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UCL Institute of the Americas

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Graduate Taught Modules

***Please note that module availability may change each year. Please contact our teaching administration team for updates***

For programme specific listings, please see the individual degree programme pages. When choosing optional modules outside their programme diet, students should check their choices with their programme leader and/or personal tutor first.

For more information please e-mail the Teaching Administration Team or call them: +44 (0)20 7679 9746


AMER0002 Sustainable Development in Latin America and the Caribbean

Module convenor: Dr Graham Woodgate

Outline

The environmental dimensions of almost every aspect of life continue to grow in importance as we proceed into the twenty-first century. Initially portrayed in terms of rather simplistic, scientific, cause and effect relationships, more recent social science analyses of 'environmental problems' are beginning to uncover the extremely complex character of the society-environment nexus as well as the partial and contingent nature of environmental knowledge. 'Sustainable development' has become a highly contested notion and increasing emphasis is being placed on the underlying social, political and economic dimensions of environmental change and the contested character of discourses of the environment as they emerge and change over time.

This module begins by considering a variety of epistemological framings for the study of society-environment interaction. Broadly construed, 'positivism', 'structuralism' and 'constructionism' are set within a critical realist ontology of nature in order to help us specify what we are referring to when we speak of 'nature', 'society', 'development' and 'sustainability', and how such concepts relate to each other. We begin the process with some simple exercises and an open discussion. From there we turn our attention to the emergence and institutionalisation of the concept of 'sustainable development' and the challenges to 'sustainability' discourse represented by post-development theory and Latin American constructs such as 'buen vivir'. Through the investigation of a variety of environmental social movements, politics and policies in LAC and their links with global movements and policies, the course seeks to illuminate some of the key claims-makers, claims, and claims-making processes that have emerged in response to perceived environmental change and resulted in new forms of social organisation and environmental governance. We will consider issues of: subsistence and commercial agriculture; forests, forestry and forest people; and the relationship between environmental hazards and human disasters.

Find out more about assessment, key sources and lectures by visiting the module page.

AMER0003: US Presidents and the Presidency | **NOT RUNNING IN 2020/21**

Not running in 2020/21

Find out more about assessment, key sources and lectures by visiting the module page.

AMER0007 Democratization in Latin America

Module convenor: Professor Kevin J. Middlebrook

Outline

This module examines transitions from authoritarian rule and the challenges confronting democratic regimes in contemporary Latin America, focusing both on key analytic themes and the national experiences of individual countries. The cases of Argentina, Brazil, Chile, El Salvador, Mexico, Nicaragua and Venezuela provide the principal empirical bases for a consideration of these issues.

The first part of the module analyses the historically significant processes of democratic regime change that swept much of Latin America after the late 1970s and early 1980s. Readings and lectures identify core concepts and terms of debate (including the question of how "democracy" should be defined, the indeterminance of transition processes, and so forth), distinguish among different models of regime change (especially "actor-centred" versus "structural" models of democratization) and consider the domestic and international forces that contributed to the breakdown of authoritarian regimes and subsequent transitions to political democracy in a number of countries. This material sets the stage for an analysis of both individual country experiences and the role of particular actors (political parties, the armed forces, the Roman Catholic Church, labour unions, human rights movements, and so forth) in democratic transitions.

The second part of the module highlights the multiple dilemmas facing consolidating democratic regimes. Readings and lectures provide the basis for a thematic investigation of the role of political parties, social movements and the struggle for citizenship rights, the implications of Latin America's far-reaching process of market-oriented economic reform for democratic consolidation, and international dimensions of democratization in the region.

One way of assessing the possible future course of democracy in Latin America is to examine the changing role of political forces on both the left and the right of the political spectrum. The readings and lectures in the final section of the course do so by analysing recent developments in Brazil, Chile, Mexico and Venezuela. 

Find out more about assessment, key sources and lectures by visiting the module page.

AMER0008: From Silver to Cocaine  |  **NOT RUNNING IN 2020/21**

Not running 2020/21

Find out more about assessment, key sources and lectures by visiting the module page.

AMER0009: Globalisation and Latin American Development

Module convenor: Dr Néstor Castañeda

Outline

This module examines different theories of economic growth and development and their implications for the understanding of the Latin American economic development. In particular, this module identifies some possible explanations of the current levels of economic development in the region and explore their relationship with global economic processes.

In the first part of the module, we explore the modern theories of economic growth and development, discuss the difference between economic growth and development, and the relationship between institutions and economic development. In the second part of the module, we focus our attention on the literature on institutions and economic development. In particular, we examine the role of historical institutional legacies and modern political institutions for economic growth, development, and inequality in Latin America. We explore the basic hypothesis that the quality of economic and political institutions has a fundamental role in the explanation of the development gaps among countries in the region. In the final part of the module, we explore the links between global and domestic processes of social and economic change. We examine theories on the impact of globalization on Latin American economic development and analyse how the region has responded to challenging global transformations. In particular, we focus our attention on different facets of globalisation and their impact on economic development: migration, trans-nationalism, urban development, security, multiculturalism, and environmental factors, among others.

