Courses | St. Lawrence University Caribbean, Latin American and Latino Studies


The following courses are offered regularly at St. Lawrence. Additional courses in Central America are available as part of the St. Lawrence program in Costa Rica and in the ISEP programs.

CLAS 103:  Introduction to Ethnic Studies
This course attempts to familiarize students with the different roles different ethnic groups have played in the development of the American nation since settler colonialism began. Students will be exposed to readings and case studies that grapple with the way racialized societies affect inequities in wealth, quality of life and in general access to public goods. In particular we will focus on how such trends are increasing not only in the United States, but also globally. Students in this course will tackle the following questions through key readings, group exercises, journal entries and blogs: How are identities, experiences, and structures of race, ethnicity, and class intertwined with social justice in the American context? How has the meaning of racial justice transformed over the course of the 20th and early 21st century in the United States? We will explore the way the histories of Latinos, African-Americans, Asian-Americans and Native-Americans are deeply connected to the very foundation of the American nation..

CLAS 104. Survey to Caribbean and Latin American Studies.
This interdisciplinary core course is designed to introduce students to the richness and diversity of Latin American cultures, the region's turbulent history of conquest and colonization and the problems of its development. The course familiarizes students with the vitality of Latin American art and literature. Our final objective is to relate Latin American culture with "cultura latina"' in the United States. The course provides a framework for more advanced studies on Caribbean and Latin American themes.

CLAS 105. Introduction to Latino Studies.
This introductory course on Latino studies will help students understand the complexities involved in the dynamics of Latinos in the US history, economy, politics and cultural expression. Some questions that we will ask in this course are: While Latinas/os have been integral to U.S. history and culture, why have they frequently and consistently been depicted as either outsiders or foreign and how is Latina/o identity negotiated? How do we explain the presence of different Latino groups in the US and what are the cultural expressions that are taking place in the US due to these migration waves? What are some of the dynamics that are taking place between Latino/a cultural production in relationship both to larger U.S. culture and to other U.S. racial and ethnic groups? We will also question the development and /or existence of Latinidad - the relationship between and common culture among Latino/as in U.S. culture and how it manifests itself through cultural expressions such as literature, music, films and social media. Our readings focus on musical genres, writers and popular culture from various Latino/a groups. Our topics will include: migration, language, the body, gender roles, sexual orientation and identity politics in the works of authors and artists.

CLAS 250: La Frontera: Cultural Identities on the Mexican-U.S. Borderland
This course investigates the cultural expressions derived from the interaction among people from both sides of the Mexico/U.S. border. The goal of the course is to understand the different ways in which immigration, drug smuggling, and transnational industries on affect the everyday life of borderlanders. This course will have an historical and critical approach to studying cultural expressions created around the world’s most transited border. This course explores and examines the production of U. S. Latina/Latino identities as instances of international, cultural, historical, and social borders crossings. In both regional and global contexts, we will analyze the ways in which Mexican American, identities have been shaped by colonial relations vis-à-vis Spain and by postcolonial conditions vis-à-vis the United States.

CLAS 255:  Latino Popular Culture
We will examine media organizations and their participants in their roles in shaping popular culture. We will also reflect on the impact of Latino media production on identity formation as a mode of revealing and reproducing ideology and political struggle. This course includes key readings in cultural economy, political economy, cultural studies, history and sociology. Emphasis is on various cultural expressions of ethnic subcultures in the United States and their complex negotiations with the dominant culture and their co-resisters in a global/local struggle over meaning.

CLAS 352:  Clinic: The Effects of Globalization on Human Rights
Students will be exposed to some of the ways in which drastic global economic and social re-structural policies are shaping the living conditions and have infringed on human rights in Latin America. This Clinic seeks to develop both theoretical and practical skills, through students' involvement in concerted and focused activities including research and documentation of human rights violations, and in the support of advocacy initiatives before different NGOs and/or institutions.

