LLS-4910-850: Race and Ethnicity in Latin America

LLS-4910-850: Race and Ethnicity in Latin America

University of Nebraska, Ohama
Fall 2011

Olga Celle, Visiting Professor of Sociology

This course is a semester long discussion on Mestizaje or racial/ethnic mixing in Latin America. The premise informing the discussion is that race and ethnicity are social constructions—There are no actual races or ethnicities in the world. And yet, people and institutions function as they were real, which make them powerful weapons for oppression, social injury and rebellion. Most Latin Americans define themselves or are defined as Mestizo or mixed blood people. At times, they mean culturally mixed, meaning not totally Western or Indigenous. Other times, they are referring to their attributed racial make up. For this reason, national statistics should be taken with caution because the labeling of citizens is usually done by a census taker who might impose his views unto the individual in order to classify her/him. But the point remains, why does the state needs to classify its citizens according to race and ethnicity? Why do we need to define ourselves and others (sometimes beloved ones) according to race and ethnicity?

Race and ethnicity are powerful coordinates in the network of domination, for both the oppressors and the victims’ contestation in the circuits through which power flows. Race and ethnicity are experienced in a different fashion depending on the individual’s gender and sexuality. Hence this course incorporates gender and sexuality into the discussion.

The questions informing our journey through these complex issues are: How did Latin Americans construct and interpret racial, ethnic and gender identities and ideologies? And how these interpretations and ideologies have been used to formulate an idea of nation? In other words, we will learn about the different ways ethnicity and race have been defined in the Latin America studies (historiography) and the ideologies and practices associated with these categories. Our readings will be drawn mostly from all Latin American countries…

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