Course Syllabus

HUHI 6315, Sec. 001

Popular Culture in Latin America 19th Century – Present

Fall 2012

Mondays, 1:00-3:45 p.m.

SOM 2.904


Professor Contact Information

Dr. Monica Rankin

JO 4.916

Office: (972) 883-2005

Mobile: (972) 822-5375

[email protected]


Office Hours: M 11:30-12:30; Tu 1:00-2:00 or by appointment


Course Description

This course will examine Latin American history through the lens of popular culture in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. We will examine issues that fall within that time period thematically, rather than chronologically, paying particular attention to recreational and other activities that influenced (and continue to influence) the lives of Latin Americans.  Possible themes include, but are not limited to, public festivals, religion, sports, music, food, fashion, print media, television, and film. We will specifically focus on how various forms of popular culture fit within a broader historical narrative, and in particular, how popular culture contributes to a multi-faceted and continuously evolving sense of national identity.  Finally, we will examine the methodology behind conducting research in topics relating to popular culture and critique various works.


Student Learning Objectives/Outcomes

Š      Students will demonstrate their ability to connect major political, economic, and social trends of the region to expressions of popular culture. 

Š      Students will demonstrate their ability to incorporate aspects of popular culture into their own pedagogical techniques.  Students will improve their research skills by considering new sources in the examination of the Latin America region.


Required Textbooks and Materials


Weekly Monographs:

Arnold Bauer, Good, Power, History: Latin America’s Material Culture (Cambridge University Press, (2001) ISBN: 05217702x


Terry Rugeley, Of Wonders and Wise Men: Religion and Popular Cultures in Southeast Mexico, 1800-1876 (University of Texas Press, 2001) ISBN: 029277107x


William Beezley, Judas at the Jockey Club: And Other Episodes of Porfirian Mexico (University of Nebraska Press, 2004) ISBN: 0803262175


Helen Delpar, The Enormous Vogue of Things Mexican: Cultural Relations between the United States and Mexico, 1920-1935 (University of Alabama Press, 1992) ISBN: 0817308113


Anne Rubenstein, Bad Language, Naked Ladies, and Other Threats to the Nation: A Political History of Comic Books in Mexico (Duke University Press, 1998) ISBN: 0822321416


Sergio de la Mora, Cinemachismo: Masculinities & Sexuality in Mexican Film (University of Texas Press, 2006) ISBN: 0292712979


Eric Zolov, Refried Elvis: The Rise of the Mexican Counterculture (University of California Press, 1999) ISBN: 0520215141


Mark Cameron Edberg, El Narcotraficante: Narcocorridos & the Construction of a Cultural Persona on the U.S.-Mexico Border (University of Texas Press, 2001) ISBN: 0842027718


Thomas O’Brien, The Century of U.S. Capitalism in Latin America (University of New Mexico Press, 1999) ISBN: 0826319963



Password: wonders


Articles and Chapters:

1.    “Introduction, Latin American Popular Culture, William H. Beezley and Linda A. Curcio-Nagy (eds.) (SR Books, 2000) pp. xi-xxiii


2.    Stephen Haber, “Anything Goes: Mexico’s ‘New’ Cultural History,” Hispanic American Historical Review, Vol. 79, No. 2 (May 1999) pp. 309-330.


3.    Susan Midgen Socolow, “Putting the ‘Cult’ in Culture,” Hispanic American Historical Review, Vol. 79, No. 2 (May 1999) pp. 355-366..


4.    Thomas L. Hartshorne, “An Approach to Teaching the Analysis of Popular Culture Materials in History Courses,” The History Teacher, Vol. 20, No. 3 (May, 1987) pp. 333-342.


5.    James B. Gilbert, “Popular Culture,” American Quarterly, Vol. 35, No. ½, Special Issue: Contemporary America. (Spring-Summer, 1983), pp. 141-154.


6.    Jack Child, “The Politics and Semiotics of The Smallest Icons of Popular Culture: Latin American Postage Stamps,” Latin American Research Review, Vol. 40, No. 1, (Feb. 2005) pp108-137).