Offerings by Department

GOV 228:  Latin American Politics

This course introduces students to the politics of Latin America.  Tracing the roots of current political conflict to the colonial era, the primary focus of the course is on underdevelopment and political change in Latin America today.  The course examines the roles of key political actors, including the military, indigenous peoples and the church.  It explores patterns of development, introducing theories that seek to explain persistent poverty and inequality as well as the periodic swings between authoritarianism and democracy in the region.  The course material emphasizes current pressures for political inclusion, tracking social movements and human rights.  Themes are illustrated with case studies.

GOVT 337/CLAS 337 Torture, Truth and Memory

Authoritarian regimes have often committed massive human rights abuses that included murder, torture, disappearances, involuntary exile and forced adoptions. As a condition for transitioning to democratic governance outgoing military leaders insisted on amnesty for those crimes, making it difficult to hold them accountable via the judicial system. Nonetheless, societies have sought to come to terms with their human rights history through other means such as truth commissions, forensic anthropology, investigative journalism, international prosecution, collective memory projects and popular culture. Drawing on memoirs, torturers’ confessions, declassified documents, films, literature and analytical texts this course explores the ongoing struggle over who will interpret the political past, and what roles justice and reconciliation may play in securing democracy for the future.  

GOVT 381/CLAS 281 US Foreign Policy Toward Latin America

This course examines US foreign policy toward Latin America from the issuance of the Monroe Doctrine to the present. We will track the development of the inter-American system in a context of US hegemony and show how asymmetric power relations have influenced resolution of key problems in regional relations. The course will review changing US policies toward the region, such as dollar diplomacy, the Good Neighbor policy, and the Alliance for Progress, as well as formative events such as US military occupation of countries in the Caribbean Basin and Cold War covert operations. Students will consider how the United States and Latin America see shared policy problems differently, including the debt crisis, immigration, illicit drug flows, and environmental problems, and how states sometimes cooperate in the resolution of them. The course proceeds to discussion of current issues in US-Latin American relations, including relations with Cuba and collective efforts to protect and promote democracies through multilateral action via the Organization of American States.

CLAS 104/HIST 115: Survey of Caribbean and Latin American Studies
This is an interdisciplinary core course designed to introduce students to the richness and diversity of Caribbean and Latin American cultures, the regions’ turbulent history of conquest and colonization and the problems of their development. One of our main goals will be to examine our individual places in the histories of the Americas in comparative perspective. We will use many different kinds of materials this semester from primary and secondary texts, fiction and poetry, art, music and film to familiarize ourselves with the vitality of Caribbean and Latin American artistic expression, history, life, and culture. Our final objective is to relate Latin American and Caribbean cultures with the cultures of migrants from these areas in the United States. The course provides a framework for more advanced studies on Caribbean and Latin American themes.

CLAS 233/HIST 233: Colonial Latin America
This course is designed as a survey of the formation and historical development of colonial Latin America.  We will begin with the initial encounters between some of 8the indigenous peoples of the Americas and the Iberians in the fifteenth century and end with Spain’s final loss of its colonial holdings in the Americas in 1898.  Part of our task will be to understand the dynamics of race, class and gender in the colonial societies that developed from the violent collision of cultures during the conquest.  The last part of the course will focus on the forces that finally destroyed the American colonial bonds with Spain and Portugal and the colonial legacies that endured after independence.

CLAS 234/HIST 234: Modern Latin American & The Caribbean
This course is designed as a survey of modern Latin America and the Caribbean. We will begin with a brief overview of the colonial era and the early national period, but the main focus of the course will be from about 1870 to the present. We will examine the historical roots of the tremendous human and cultural diversity of Latin America and the Caribbean and how this diversity has affected the evolution of societies in the region. Some of the issues that will concern us include: the region's relationships to a changing world economy, politics and human rights, and migration and diasporic cultures. Most of our attention will be focused on Ibero-America, but we will touch on Anglo- and Francophone areas in the Caribbean as well.

