural significance of institutional features that are either common to or unique expressions of these two Native American states.

Instructor(s): A. Kolata     Terms Offered: Spring
Equivalent Course(s): ANTH 20100,ANTH 40100,LACS 20100

LACS 42101. Brazilian & Latin American Essay. 100 Units.

The essay of “national identity investigation” is a very Latin American genre. Throughout the nineteenth and twentieth century Latin American intellectuals were engaged in the nation-building project, trying to understand what would be the meaning of their national culture, employing sociological, anthropological and philosophical insights. In this class we will approach this long tradition through specific thematic clusters. On each thematic cluster, we will find writers from Spanish America and Brazil. I invite students to bridge some gaps between these two essaystic traditions of the Latin American culture, analyze their differences and similarities.

Instructor(s): A. Melo     Terms Offered: Spring
Equivalent Course(s): PORT 42101

LACS 44612. Political Economy of Corruption and Development. 100 Units.

This course is a graduate-level seminar covering recent theoretical and empirical research, organized around the following questions. First, what are the consequences of corruption for socio-economic development? Does corruption help or hinder it? Second, what are the causes of corruption? Is corruption affected by political and economic institutions, regime type, bureaucracy, resource endowments, or culture? Third, why has corruption varied over time within a country or state? On the empirical side, the course will emphasize issues of measurement and inference: how can one draw reliable conclusions about these questions, and what are the pitfalls along the way? The empirical readings encompass qualitative, quantitative, observational, and experimental approaches. (C)

Instructor(s): A. Simpser     Terms Offered: Winter
Equivalent Course(s): PLSC 44612