Teaching is a very important part of my career and intellectual agenda, and a very rewarding experience to me. I have been a teacher for over two decades, committed to graduate and undergraduate classes that seek to provide students with an intellectual conversation, a way to value and study culture in all of its manifestations, and center the role that the humanities have in contemporary issues. This is a sample of descriptions of my recent courses, both graduate and undergraduate, at Washington University. I also list courses I teach in the Masters programs for adult learners at the University College in Washington University. A full list of my classes is in my CV, in the Contact menu. I am happy to share syllabi and discuss my methods. Please use the contact form if you are interested.
Global Hispanic Studies
This graduate seminar provides a critical overview of the field of Global Hispanic Studies as an essential area of research that explores cultural and literary production throughout the Hispanic world across traditional historical periods, and border-bound geopolitical and geographical areas. The course thus explores the various ways in which the field of Global Hispanic Studies today connects with closely related areas of scholarly inquiry, such as Transatlantic Studies, Transpacific Studies, Hemispheric Studies, Mediterranean Studies, Third World/ Global South Studies, African Diaspora Studies, and World Literature. (This course was developed in collaboration with Ignacio Infante).
Mexican Literature’s Social Contracts.
This course studies Mexican literature of the 19th and 20th Century by engaging in the ways in which literary production has established social contracts in relation the country’s various historical and political junctures. Thusly, the class is not a history of the Mexican literary canon, but rather a history of the evolving relationship between literature and society. Each week, the class will discuss a combination of select literary works, relevant literary and cultural theory defining key terms, and major interventions in the scholarly conversation about each subject. Topics will include the foundation of civil society in post-independence Mexico, the cultural representations of the Mexican-American war, the use of literature to frame popular sovereignty during the Liberal Reform period, the formation of the literary fields of Porfiriato and post-revolutionary Mexico, and the construction of the idea of Mexicanness.
Mexican Literature in the 21st Century.
This class proposes a reading of key works of Mexican literature of the 21st century along three axes. First, the class will discuss the ways in which Mexican writers negotiate with an institutional landscape defined by high levels of economic investment in literature from the State and the gradual consolidation of publishing structures into two corporations (Penguin Random House and Planeta), the State and a group of independent presses (Sexto Piso, Almadía). Second, the course will engage with the ideological transformations in Mexican literature resulting from the so-called “transition to democracy” as well as the increase in political and criminal violence. Finally, the course will debate various concepts utilized to understand the aesthetics and politics of Mexican literature, including “necroescritura,” “desapropiación,” “narconarrativa” and “postliteratura.”
Latin American Film Studies. Histories and Methods.
This class provides an introduction to Spanish-language fiction film from Latin America. The course will cover a historical arch beginning with the foundational sound films of the national period in the 1930s and concluding in the consolidation of national cinematic industries in the 2010s. The class will discuss the main conceptural elements for the study of national cinema, including genre, the relationship between cinema and politics, the uses of cinema to construct national and gender identifies, the relationship between cinema and modernization nad questions of technique and cinematic language, among others. The class will mostly cover films from the two major industries in the Spanish-speaking world (Mexico and Argentina) and iconic productions from other countries (like Perú, Colombia, Cuba, Chile, Uruguay, Paraguay and Guatemala).
Undergraduate Teaching in the Latin American Studies Program.
Latin America. Nation, Ethnicity and Social Conflict.
This class is an interdisciplinary introduction to the academic study of modern and contemporary Latin America. The course focuses on main issues in Latin American politics, history and culture, both in the continent at large and in the specific regions and sub-regions within it. The class will particularly explore topics such as nation creation, national identity, modes of citizenry, the role of race, ethnicity, gender and class in the region’s historical development, as well as social and political conflicts, which have defined the region over the centuries. Through the course, students gain basic bibliographic knowledge and experience with research tools for a comparative study of Latin American politics society and culture.
Film and Revolution in Latin America
This class is a Writing Intensive course focused on the relationship between cinema and revolutionary movements in Latin America. The course topics such as the politics of memory in cinematic representation of the Mexican Revolution, the relationship between film and national-political movements such as Peronismo, Sandinismo and Chavismo, the concept and practice of Third Cinema, and the film movements such as Brazilian Cinema Novo, the Group Ukamau in Bolivia and the Cuban Revolution. We will also study the way in which Latin American revolutions captured the imagination of world cinema, including U.S. and Italian Westerns, Soviet cinema and the French New Wave. The course will engage in subjects such as the difference between fiction and nonfiction films when representing history; the politics that underlie specific representations; the way in which cinema questions and revises ideas developed by historians; and the uses of film in accompanying radical political movements.
Modernity, Culture and the State in Mexico
This course is an advanced seminar on the process of the cultural, ideological and institutional modernization of Mexico. Drawing on readings from fields such as history, cultural anthropology, political sociology and cultural theory, the course discusses the shaping of various forms of social subjectivity and cultural ideology that sustained the formation and development of the state. The course also engages with the identities and processes that led both to the formation of structures of citizenship and to the contestation of state power. This course is structured chronologically, following the development of three interrelated processes unfolding between 1810 and the present: (1) the creation of state institutions and ideology and their evolution in relationship to events such as the liberal Reforma of the 1850s and the Mexican Revolution; (2) the cultural and social implication of processes of capitalist development, modernization and globalization; and (3) the ways in which Mexico’s histories of sociocultural difference led to political and cultural insurgencies and rebellions.