HIST 256: Slavery and Freedom in the Americas
This course surveys the topic of the genesis, development, and dissolution of the transatlantic slave trade and the slave societies that created the demand for this trade in both North and South America and the Caribbean. The perspective is Atlantic in scope trying to understand the impact of this forced migration on Africa and Africans and on American (defined as all of the Americas, not just the US) societies. We will discuss the interactions of Africans and their descendents with the indigenous peoples of the Americas and with Europeans. We will tap into some of the wide array of materials now available to study the slave system and the cultures of slave societies in the Americas – memoirs and other primary materials, web-based materials, film, and secondary sources. We will briefly survey some of the movements to abolish the slave trade and slavery itself, examining how the people involved defined freedom. We will end by discussing some of the contemporary debates about the legacies of slavery in the Americas.

HIST 478:  SYE:  Atlantic Migrations
This course is designed as a research seminar, primarily for history majors and minors, the product of which will be a substantial (25-30 pages) research paper. The general focus of the course is the Atlantic world from 1492 to the mid-nineteenth century. Our theme will be the migrations, encounters, and interactions among the peoples of the continents that border the Atlantic ocean – the Americas, Europe, Africa, and the many islands in the Atlantic ocean. The first several weeks of the course will be spent becoming familiar with some of the theoretical and methodological issues that frame current research on migration in the Atlantic world—i.e. the concept of diaspora and comparisons of forced and free migration. The rest of the semester will be devoted to students’ defining, executing, and sharing the fruits of an individual research project on a specific aspect of migration or group of migrants within the Atlantic world.

Religious Studies
REL 238: Global Christianities
This course explores Christianity outside the United States and Europe. Catholic and Protestant Christianities in addition to newer forms of Christianity are included, and case studies are drawn from Africa, Asia and Latin America. Pentecostal Christianity (also called Charismatic Christianity) is a particular focus. The course considers the conflict and interplay of older forms of Christianity, often part of the inheritance of colonialism, with more recent arrivals; probes the relationship between religion and the processes of globalization; and questions whether any of these forms of Christianity can be described as globalized, and, if so, whether global Christianity resists or supports globalization.

SPAN 103/104: Intermediate Spanish
Spoken and written Spanish are reinforced by a review of grammar and idiomatic strategies for self-expression. The course includes use of videos, music, literature, news broadcasts and the Internet as means for understanding the contemporary culture of Hispanic America and Spain. Materials in the language laboratory facilitate conversation and increased oral comprehension. Prerequisite: Spanish 101, 102 or equivalent

SPAN 201: Advanced Spanish
Review and expansion of the four skills with emphasis on the oral and written expression of ideas in Spanish on topics of current interest and cultural significance in the Spanish-speaking world. Materials studied include journalist texts, videos, audiotapes, songs and literary works. For students who have completed Spanish 103, 104 or who have four years or more of Spanish at the secondary level.

SPAN 202:  Hispanic Cultural Studies
A language course with the aim of acquainting students with current Hispanic culture through the analysis of literary texts, films, advertisements and other materials drawn from Spain, Hispanic America and the Latino community in the United States. Includes a research project on a cultural topic. This course fulfills the Diversity distribution requirement.

SPAN 221. Latin America in Film.
This class examines how Latin America is represented in films by directors from Hispanic America, Brazil, Europe and the United States. The films form the basis of conversation and research on themes related to contemporary history, inter-ethnic conflict, traditional gender roles and immigration. The class is conducted entirely in Spanish, though some of the theoretical and technical readings on film are in English. This course fulfills the Diversity and Humanities distribution requirement.

SPAN 244. Advanced Spanish for Heritage Speakers.
Advanced Spanish for Heritage Speakers is a course designed specifically for bilingual (Spanish/English) students who want to strengthen written and oral expression as well as reading comprehension. The course builds on the language knowledge the students already possess while it includes extensive practice with the conventions of written Spanish and many activities designed to expand vocabulary. The course is also complemented with highlights of Latin American, Spanish and Latino culture.

