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Graduate Seminars | SPRING 2018


Ph.D. seminars to be offered in the spring semester of 2018. Should you have any questions, please contact the Director of Graduate Studies, Professor Jesús R. Velasco.


  • Research & Professional Development Workshop II (SPAN GR6101) | Mondays, 3:30 – 5:30 p.m. | All LAIC first-year Ph.D. students must register
  • Colloquium in Latin American & Iberian Cultures I (SPAN GR9046) | Thursdays, 4:00 – 6:00 p.m. | All LAIC first-year Ph.D. students must register


  • Regimes of Dispossession (SPAN GR6007) | Ana Fernández – Cebrián Mondays, 1:00 – 3:00 p.m.

This course explores the revived interest in primitive accumulation, which David Harvey has coined as the contemporary regime of “accumulation by dispossession,” and its relation to the dynamics of material and symbolic economies in literary, cultural, and theoretical studies. Recent debates about the production of precariousness and insecurity as distinguishing marks of contemporary capitalism examine how the logics of dispossession (and repossession) are mapped onto bodies, recasting preconfigured political subjectivities with the emergence of new political subjects, communities, and social or cultural exchanges. Discussions over the privatization and erosion of communal goods and the ecological devastation of resources, the dispossession of human and environmental rights, the enclosure of land and water, and the freeing (and disciplining) of labor will be interrogated in our seminar from different historical vantage points. Through literature, historical narratives, films, popular culture, and social practices, we will examine the historical continuities and discontinuities of the cultural and material logics of (dis)possession in Spain from the end of the 19th century to the present.

  • Literature + Theory = Revolution (SPAN GR6004) | Graciela Montaldo | Tuesdays, 1:00 – 3:00 p.m.

This course focuses on how theoretical thought has been a key discourse and practice in arts and culture since the early twentieth century. Not a simple academic category, “theory” was conceived as part of political practice. Throughout the uses of theory, many of the most experimental writers explore the idea of revolution and the links between politics and aesthetics. Theory was an essential part of the reflection on Avant-garde and the political dimension of aesthetics. In Latin America, cultural practices (literature, films, arts) were and are interconnected with the uses of theory as a political tool. Because the topic is part of the modern tradition in Latin American culture, the course will revisit its genealogy and update the theoretical reflection on key categories such as “autonomy,” “art and politics,” and “modernity.”

We will discuss Latin American works from the 1920s to contemporary production. 
Because the purpose of the course is to study the relation between the key places that “theory” occupies in the avant-gardist production in Latin America, we will focus on literary works, films, and artworks, from the early twentieth century to the present. We will explore the links between politics and aesthetics and the place of revolution as cultural and political practice. In Latin American culture this relationship was elusive but crucial during modernity. Thus, the course will review both aspects: the theoretical reflection and the new works. From Macedonio Fernández, César Vallejo, and Borges to Galuber Rocha, Severo Sarduy, José Revueltas, and Mario Bellatin, we will discuss the constellation of problems around aesthetics, modernity, avant-garde, representation, revolution, politics, materiality, and immateriality in Art, mimesis and institutions, artists and intellectuals.

  • Iberian Collective Memory and the Politics of Pluralism  (SPAN GR6008) | Seth Kimmel | Wednesdays, 1:00 – 3:00 p.m.

The meaning and function of pre-modern Iberian monuments, buildings, cities, and other “sites of memory”— to borrow a term from the French historian Pierre Nora—have changed dramatically over time. Perhaps the most familiar examples are places of worship: As late medieval Christian monarchs expanded into territory previously controlled by Muslim rulers, they consecrated as churches many buildings that previously served as mosques, some of which themselves had been constructed on early medieval sites of Christian or pagan worship. After the expulsion of the Jews from Castile and Aragon in 1492, synagogues and other centers of Jewish community activity likewise came to serve a range of new functions. Private residences, royal palaces, and administrative offices were also renovated or reimagined, and ancient and medieval ruins were repurposed in myriad ways.

As peninsular monarchs and urban leaders sought to transform the material evidence of the Iberian Peninsula’s pre-modern past into emblems of a new Christian unity and local, regional, or imperial pride, antiquarians of the period fashioned a more complex story. Scholars such as Pablo de Céspedes, Pedro de Medina, Francisco Bermúdez de Pedraza, and Ambrosio de Morales catalogued and studied this layered history as part of their broader interest in the peninsula’s classical and medieval material culture. Ranging in scope from analysis of a single site to encyclopedic inventories of a city or region’s antiquities, these authors’ texts themselves stand as monuments to that curious amalgam of early modern scholarly practices known as antiquarianism. This class is an introduction to antiquarianism in the Iberian context.

