Fiches de cours

Encountering latin America


Enseignant(s) :

Gonçalves Martin Johanna Susette




Contemporary Latin America emerges from a history of encounters between cosmologies, including scientific ones. This course seeks to analyse current social and cultural dynamics in Latin America, through case studies concerning the circulation and translation of knowledges and practices.


Historical and contemporary issues in knowledge circulation

One of the challenges in understanding Latin America is its great diversity. What we currently know as `Latin America¿ is the product of a history of encounters between peoples and things, before and after colonial times, which did not bring about unified and global forms of knowing. These encounters are relevant for understanding many of the current challenges or social dynamics in Latin America, such as health, gender and poverty inequalities; indigenous, Afro-American or peasant/informal workers identities and social movements; contending forms of nationalisms; and recent political or financial crises in the region.

Our path into exploring diversity in Latin America will be to consider in more detail the interactions between different forms of knowledges and practices, especially in what concerns the arrival of scientific practices during colonial times and contemporary appropriations of science in the region. Combining a sociocultural and a historical approach, students will be introduced to important topics in Latin America such as gender, ethnicity, violence, cities, through an exploration of case studies in which different forms of knowing about and acting in the world come together. The cases will range from indigenous technologies such as quipu in the archaeology of the Andes or current ethnobotany practices in Colombia, to the history of Spanish and Portuguese navigation, the control of diseases such as malaria at the turn of the 20th century in Mexico, and more contemporary examples of pharmaceuticals in Argentina, assisted reproduction in Ecuador, volcano science in Guatemala, climate change in Brazil, and genomics in Cuba.


Latin America, social-anthropology, history, sciences, technology, indigenous, knowledge, practices.

POLY-perspective :

Learning Outcomes

By the end of the course, the student must be able to:

Transversal skills

Teaching methods

Brief introductory lectures on general topics of relevance in Latin American anthropology or history will be combined with the in depth discussion of cases in the literature. Students will all read the required literature, but will alternate presenting individually or in groups to the rest of the class. Another group of students acting as commentators and guiding a general discussion. Students will be encouraged to think beyond the given cases and to relate to other examples they may know. There will be an individual or collective observation exercise (ethnography) of their own labs.

Expected student activities

  1. Active participation in the course, including completing the required readings, doing assigned presentions and moderation of discussions, and intervening during the discussions.
  2. To engage in an observation exercise in their own labs, to be shared and commented in group
  3. Write towards the end a short essay or reflection on what they have learnt

Assessment methods

  1. Individual or group presentation 60%
  2. Final essay/reflection 40%


Office hours Yes
Assistants No
Forum No
Others Lectures for this course will be in English, but all discussions and written work may also be in French or in Spanish.



Medina, E; Marques, I; Holmes, C. 2014 Beyond imported magic: Essays on science, technology and society in Latin America. Cambridge: MIT Press.

Kopenawa D, Albert B. 2010 La chute du ciel. Paroles d'un shaman Yanomami. Plon. [Or its translation in English: 2013. The falling sky, words of a Yanomami shaman. Harvard University Press]

Poole, D. 2008. A companion to Latin American anthropology. Wiley Blackwell

Cueto, M., 2007. Cold war, deadly fevers: malaria eradication in Mexico, 1955¿1975. Woodrow Wilson Center Press.

Medina, E. 2011. Cybernetic revolutionaries: Technology and Politics in Allende¿s Chile. MIT Press

Ressources en bibliothèque

Dans les plans d'études

  • Programme Sciences humaines et sociales, 2019-2020, Bachelor semestre 6
    • Semestre
    • Forme de l'examen
      Pendant le semestre
    • Crédits
    • Matière examinée
      Encountering latin America
    • Nombre de places
    • Cours
      2 Heure(s) hebdo x 14 semaines

Semaine de référence

En construction
Exercice, TP
Projet, autre


  • Semestre d'automne
  • Session d'hiver
  • Semestre de printemps
  • Session d'été
  • Cours en français
  • Cours en anglais
  • Cours en allemand