Latin American and Caribbean Studies

LACS image

The Center for Latin American Studies (CLAS) brings together faculty and students across the University in interdisciplinary and interdivisional research, teaching, scholarly events, and public engagement related to this vital region of the world. CLAS provides a forum for the amplification of faculty findings, stimulates interdisciplinary intellectual exchange, nurtures regional inquiry among undergraduate and graduate students, educates the University community on vital regional issues, facilitates deep and sustained exchange with Latin American institutions, and creates a stimulating community for Latin American visitors, faculty, and students in Chicago.

MAPH students can pursue an option in Latin American and Caribbean Studies (LACS) by taking Latin America- and/or Caribbean-focused courses offered across disciplines. Students can select courses from among dozens that are listed and cross-listed by CLAS each year.

Selected Faculty


Agnes Lugo-Ortiz

19th-Century Latin American Literature, 19th- and 20th-Century Caribbean Cultural History

Miguel Martínez

Early Modern Iberian and Colonial Latin American Cultural and Literary History

Sample Courses

ARTH 20603/30603 (LACS 20603/30603) Image and Text in the Mexican Codices (Claudia Brittenham)
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. 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.

CMST 21806/31806 (LACS 21806/31806) The New Latin American Cinema (Salome Skvirsky)
The New Latin American Cinema (NLAC) of the late 1950s–70s generated unprecedented international enthusiasm for Latin American film production. The filmmakers of this loosely designated movement were defining themselves in relation to global realist film traditions, in relation to—mostly failed—experiments in building Hollywood-style national film industries, and in relation to regional discourses of underdevelopment and mestizaje. Since the late 1990s, a reassessment of the legacy of the NLAC has been taking shape as scholars have begun to interrogate its canonical status in the face of a changed political climate.

ARTH 22020/32020 (LACS 22020/32020) Contemporary Art from Latin America (Megan Sullivan)
This seminar examines developments in art from Latin American since the 1960s. A set of questions will guide our investigation: What is contemporary art? How has globalization affected the production and reception of art from Latin America in recent decades? What are the advantages and disadvantages of hanging on to regional or national frameworks in the study of contemporary art?

MUSI 23517/33517 (LACS 23517/33517) Music of the Caribbean (Jessica Swanston Baker)
This course covers the sonic and structural characteristics, as well as the social, political, environmental, and historical contexts of Caribbean popular and folk music. These initial inquiries will give way to the investigation of a range of theoretical concepts that are particularly important to an understanding of the Caribbean and its people. Specifically, we will think through the ways in which creolization, hybridity, colonialism and postcolonialism, nationalism, and migration inform and shape music performance and consumption in the region and throughout its diaspora.

SPAN 24170/34170 (LACS 24170/34170) El arte de sobrevivir: la tradición picaresca (Miguel Martínez)
La picaresca es un género de ficción en prosa con una tradición multisecular en las literaturas en español y con gran influencia en la historia de la novela moderna. La pobreza y la marginalidad convierte a los pícaros y las pícaras que protagonizan estas historias en astutos maestros en el arte de sobrevivir, en héroes plebeyos que luchan contra las determinaciones de la fortuna en una sociedad dinámica, pero sólidamente jerarquizada. Las estéticas del realismo y la novela moderna, la literatura y la economía, el humor y el lenguaje, el género y la sexualidad, la voz autobiográfica, las subjetividades de la marginalidad, o la relación entre el género picaresco y la historia nacional son algunos de los temas que guiarán nuestras lecturas y discusiones.

SPAN 32810 (LACS 32810) Traducción y piratería en el mundo colonial (Larissa Brewer-García)
Translation and piracy can both involve the strategic appropriation of language, knowledge, or property. This course analyzes the relationship between translation and piracy in the creation of foundational works of colonial Latin American literature. As students read texts about colonial encounters, conquests, piracy, and conversion, they will become familiar with early histories of translation in Latin America and a variety of early modern, modern, and post-colonial translation theories.

PORT 33660 (LACS 33660) Literary Cultures of Contemporary Latin America (Victoria Saramago)
This course is designed for graduate students who wish to develop research projects exploring the many facets of Latin American literary cultures in the late twentieth century and early twenty-first century. What is the role of memory in post-dictatorship literature and film in the Southern Cone? How to read contemporary poetry from a posthuman perspective? How can genres such as science fiction and horror contribute to our understanding of contemporary themes and problems? Students will meet regularly with the instructor to discuss their research topics and their progress.

SPAN 33950 (LACS 33950) Latin American Women Perform (Danielle Roper)
This course examines the ways women from Latin America and the Caribbean wield performance art to engage their social realities and to engage questions of race, gender, and sexuality. How do women both produce and disidentify with constructs of womanhood on stage? How do they use performance to explore the ways histories of genocide, dictatorship, and imperialism shape constructs of gender?

SPAN 34400 (LACS 24400) Cultura y esclavitud en América Latina (Agnes Lugo-Ortiz)
La esclavitud en las Américas no fue únicamente un sistema de organización socio-económica fundamentado en el trabajo coactivo. Ella también conllevó la gestación de complejas y heterogéneas formas de producción cultural. Enfocándonos especialmente en el caso cubano, en este seminario estudiaremos una serie de textos y artefactos visuales que nos permitirán abordar algunas de las problemáticas clave en la formación de las culturas de la esclavitud en la América Latina: los basamentos intelectuales del régimen (tanto en términos filosóficos como jurídicos) y las críticas de que fue objeto, la dialéctica de subjetividades entre amos/as y esclavos/as y las dinámicas perversas de deseo, género y raza que la constituyeron.

ENGL 52102 (LACS 52102) Hemispheres Studies (Rachel Galvin)
This course examines the Hemispheric Studies approach to the literature of the Americas, which combines a commitment to comparativism with attention to the specificities of local contexts ranging from the Southern Cone to the Caribbean to North America. We’ll investigate debates about the theories and uses of a method that takes the American hemisphere as its primary frame, yet does not begin with the U.S. as the default point of departure; and the conceptual and political limitations of such a method.

Visit the CLAS’s course page for an extended listing of classes and descriptions.

The Latin American and Caribbean Studies (LACS) Option

Students who would like a more directed course of study may want to complete the MAPH Latin American and Caribbean Studies Option. Students who complete the following requirements will receive a LACS notation on their MAPH transcript:

  • MAPH Core Course
  • 1 foundational course in Latin American and Caribbean Studies
  • 3 additional courses in Latin American and Caribbean Studies
  • Demonstrated language proficiency in Spanish, Portuguese, Haitian Kreyol, or a relevant indigenous language
  • A major research project (typically an MA thesis) on a theme or topic related to Latin America and/or the Caribbean
  • Presentation of academic work at the Latin American History Workshop or Workshop on Latin America and the Caribbean

The LACS Option can work well with the Two-year Language Option.

More information about each requirement is provided on the CLAS website.