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HP321 Nature and Modernity in Latin America

Module Code: HP321
Module Name: Nature and Modernity in Latin America
Module Coordinator: Dr Michela Coletta
Term 1 Time: Tuesdays 12:00-13:00 Room: OC1.02
Module Credits: 15

Module Description

Climate change and the prospect of a post-nature world where human beings have irreversibly transformed their environment are correlated to the cultural and economic model of western modernity. So, while we think of progress, development and growth as incremental global processes that continue to expand to other regions and continents, we are called to question their significance: is modernity as we know it reconcilable with the future of the earth? Latin America stands in a unique place in relation to this question: as a region colonised by European powers, its natural resources were exploited to produce the wealth that made Europe the centre of the modern world. After gaining independence, its own modernity has continued to be hindered by the history of exploitation of its nature and people. What does it mean to be modern in Latin America, where development, democracy and social justice are undermined by continued exploitation in the name of global modernity? What can we learn about modernity and its contradictions from Latin America? And how have Latin Americans made sense of and responded to the notion that modernity is based on the domination of nature in the name of progress? This module explores these questions in relation to four main themes: 1) representations of new colonialism and extractivism in contemporary Latin American film; 2) visual reconstructions in twentieth-century visual arts of ideas of gender and race in relation to Latin American nature and its peoples; 3) recent recuperations of indigenous understandings of nature-human relations especially through storytelling in the Amazon; 4) current Latin American alternatives to the idea of modernity as endless development, such as the notion of "buen vivir", i.e. what it means to live well. Students will be encouraged to use a variety of primary materials: film, visual arts and photography, short story and the essay of ideas. Countries include Cuba, Mexico, Bolivia, Colombia and Brasil. The module will be most suitable to students with an interest in one or more of the following areas: the literature and culture of the Hispanic world, twentieth-century and contemporary Latin America, ecology, post-colonalism, environmental history, environmental movements and ideas, the modern world, politics and nature. All primary texts are also available in English. Students with little or no knowledge of Spanish are very welcome to get in touch with the module convenor for further details on the module contents.

Primary texts:

Films: También la lluvia (Even the rain, Icíar Bollaín, 2011) and Birdwatchers (Marco Bechis, 2010) [available via tutor/library]

Visual arts: artists include Frida Kahlo (Mexico, 1907-1954), Ana Mendieta (Cuba, 1948-1985), Wifredo Lam (Cuba, 1902-1982) and photographer Sebastião Salgado (Brasil, 1944- ) [available via tutor/online]

Short stories: Juan Carlos Galeano, Cuentos Amazónicos, 2014 (Folktales of the Amazon) [available via tutor/library]

Essays of ideas: authors include Arturo Escobar (Colombia, 1952- ) and Walter Mignolo (Argentina, 1941- ); example of primary reading (selected essays): Boaventura de Sousa Santos (ed.), Cognitive Justice in a Global World: Prudent Knowledges for a Decent Life, 2007 [available via tutor/library]

Assessment Method:

Formative assessment:

Weekly text preparation and seminar discussion; informal oral presentations in class (individual or in small groups)

Summative assessment:

1 x 4,000 / 4,500-word essay

Frida Kalho, Sun and Life, 1947
Frida Kahlo, Sun and Life, Mexico, 1947
Sebastiao Salgado, Marine Iguana, Galápagos Islands, Eduador, 2004
Sebastiao Salgado, Marine Iguana, Galápagos Islands, Eduador, 2004