7.    Fiona Wilson, “Indians and Mestizos: Identity and Urban Popular Culture in Andean Peru, Journal of Southern African Studies, Vol. 26, No. 2, (June 2000) pp. 239-253.


8.    Louis A. Perez, Jr. “Between Baseball and Bullfighting: The quest for Nationality in Cuba, 1868-1898,” The Journal of American History, Vol. 31, No. 2 (Sep. 1994) pp. 493-517.


9.    Matthew B. Karush, “National Identity in the Sports Pages: Football and the Mass Media in 1920s Buenos Aires,” The Americas, Vol. 60, No. 1 (July 2003) pp. 11-32.


10.Jeffrey M. Pilcher, “Many Chefs in the National Kitchen: Cookbooks and Identity in Nineteenth-Century Mexico,” in Latin American Popular Culture, William H. Beezley and Linda A. Curcio-Nagy (eds.) (SR Books, 2000) pp. 123-142.


11.Lauren Derby, “Gringo Chickens with Worms: Food and Nationalism in the Dominican Republic,” in Close Encounters of Empire: Writing the Cultural History of U.S.-Latin American Relations, Gilbert M. Joseph, et. al. (eds.) (Duke University Press, 1998) pp. 451-496.


12.John J. Johnson, “The Republics as Blacks,” in Latin America in Caricature, (University of Texas Press, 1980) pp. 157-209.


13.Frederick B. Pike, “Latin America and the Inversion of United States Stereotypes in the 1920s and 1930s: The Case of Culture and Nature,” The Americas, Vol. 42, No. 2 (Oct. 1985) pp. 131-162.


14.Ana M. Lopez, “Early Cinema and Modernity in Latin America,” Cinema Journal, Vol. 40, No. 1, (Fall 2000) pp. 48-78.


15.Antonio C. La Pastina, et. al., “The Centrality of Telenovelas in Latin America’s Everyday Life: Past Tendencies, Current Knowledge, and Future Research,” in Global Media Journal, Vol. 2, No. 2 (Spring 2003).


16.Darien J. Davis, “Racial Parity and National Humor: Exploring Brazilian Samba from Noel Rosa to Carmen Miranda, 1930-1939,” in Latin American Popular Culture, William H. Beezley and Linda A. Curcio-Nagy (eds.) (SR Books, 2000) pp. 183-200.


17.Regina Root, “Fashioning Independence: Gender, Dress, and Social Space in Postcolonial Argentina,” in Regina Root (ed.), Latin American Fashion Reader: (Dress, Body, Culture) (Berg Publishers, 2005) pp. 31-43.


18.Monica Rankin, “La Ropa Cósmica: Identity and Fashion in 1940s Mexico,” in Studies in Latin American Popular Culture. Volume 28 (2010) pp. 95-111.


19.William V. Flores, “New Citizens, New Rights: Undocumented Immigrants and Latino Cultural Citizenship,” Latin American Perspectives, Vol. 30 No. 2 (March 2003) pp. 87-100).


20.Vivian Barrera and Denise Beilby, “Places, Faces, and Other Familiar Things: The Cultural Experience of Telenovela Viewing among Latinos in the United States,” Journal of Popular Culture Vol. 34 No. 4 (Spring 2001) pp. 1-18.


21.Julio Moreno, “In Search of Markets, Diplomacy, and Consumers: Sears as a commercial Diplomat in Mexico,” in Yankee Don’t Go Home! Mexican Nationalism, American Business Culture, and the Shaping of Modern Mexico, 1920-1950, (University of North Carolina Press, 2003) pp. 172-206).


22.Harry M. Cleaver, “The Zapatista Effect: The Internet and the Rise of an Alternative Political Fabric,” Journal of International Affairs Vol. 51, No. 2 (Spring 1998) pp. 621-640.