SPAN 246:  Oral Expression in Spanish
Analysis of contemporary oral usage through the study of film, video and audio materials as well as printed texts. Advanced pronunciation practice. Study of techniques of oral presentation. Assignments are designed to promote the development of persuasive skills and include formal debates on contemporary issues and other public speaking activities.

SPAN 317:  Taller de Literatura Creativa
The Taller de Literatura Creativa, conducted entirely in Spanish, offers guided writing exercises on a weekly basis. Students learn how to criticize each other’s work in constructive ways, incorporating the results of these discussions in additional drafts of their creative work. The themes of these poems, short stories and non-fictional works revolve around Hispanic culture and study abroad on SLU-sponsored programs, primarily in Spain and Costa Rica. The workshop is a place where students can compare these abroad experiences as well as experiences about being a Spanish-speaker in the U.S. Toward the end of the semester, students work collectively to edit material and to produce the online cultural journal Aquí y Allá. The instructor is a published writer of poetry and prose fiction.

SPAN 3018:  Medical Spanish
This course is designed to provide students with the linguistic and cultural competencies necessary to communicate with and help treat Spanish speaking patients with limited English proficiency. The course will include a general review of pertinent grammar and specific vocabulary groups relating to the health care professions: assessment and care of patients, vocabulary useful for establishing rapport, and discussions leading to increased cultural awareness.

SPAN 444: Survey of Latin American Literature (Equivalent to SPAN 344)
Indigenous oral traditions and texts from the period prior to the arrival of the Europeans are examined, as are works from the colonial period to the present. Authors studied from the colonial period include Bernal Díaz del Castillo, Bartolomé de las Casas and Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz. Contemporary authors include Borges, García Márquez, Allende and Rigoberta Menchú.

SPAN 445:  Literary Translation:  Theory and Practice
In this workshop, students use translation as a tool to learn how to express themselves more effectively in both English and Spanish. Theorists such as Octavio Paz, José Ortega y Gasset, Willis Barnstone, Carol Maier, Walter Benjamin, Tejaswini Niranjana and others help illuminate the practice of translation in a variety of genres that include poetry, autobiography, book reviews and subtitling of films. For students with considerable background in Spanish, including, preferably, residence in a Spanish-speaking country.

SPAN 449: Afro-Hispanic Culture and Literature.
This course explores the African Legacy in the culture of the Hispanic Caribbean: Cuba, the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico. While examining a variety of texts we will engage in conversation around topics that include slavery and resistance, cultural racism, class, identity construction and representation. The course also incorporates cuisine, music, dance and other sources as the basis for work that may bring in creative, disciplinary or career interests. Crosslisted with Caribbean and Latin American Studies. Taught in Spanish, and permission of the instructor is required.

CLAS 264/SOC 264- Environmental Movements
This course examines efforts by social movements around the globe and in the United States to affect change related to environmental issues. We will explore conservation and environmental movements in the United States from the Sierra Club and first Audubon Society in the 1890s through contemporary efforts to address climate change lead by To do this, we will draw on, and apply, sociological theories of social movements and social change. The course then compares and contrasts the development of the United States environmental movement with several case studies rooted in Latin America including Via Campesina, the Zapatista Movement as well as a variety of environmental justice movements that flourished throughout Latin America following the rise of civilian governments in the 1990s. The course will close with an examination of Idle No More, a First Nations movement in Canada and the United States before allowing the students the opportunity to research an environmental movement, organization or issue that reflects their own passion.

Special Topics Courses
247 & 248: Special topics courses offer students the opportunity to study specific topics in CLAS when offered by departments.

Additional information and a complete list of the approved courses for the minor can be obtained through the Coordinator for Caribbean and Latin American Studies or the Center for International and Intercultural Studies, located in Carnegie Hall, 108.