Culture, Power, and Violence in Latin America

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This course takes up questions of violence through the anthropological study of Latin America, a world region with a long history of civil wars, coups d’états, military interventions, guerrilla movements, and political repression. Considering violence as it relates to social and political power, the course explores overt and discreet violence in a variety of forms, including both the corporeal violence of genocide and torture, for instance, and symbolic violence of ethnic conflict and state neglect. Our readings will address topics such as the aftermath of ethnic genocide in Guatemala; the legacy of torture and disappearances in Argentina; the politics of vigilance and surveillance in the militarized zone of the US-Mexican border; and the everyday resonances of hunger, poverty, and infant death in Brazilian favelas. Considering the confluences and consequences of violence portrayed in these accounts, we will attend, as well, to how violence is lived and experienced through engaging anthropological conceptualizations of suffering, trauma, subjectivity, and personhood. Finally, we will explore a range of personal and collective responses to violence—such as social practices of commemoration, political engagements with human-rights struggles, and state-sponsored practices of truth and reconciliation—in order to understand the linkages among violence, suffering, and social justice.