We offer a multidisciplinary approach to development issues, so the module is taught by a team of scholars specialising in economics, political science, sociology, anthropology, and development studies. The module convenor will lead discussion for the first part of the module, before subject area experts take over for the special topics.

Find out more about assessment, key sources and lectures by visiting the module page.

AMER0010: Politics of US Foreign Policy

Module convenor: Dr Tony McCulloch

Outline

This module examines the politics of the American foreign policy-making process, both contemporary and historical. It analyses how decisions are made, who and what influences foreign policy and why the US government acts as it does. Its emphasis is on the domestic politics of US foreign policy within the context of international relations more generally. An historical approach is adopted during the course but one informed by the main tenets of Foreign Policy Analysis.

We begin by considering the domestic influences on the President and his administration in formulating and executing US foreign policy, with specific reference to a current crisis - North Korea's development of nuclear missiles - as an on-going case study. Relevant factors include the attitude of the President, competing views within the foreign policy-making bureaucracy (State Department, Defense Department, National Security Advisor, intelligence community), Congress, opinion within the political parties, public opinion, the role of the media, etc.

We also briefly examine some of the main theories or paradigms within the study of International Relations that attempt to classify and explain the interaction of states and other actors on the world stage and that necessarily involve the analysis of US foreign policy as part of this process. These theories - Realism, Marxism, Liberal Internationalism, Constructivism, etc - are explored in terms of the light they shed on the relationship between domestic politics and US foreign policy.

The bulk of the module - from week 2 - consists of a series of case studies drawn from some of the most significant events and decisions in the history of modern US foreign policy, before and during the Cold War. We start by analysing the US domestic politics involved in the war with Spain in 1898 - an event often taken as signalling America's emergence as a world power. Next we examine the decision-making of Theodore Roosevelt during the Alaska Boundary dispute with Britain and Canada in 1903. This is followed by an analysis of the US decision to reject membership of the League of Nations in 1920 and of Franklin Roosevelt's role in the 'destroyer bases' deal with Britain in the wake of the Dunkirk evacuation in 1940.

The second half of the course, after Reading Week, focuses on Presidential decision-making during the early and middle phases of the Cold War - and discusses the domestic political considerations influencing the Truman Doctrine of 1947, McCarthyism and the Korean War of 1950-53; Eisenhower and the Suez Crisis in 1956; Kennedy, the Bay of Pigs invasion and the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962; Johnson and US escalation and retreat in Vietnam, 1965-68; and finally Nixon, Kissinger and détente, the visit to China and US policy towards the Vietnam War with particular reference to Ford's decision-making during the Mayaguez incident of 1975. The course ends with a brief look at the presidencies of Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan and the resumption of the Cold War, and this is where the term 2 module AMERG011 - Post Cold War US Foreign Policy - begins.

Find out more about assessment, key sources and lectures by visiting the module page.

AMER0011: Politics, Society and Development in the Caribbean

Module convenor: Dr Kate Quinn

Outline

The second half of the twentieth century marks a watershed in the history of the Caribbean. Guerrilla warfare in Cuba and the achievement of independence in the formerly British colonies transformed the political map of the region. Beginning with the victory of the Cuban Revolution in 1959 and ending with the controversial ousting of Haiti's Jean Bertrand Aristide in 2004, this course examines the key issues and events that have shaped the development of the modern Caribbean. Issues for analysis include the struggles for political, economic and cultural independence; the implications of colonial and neo-colonial relations with both Europe and the United States; the legacies of a diverse racial heritage and the complex relations between ethnicity and power; the effects of mass migration and mass tourism; the contemporary challenges of development at the sharp end of globalisation; and the rich texture of Caribbean cultures whose influence has been felt as much in London and New York as in Kingston and Port-au-Prince.

The module draws on the rich theoretical and historical debates that have emerged from within the region itself, strongly emphasising specifically 'Caribbean' approaches to the issues at hand. From Frantz Fanon and Fidel Castro to Bob Marley and Walter Rodney, the Caribbean has a strong tradition of challenging the prevailing prescriptions for its development. All the main cultures of the Caribbean - Anglophone, Francophone and Hispanic - will be considered within a flexible format that combines both case study and thematic approaches.

Find out more about assessment, key sources and lectures by visiting the module page.