Undergraduate seminars in literature and culture for Spanish majors
Mexican Travel Writers
One of the lesser known aspects of Mexican literature in the United States is its cosmopolitan practices. In this class, we will read travel books by Mexican writers of the 21st century, covering all regions of the world. In this books we will discuss questions such as the representation of Otherness, the differences of perspective between a traveler from the United States and a traveler from Latin America, the way in which travel writers capture questions of geopolitics and cultures, and the linguistic mechanics underlying various subgenres of travel writing, including the memoir, the diary, the travelogue, the novel, poetry and the essay.
Mexican Food Cultures
This course will approach the question of Mexican food in an interdisciplinary manner. Drawing from literature, cinema, history, media, cookbooks, art and other sources, the class will explore the history, development and present of Mexican food as expressed in culture. We will discuss, among other things, the role that ancient Mexican ingredients like corn and chocolate have in the cultural imagination, the problematic idea of “authenticity,” the way in which “Mexican food” appropriates and erases indigenous and local traditions, the role of gender in the study of food, the reading of documents like cookbooks and the frictions between Mexican and Mexican American food traditions.
Memory in Crisis. Documentary Literature and Cinema in Contemporary Latin America.
During the last decades of the 20th century, Latin America used cultural forms like the testimonio, the urban chronicle and the film documentary to discuss the political atrocities and injustices of the recent past and to come to terms with experiences like dictatorship and genocide. These narratives were tied to the notion that literature and cinema had a role to play in the pursuit of justice and human rights. In the 21st century, however, writers and filmmakers have developed certain skepticism about narrative’s power to redeem and to deliver justice and the politics of memory are entering a crisis. This class will discuss works literary nonfiction, fiction and poetry as well as documentary and semidocumentary films, that engage with this problem. Through works that document experiences such as the Chilean military dictatorship, the massacre of Chinese citizens in revolutionary Mexico, the police archive in Guatemala and the Drug Wars in the continent, among other histories, the class will discuss the limits of narrative and the self-awareness of cultural creators when engaging with the political past.
Graduate-level courses for adult learners in Liberal Arts
Film, Politics and Aesthetics in the Global South.
This class studies the uses of cinema, the relationship to film and politics, as well as the history and ideologies underlying film production outside of North American, European and East Asian systems. With a particular focus on Latin America, Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia, the class will examine how filmmakers appropriate cinema to political and aesthetic agendas in countries marginalized by film producers and film critics alike. We will discuss the Brazilian Cinema Novo and global Third Cinema movements as well as the Nollywood and Bollywood industries. Students will examine works by Fernando “Pino” Solanas, Satyajit Ray, and Sembene Ousmane in the 1960s through films by contemporary directors Elia Suleiman, Abderrahmane Sissako, and Lucrecia Martel. Our study of films, manifestoes, and criticism will engage students in thinking about cinema “otherwise” through an emphasis on how Global South countries resist the hegemony of both Hollywood and the Europe- and Sundance-centered art cinema markets.
Food Cultural Studies. Theory, Methods and Public Writing.
Over the past few years, the study of food and gastronomy from the perspective of cultural studies and the humanities has been on the rise. This course introduces students to the interdisciplinary field of food cultural studies, its theories, methods and practices. The course also uses the topics of food studies to train students into different forms of public writing, including the review, the longform magazine essays, blogs and others. The course will discuss the ways in which different disciplines focus on the study of food (including history, anthropology, philosophy and others), basic elements of global food history (the medieval spice trade, the Columbian Exchange, the role of colonialism and empire, etc, etc.), case studies around different cuisines (including but not limited to Mexican, Italian, and Chinese), and the work of some of the major food writers of our time (Samin Nosrat, Michael Pollan, etc).
Graduate Level courses for adult learners in International Affairs
The Mexico-U.S. Paradigm. The Southern Neighbor and the Paradigms of International Relations.
Since the foundation of both republics and up to the present, the relationship between Mexico and the United States has played a central role in defining a variety of paradigms in international affairs. In addition, Mexico’s unique approach to diplomacy is at the core of various economic and diplomatic doctrines influential across the Global South. This class explores the ways in which this relationship helps us think about questions of development, international security, immigration and political intervention. The first part of the class looks at the relationship historically, focusing on the complex relationship between the two countries in the Cold War, as well as Mexico’s role as a negotiator with Cuba and the Soviet Union. The historical section will also discuss the role that Mexico played in the creation of developmental paradigms from the 1930s onwards. The second part of the class looks at the three hot-button issues between the two countries: trade, immigration and the Drug War. It will discuss the ways in which Mexico is an essential laboratory for policies related to security and commerce in the United States.
Against Development. International Affairs Otherwise.
One of the key tenets of the 20th century geopolitics, from various models of modernization theory to contemporary understandings of neoclassical and neoliberal theory, has been the ideal of development as a key goal to address economic and political inequalities in the world system. This class focuses on different lines of thinking that challenge this worldview. We examine the work of both Global North dissident thinkers and Global South traditions of thinking, such as dependency theory, decolonialism, and liberation philosophy. The course will depart from critiques to the idea of development as an extension of colonialism and imperialism by authors like John Patrick Leary and Arturo Escobar. It will continue to discuss critiques of the contemporary geopolitical and geo-economic orders from the perspective of Global South countries through concepts such as necropolitics (Achille Mbembe), gore capitalism (Sayak Valencia) and slow violence (Rob Nixon). The class will conclude with the study of theories that propose post-developmental and counter-developmental models of economic organization and political engagement, including decolonialism (Macarena Gómez Barris and others), Epistemologies of the South (Sousa Santos) and “neoliberalism from below” (Verónica Gago).