However important these early modern antiquarians were to the constitution of an ancient and medieval Iberian archive, subsequent generations have not hesitated to contest the meanings and redefine the functions of the sites of memory that comprise this archive. Spanish intervention in North Africa in the nineteenth century, the rise of Francisco Franco’s dictatorship in the mid-twentieth century, the late twentieth century’s emergence of pluralism as a both an ideal and a rhetoric of power, and the contemporary influx into Spain of immigrants from Muslim majority countries have all informed how local and national officials, businesspeople, religious and community leaders, and other parties have deployed the pre-modern past. In order to examine early modern antiquarianism and its archive in the context of contemporary politics, we will pair our readings of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century materials with classic scholarship on collective memory in general and research on peninsular memory practices in particular. We will also draw deeply on the recent work of anthropologists and sociologists of religion who study the politics of pluralism in the present. Readings include early modern texts and visual materials by Francisco Bermúdez de Pedraza, Rodrigo Caro, Pablo de Céspedes, Pedro Díaz de Ribas, Pedro de Medina, Ambrosio de Morales, and Lucius Marineus Siculus, as well as scholarship by Eric Calderwood, Astrid Eril, Barbara Fuchs, Maurice Halbwachs, Andreas Huyssen, Susan Martín-Márquez, Pierre Nora, Paul Ricouer, and Mikaela Rogozen-Soltar, among others.

  • Capitalism and Political Subjectivity in Latin America (SPAN GR6558) | Karen Benezra Wednesdays, 4:10 – 6:10 p.m.

In Latin America, the 1960s and 70s witnessed new a wave of Marxist theory that attempted to capture the objective and subjective specificity of capitalist development in the region. By questioning the tenets of economism and culturalism that characterized orthodox Marxism and modernization theory, respectively, the social and political thought from this period reflected on the logic and historical articulation of capitalism in the region and on the psychic, social and political subjects that it produced. However, in attempting to conceive of history and class-consciousness beyond the bounds of orthodoxy, Marxist debates from this period were also marked by a certain division in the way that authors posited the relationship between socioeconomic transformation and radical politics. On one hand, theorists focused on the economic and extra-economic mechanisms of capitalist accumulation and the historical insertion of Latin American societies into the world market. On the other, they conceived of ever more complex frameworks for understanding the subjective dimension of political radicalization in a way that presumed the autonomy of this process from capital. The course will attempt to think through this “missed encounter” between capitalist accumulation and political subjectivity, at a theoretical level. Readings will include Marx, Lenin, Balibar, Bartra, Laclau, and Rozitchner, among others. Reading knowledge of Spanish is required. Discussions will be conducted in Spanish or in English, depending on registration.

  • Impasses of Latinamericanism: Between Post-Hegemony and the Decolonial Option (SPAN GR6468) | Orlando Bentancor Thursdays, 1:00 – 3:00 p.m.

This course explores and problematizes the current critical impasse between proponents of the “decolonial” option and of “posthegemonic theory” as ways of thinking about the historical construction of Latin America and its relationship to the global North. For the defenders of the “decolonial option,” globalization is a system of management linked to the emergence of a Eurocentric colonial/modern world system: by incorporating the Americas into the Christian world, the Spanish Empire was the first global design, and the second was the secular model of the civilizing modern nation-state, which proved to be a more efficient tool of political coloniality than the Christian empire. In sum, for decolonial theory, both the problem of the empire and the problem of the nation-state are byproducts of a global expansion that divides the world into colonial and modern spaces. Post-hegemony theorists disagree with what they consider an excessive attention paid to the hegemony of the Christian empire and the secular nation-state, and claim instead that capitalist accumulation is no longer (and maybe never was) organized around such formations. Global technological expansion, post-Fordist organization of capital and labor, and information and social media corrode the hegemony articulated around the nation-state, which is undermined by the continuous subsumption of culture into the logic of capitalist expansion. Briefly said, the cause of the impasse seems to be two opposed notions of globalization. This seminar is built on the hypothesis that the gap between these two seemingly very contemporary approaches is the result of overlooking a historical past that has been poorly understood but is nevertheless constitutive of the present debates. We will search for their genealogical history by rereading groundbreaking works on political theology in dialogue with Marxism, paying special attention to the early modern origins of globalization, imperialism, and capitalist expansion.

  • Didactics of Spanish Language and Culture II (SPAN GR6011) | Reyes Llopis-García Fridays, 1:00 – 3:00 p.m.

Teaching in a foreign language, regardless of the content of the course, requires not only specific understanding of the target language itself, but also a solid knowledge of Pedagogy, which ranges from operative skill in classroom management and dynamics, to the comprehension of how affective and cognitive factors impact both the learning process and the processing of the language. Pedagogical success is measured in the balanced theoretical knowledge of what triggers learning and the processing of new information with the techniques and methodologies that foster and activate that process. This seminar will explore that balance by providing hands-on workshops by both the instructor and other invited speakers that combine pedagogical reflections on theories of learning and language acquisition with methodological approaches to teaching and didactic planning.

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LAIC, « Graduate Seminars | SPRING 2018 », Blogs, Columbia University | LAIC, Department of Latin American and Iberian Cultures (online), published on November 7, 2017. Full URL for this article

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