AMER0012: Post-Cold War US Foreign Policy

Module convenorDr Tony McCulloch

Outline

This module considers how the end of the Cold War bipolarity between the US and the Soviet Union has affected American foreign policy since1989. It begins by briefly reviewing the onset of the 'Second Cold War' during the presidencies of Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan, the advent of Mikhail Gorbachev as the Soviet leader in 1985 and the subsequent ending of the Cold War. It then examines the main paradigms in International Relations theory that attempt to explain US foreign policy such as Realism, Liberal Internationalism, Marxism and Constructivism.

This introduction is followed by a week-by-week analysis of each of the Post-Cold War presidents and the main themes associated with their foreign policies, especially in relation to the position of Russia, nuclear proliferation rising concern about the growth of 'international terrorism'. The presidency of George H Bush is analysed first and the concept of a New World Order after the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the formation of a 'Coalition of the Willing' against Saddam Hussein is discussed. Bill Clinton's foreign policy and the notion of 'democratic enlargement' in Eastern Europe and the Balkans are examined next and then we focus on the presidency of George W Bush, 9/11, the Bush Doctrine, the 'War on Terror' and its impact on Iraq and Syria. Finally, we discuss the foreign policy of Barack Obama, with reference to the notion of 'American decline' and we assess the first year of Donald Trump's foreign policy.

The second half of the module, after the Reading Week, focuses on issues arising in each of the 5 major geo-political regions in US foreign policy strategy since the end of the Cold War. These include US policy towards Britain and Europe and the notion of an 'Anglo-American 'special relationship'; the legacy of the Monroe Doctrine and US relations with Cuba and the rest of the Americas; the US relationship with Israel and the quest for a Middle East peace settlement involving the Palestinians and the Arab states; US relations with China and the concept of an American pivot towards the Asia-Pacific in the 21st century; and finally US policy towards Africa since the end of the Cold War with particular reference to the reasons for the relative neglect of the region by US presidents.

Find out more about assessment, key sources and lectures by visiting the module page.

AMER0013: The Caribbean from the Haitian Revolution to the Cuban Revolution  |  **NOT RUNNING IN 2020/21**

Not running in 2020/21

Find out more about assessment, key sources and lectures by visiting the module page.

AMER0014: The Politics of Human Rights in Latin America: Challenges to Democratization  |  **NOT RUNNING IN 2020/21**

Not running in 2020/21

Find out more about assessment by visiting the module page.

AMER0015: The Politics of Human Rights in Latin America: Transitional Justice  | **NOT RUNNING IN 2020/21**

Not running in 2020/21

Find out more about assessment, key sources and lectures by visiting the module page.

AMER0017 Latin American Economics  |  **NOT RUNNING IN 2020/21**

Not running in 2020/21

Find out more about assessment, key sources and lectures by visiting the module page.

AMER0018: The International Politics of Latin America

Module tutor: Dr Par Engstrom

Outline

This module examines the international politics of Latin America, with primary emphasis on the period since 1945 but with attention to the legacies of earlier political, economic, and strategic developments affecting the region.  It does not presume a prior knowledge of international relations theory or Latin American politics, history or economics.

The module begins with an overview of key concepts and issues from the general international relations literature. It then turns to a consideration of broad phases in Latin America's international relations during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries; long-term trends in relations between Latin American countries and the United States (including case studies of Cuba and the Central American crisis of the 1980s); Latin American relations with the former Soviet Union, the European Union, and East Asian countries (especially China); case studies of the foreign relations of Brazil, Southern Cone countries, and Mexico; and economic regionalism in the Western Hemisphere.

AMER0019: From Skid Row to Obamacare: The Politics of Social Welfare in the United States since 1900  |  **NOT RUNNING IN 2020/21**

Not running 2020/21

Find out more about assessment, key sources and lectures by visiting the module page.

AMER0023: Confronting the Colossus: US Anti-Imperialism, 1945 - present

Module convenor: Dr Nick Witham

Outline

This module examines the history of domestic and international opposition to US foreign policy in the post-World War II period. After a preliminary session setting out the parameters of the module and introducing students to key concepts such as "imperialism", "anti-imperialism" and "solidarity", the course will be structured around eight different flashpoints for anti-imperialist movements in the US since 1945. Classes will cover: the development of "anti-anti-communism" in the early Cold War; black internationalism and its links to domestic Civil Rights; the Fair Play for Cuba movement; opposition to the Vietnam War; the anti-nuclear movement; the Central America solidarity movement; opposition to US complicity in the South African regime of apartheid; and, finally, the alter-globalization movement. The module will conclude with a writing workshop giving students the opportunity to reflect collaboratively on their 4,000-word written assignment.

Find out more about assessment, key sources and lectures by visiting the module page.

