"Conquest" and its Problems in Latin America

History 103E.002

Fall 2008
Instructor (text): 
202 Wheeler
Day & Time: 
Tues 12-2
Paul Ramirez is a Ph.D candidate in Latin American history. He is writing a dissertation on the changing role of religion in Mexican epidemics in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

This seminar examines issues of conquest in Latin America. In what ways has conquest been prosecuted and experienced in colonial contexts? How is it remembered and forgotten, portrayed in writing and in art, and used as justification for rule? How is communication and understanding made possible? What do categories such as ";conqueror"; and ";conquered,"; ";resistance"; and ";survival,"; ";conversion"; and ";acculturation,"; and ";victor"; and ";vanquished"; reveal and obscure for historians of Latin America? We address these and other questions from the period of Spanish exploration (end of the fifteenth century), through attempts by South American states to ";conquer the wilderness"; in the national period, and ending with the literary re-imaginings of colonial encounters in the work of Carlos Fuentes and Julio Cortazar.

As an event, the Spanish conquest of America has been energetically debated, with historians continuing to discuss its nature, duration, scope, and impact. In the first part of the course, we take on the social, political, economic, and cultural repercussions of the arrival of Spaniards, treating especially military and symbolic dimensions of possession, the role of disease and political alliances, the nature and extent of religious conversion, and the progressive extension of new labor systems and social organization. The second part builds on this foundation to examine subsequent attempts to remember and interpret conquest. What weight and meaning were attributed to acts of violence in their aftermath? How did individuals and nation states appropriate, interpret, or construct conquest(s)? In one form or another, conquest endures until the present; we will ask where, how, and why.

In addition to weekly group assignments and regular participation in class, students enrolled in the course will be asked to write one final paper of fifteen pages, accompanied by a brief presentation in the final course meeting. Grades for the course will be approximately: 50% weekly preparation and participation, 50% presentation and final paper.