Suggested Course Materials (Optional)

John Charles Chasteen, Born in Blood and Fire (W.W. Norton, 2006) ISBN: 0393976130



Grading Policy

The grading in this course is based on weekly discussions, weekly notes, a topical presentation, and a final project (written and presentation).  The breakdown of the grading is as follows:


Weekly Notes and Participation


Topical Presentation


Final Project

(Written & Presentation)




Course & Instructor Policies

No late assignments will be accepted and there is no make-up policy for in-class work.  I will NOT accept final versions of any assignments as e-mail attachments.


All assignments for this class are mandatory.  Materials used in this course have been carefully selected for their scholarly value, but some audiences may take offense at topics of a sensitive nature.  There will be NO substitutions of readings, films, documents, presentations, and/or other course requirements to suit personal preferences.  There are NO EXCEPTIONS to this rule.




Weekly Notes:  You will prepare weekly notes in the form of a reading response for all readings assigned.  The papers should include a statement of the author’s main argument, followed by supporting evidence the author provides.  You should examine the author’s use of sources, methodology, and theory.  Your notes should conclude with a critical analysis of the readings.  In your analysis, you should provide your critique of the readings.  This is also where you should include any information you have about the author that may influence your interpretation of the readings.  It is also appropriate to compare your critique to published reviews of the readings (where available).  Peer-reviewed journals publish reviews of many historical monographs, and these should be available for the books assigned in this course.  Weekly notes should be typed and prepared prior to class meetings.


Since this is a graduate-level reading seminar, I expect your reading responses to be thorough and to reflect graduate-level analysis.  I suggest using the following note-taking format.


Suggested note-taking format:

Š      Title/Author:  Is there any significance in the title chosen for the work?  Who is the author? What do you know about him/her?  Field?  Discipline?  Institutional affiliation?  Peers/colleagues?  For books, was it first a dissertation?  What else has the author written?

Š      Publisher:  Who is the publisher?  What do you know about the press?  Is it academic or otherwise?  What is the publisher known for?  What other types of works has the publisher produced?  Is the book part of a series?  What is the nature of the series?  Who is the series editor?  What do you know about him/her?

Š      Thesis:  What is the author’s main argument (as opposed to the subject of the book)?

Š      Evidence:  How does the author support his/her main argument? 

Š      Research/sources:  Look at the notes and bibliography.  What primary and secondary sources did the author consult?  Which libraries, collections, archives, etc. were involved?

Š      Methodology:  How did the author approach his/her sources?  What questions were asked?  Are any theoretical frameworks involved?  Are there any inherent challenges to the sources and/or approach?  How has the author attempted to contend with those challenges?

Š      Body of Scholarship:  Who else has written on the topic?  Who else has used similar sources and/or theoretical models?  Where does the work fit within the existing body of literature?  It is responding to a previous study?  Was it a seminal work?  What have other scholars said about it? 

Š      Critique/analysis:  What is your overall critique of the work?  Is the thesis solid?  Has the author defended it well?  What is your opinion of the use of sources and methodology?  How can you use the information presented?  How can you use the methodological model?


Class Participation: This is a graduate readings seminar and all students are expected to participate in class discussions over readings and other relevant material.  Discussions should be respectful and constructive.  I strongly recommend that you use the weekly notes as a guide to your in-class commentary.  When preparing for class discussions, consider how YOU would teach that book/material if you were leading the class.  How would you organize the material? How would you summarize the arguments, strengths, weaknesses, etc.  Please remember that quality is more important than quantity and that constructive/analytical does not necessarily mean loud.  I encourage all of you to meet with me no later than 4 weeks into the semester to discuss your participation grade.


Presentation: All students will give one topical presentation during the course, based on the topic chosen for the final project.  Presenters will help lead class discussion and should contribute with leading questions and issues for debate.   They are also responsible for finding short primary documents (or excerpts of documents) to be included in the presentation and discussion. 


