Teaching

Most of my teaching focuses on colonial Latin America, and I’ve taught courses on colonialism and racism, colonialism and international law, and history and the colonial archive, among others. In disciplinary terms, colonial studies is ambiguous, located on the border of literature and history, and this ambiguity is important for students to keep in mind as we read, contextualize, and analyze primary texts. One of the main goals of my courses is for students to reflect on the violent foundations of the contemporary world and begin to recognize the ways in which the world they inhabit was and continues to be structured through conquest, genocide, slavery, and exploitation. In this way, I emphasize the importance of engaging with the colonial past in order to understand the postcolonial present.

In the Fall 2018 semester, I’ll be teaching two courses:

Spanish 470: Colonialism and Racism in Latin America
When we say that race is a “social construction,” we mean not only that the concept has no basis in biological reality but also that it has a history—a history we can study in order to shed light on the past as well as the present. This course traces the history of race and racism back to the rise of Spanish colonialism in Latin America during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Organized around key racial categories (“Jew,” “Indian,” “Black,” “White”), it will explore the commonalities and divergences across these differential processes of racialization, all of which are linked by the Spanish colonial project. Questions include: What are race and racism and what kinds of ideological “work” do they do? What is the relationship between colonialism and racism? How have race and racism changed from the colonial past to the present day? Why have they endured so successfully over time? Readings will include primary sources written during the colonial period as well as recent critical and theoretical work on race, racism, and racialization.

Spanish 823: Racial Capitalism and Iberian Colonialism (graduate seminar)
In recent years, the concept of racial capitalism, coined by Cedric J. Robinson in his book Black Marxism (1983; 2nd ed. 2000), has been taken up by critics and activists committed to a materialist theory of race. For Robinson, capitalism has effected not a complete rationalization or homogenization of social relations but rather the production and consolidation of social distinctions: “The development, organization, and expansion of capitalist society pursued essentially racial directions, so too did social ideology. As a material force, then, it could be expected that racialism would inevitably permeate the social structures emergent from capitalism” (2). The history of capitalism and the formation of the world system is thus deeply entangled with the history of race. Taking this insight as its point of departure, this seminar will examine the emergence, transformation, and consolidation of racial thinking and racialization processes in the context of Iberian colonial expansion, primarily in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. We will read primary sources from and about colonial Latin America alongside contemporary theoretical work on race/racialization and the history of capitalism (“old” and “new”). The idea is not only for secondary readings to guide our analysis of primary texts but also for primary texts to underscore the weaknesses of critical approaches that have treated these early colonial projects as marginal to or disconnected from modernity.

Courses I’ve taught at the University of Michigan include:

  • What is resistance?
  • Introduction to colonial Latin American literature
  • New (World) debates and the ideology of empire
  • Colonialism and racism in Latin America
  • The colonial origins of international law
  • The colonial archive and the politics of history
  • Colonial/postcolonial studies (graduate seminar)
  • Colonial studies and the modern world-system (graduate seminar)
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