Latin American Studies Overview

Latin American Studies is a dynamic, interdisciplinary minor designed to help students develop a nuanced and sophisticated understanding of the historical, cultural, political, economic and social conditions that have shaped contemporary Latin America.

Students entering the University of San Diego and/or declaring a major during 2016-2017, should follow information contained in the printed course catalog (also known as the "catalog of record") published on October 1, 2016. Access the catalog of record at

The Latin American Studies Minor

Latin American Studies is a dynamic, interdisciplinary minor designed to help students develop a nuanced and sophisticated understanding of the historical, cultural, political, economic, and social conditions that have shaped contemporary Latin America. In this minor students are encouraged to articulate important connections between local and world societies in the context of the Latin American experience; this entails the study of the complex historical formation of this region and its cultural and ethnic diversity, from the foundation of Amerindian civilizations, the European conquest, and the impact of the African slave trade, to the challenges of the 21st century.

Student learning objectives are organized into the following five integrated areas, which constitute the central themes that appear throughout the curriculum:

  1. The Idea of Latin America
    Understand different worldviews and epistemologies in the imperial/colonial context of the initial encounter, the subsequent “invention” of America, and the emergence of the idea of “Latin” America in the 19th century. Explore the ways in which Latin America has been conceived of as part of the West and simultaneously as peripheral to it. Identify the present physical geographies, administrative-political structures, and demographics of the Latin American countries, and analyze the ways in which these are defined from internal and external perspectives.
  2. Cultural and Ethnic Diversity
    Explore the artistic and cultural production of Latin America throughout history, from ancient Amerindian civilizations and the legacy of the African slave trade to the present, with an emphasis on the diversity of perspectives. Compare and contrast different concepts on and theoretical approaches to the cultural and ethnic diversity of Latin America, such as transculturation, hybridization, mestizaje, neo-baroque, among others. Explore the linguistic diversity of Latin America and develop communicative proficiency in one or more Latin American languages.
  3. Conquest, Colonialism and Coloniality
    Analyze the complexities of conquest, colonialism, neocolonialism, and postcolonialism and their legacies. Understand and analyze the construction of racial categories and racism in Latin America both in the context the conquest of indigenous peoples and the subsequent African slave trade and in more recent manifestations. Explore the relationship between coloniality — the colonial matrix of power that goes beyond the historical period of colonialism — and the rhetoric of modernity in the economic, political, civic, and personal/subjective realms.
  4. Independence, National Consolidation, and Democracy
    Identify and analyze the different political and economic structures or systems that have appeared in Latin America since independence and the socio-historical conditions in which they each emerged. Analyze the manifestation of European Enlightenment ideals in Latin America and contrast them with Amerindian and Afro-American epistemologies and world views. Define and analyze the following dichotomies and concepts in this context: civilization and barbarism, progress and primitivism, development and underdevelopment. Analyze the following concepts in specific junctures of Latin American history, from 19th-century nation building, throughout the 20th century, and to the present: revolution and subversion; dictatorship and state violence; war and armed conflict; human rights and memory; justice and reconciliation; (re)democratization.
  5. Global Designs and Local Histories
    Understand the ways in which the term “Latin” America is a misnomer, both within local histories and global designs, and how other terms are used to describe this region, such as Afro-Latin America, among others. Identify and analyze current challenges faced by Latin American countries in regional, national, hemispherical, and transnational contexts. Explore and analyze Latin American experiences as part of the transnational flows of people, culture, technology, media, and finance within global capitalism.