Presentations may be creative in nature in keeping with the popular culture orientation of the course. I encourage students to incorporate creative and/or non-traditional aspects into the project while maintaining scholarly integrity.  I encourage all students to incorporate their individual strengths and interests into the presentation projects.  Presentations should be approximately 20-30 minutes of formal presentation plus an additional 10-15 minutes for questions.  No presentation should run longer than 45 minutes. 


Please note: it is not necessary to turn in weekly notes for the week when your presentation is scheduled.


Presentations will be graded for the following components:

         Thesis: this should be clearly stated and supported throughout

         Historical/cultural context

         Use of primary document

         Connections to class readings



         Timing: presentations should fall within the 30-45 minute time limit


Final Project:  For the final project in this course, you have the option of writing a scholarly research paper, writing an historiographical paper, or producing a creative project.  Your topic and the nature of your project must be approved by me in advance.  I encourage you to expand on the topical presentation you give early in the semester for your final project but you may choose an entirely new topic altogether.  All students will give a brief presentation of their final project on the last day of class.  The final version of the project is due by 4:00 pm on December 17 in my office. 


Library Resources:

Linda Snow, Liaison to the School of Arts and Humanities

[email protected]

(972) 883-2626


Library Webpage:


JSTOR:  an electronic archive of core scholarly journals from the humanities, social sciences, and sciences.  The journals have been digitized, starting with their very first issues, often dating back to the 1800s.  It does not contain current issues.  Everything in JSTOR is full-text.  Full-length journals articles and book reviews can be downloaded on or off campus through the library’s webpage.


Project Muse:  a collection of the full text of over 300 high quality humanities, arts, and social sciences journals from 60 scholarly publishers.  Coverage for most journals began around 1995. Full-length journals articles and book reviews can be downloaded on or off campus through the library’s webpage.


Other Resources:

Popular Culture Association:  Scholarly association that publishes The Journal of Popular Culture.


H-LATAM:  Web-based, scholarly discussion network of Latin American historians and other scholars.  This is a good forum for keeping up on current literary debates and also to query experts in the field for advice on literature, methodology, archives, etc.


Academic Calendar:

The following schedule outlines the topics and reading assignments for each class.  This schedule is subject to change.  Any changes made to the schedule and/or any other course requirements will be announced in class and will be posted on the course website:


Week 1


August 27





Week 2

Popular Culture

September 10

Reserve Readings: #s1-5




Week 3

Material Culture: General Overview

September 17

Monograph: Arnold Bauer

Reserve Readings: #6





Week 4

Religion and Folk Culture

September 24

Monograph: Terry Rugeley

Reserve Readings: #7




Popular Religion




Week 5

Sports and Recreation

October 1

Monograph: William Beezley

Reserve Readings: #s8-9




Sports in Latin America

Festivals and Public Spaces



Week 6

Popular Culture and Identity

October 8

Monograph: Helen Delpar

Reserve Readings: 10-11




Popular Art

Food in Latin America



Week 7

Comics and Caricature

October 15

Monograph: Anne Rubenstein

Reserve Readings: #s12-13




Popular Print

Popular Culture and Imperialism



Week 8

Final Project Workshop

October 22






Week 9

Latin American Film & Television

October 29

Monograph: Sergio de la Mora

Reserve Readings: #14-15




Film in Latin America

Television and Radio in Latin America



Week 10

November 12


Final Project Progress Reports




Week 11

Music, Fashion, and Identity in Latin America

November 5

Monograph: Eric Zolov

Reserve Readings: #s16-18




Latin American Music/Dance

Fashion and Personal Adornment in Latin America




Week 12

Drugs and Border Culture

November 26

Monograph: Mark Cameron Edberg

Reserve Readings: #s19-20




Illicit Drugs in Latin American Popular Culture

Popular Culture in Border Regions





Week 13

U.S. Capitalism and Popular Culture

December 3

Monograph: Thomas O’Brien

Reserve Readings: #s21-22




Consumerism in Latin America

Popular Culture in Transition and Translation




December 10

Final Project Presentation




December 17

Final Project Paper Due by 4:00


These descriptions and timelines are subject to change at the discretion of the Professor.



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