AMER0025: Money and Politics in Latin America  |  **NOT RUNNING IN 2020/21**

Not running 2020/21

Find out more about assessment, key sources and lectures by visiting the module page.

AMER0027: Histories of Exclusion: Race and Ethnicity in Latin America  |  **NOT RUNNING IN 2020/21**

Not running 2020/21

Find out more about assessment, key sources and lectures by visiting the module page.

AMER0030: State and Society in Latin America: Ethnographic Perspectives  |  **NOT RUNNING IN 2020/21**

Not running 2020/21

Find out more about assessment, key sources and lectures by visiting the module page.

AMER0031 Race, Identity and US Foreign Policy  | **NOT RUNNING IN 2020/21**

Not running 2020/21

Find out more about assessment, key sources and lectures by visiting the module page.

AMER0032: From the New South to the Modern South: The (Re)Making of an American Region

Module convenor: Dr Joshua Hollands

Outline

What is the South? Where is the South? Is it a geographically-definable region, a historical construct, or a state of mind? Why have there been so many 'new Souths'? And does it still make sense to talk about the South as a distinct region in the United States? These are just some of the questions this module explores as it considers the social, cultural, political and economic history of the South from the turn of the twentieth-century to the present day.

Major topics include racial and gender reform from the progressive era onwards, including the civil rights movement, sexual revolution and contemporary debates about abortion and transgender rights; the impact of war, economic depression, industrialisation and urbanisation on a historically rural and agricultural region; the rise of the Sunbelt and suburbanisation; the Republican resurgence, growth of conservatism and re-emergence of white supremacism; the expansion of Bible Belt evangelicalism and fundamentalism; the impact of immigration and the rapid growth of 'New Destination' southern cities; the cultural and demographic impact of the new Latino South; enduring cultural trends of the cowboy, southern music, plantation fashion and the confederate flag; and the role of memory in preserving ideas of southern distinctiveness.

We will pay special attention to the relationship between economic and cultural transformation and evolving race, class and gender relations after World War II. Through readings, discussion, film and music we will explore the scholarly debates of those who have sought to define and understand the South, southern exceptionalism, the Americanisation of the South and the southernisation of America.

Find out more about assessment, key sources and lectures by visiting the module page.

AMER0033: The Latin American City: Social Problems and Social Change in Urban Space

Module convenor: Dr Katherine Saunders-Hastings

Outline

Demographically, Latin America is the most urbanized region in the world. But what kind of social worlds are Latin America's cities? This module examines social, spatial, political, and economic dimensions of the Latin American city, drawing primarily from anthropology and ethnographies, but also from history, urban studies, political science, sociology, and geography. From colonial cities that sought to order and civilize a New World to the dystopian insecurity of gang-dominated slums, it surveys the urban aspirations, anxieties, and realities that have shaped the development of Latin American societies.

Although we consider elites and their enclaves, the module focuses on the less privileged inhabitants of the region's deeply unequal cities: the poor, the working classes, racial 'others', criminalized slum-dwellers. The aim is to identify processes of urban development and underdevelopment that create inequality and to understand the experience of living with and living in such inequality.

Case studies from throughout Latin America explore the following central themes:

· The city in theory and practice: grand visions meet untidy realities

· How race, ethnicity, gender, and class shape people's experience of the city

· The relationship of urban space to socio-political processes

· Informality and the urban poor: life and politics in informal settlements and economies

· Politics at the urban margins: clientelism, corruption, social movements, and protests

· Insecure cities: urban violence and criminal economies; security politics and practices.

Find out more about assessment, key sources and lectures by visiting the module page.

AMER0034: From Slavery to Freedom? Race, Class, Gender and Union in the Nineteenth Century US  |  **NOT RUNNING IN 2020/21**

Not running 2020/21

Find out more about assessment, key sources and lectures by visiting the module page.

AMER0040: The Making of Modern Latin America: History, Politics and Society

Module convenor: Dr Paulo Drinot

Outline

This course introduces students to key themes and debates in the history of Latin America since Independence until c. 1980. Some of the themes and debates to be considered include (may vary from year to year): the causes and consequences of Independence; the economic and political instability of the post-Independence period and the nature of caudillo rule; the persistence of slavery and the causes and consequences of slave emancipation; the rise of Latin American export economies; British informal imperialism; US economic and cultural expansion and influence; class, gender, and race and the making of ‘national’ identities; the rise of ‘populism’ and the social and economic consequences of ‘mass politics’; social revolutions; and authoritarianism and military rule.

Find out more about assessment, key sources and lectures by visiting the module page.

AMER0041: Challenges to Development in Brazil  |  **NOT RUNNING IN 2020/21**

Not running in 2020/21

Find out more about assessment, visit the module page.

AMER0042: Gender, Politics and Public Policy in Latin America

Module convenor: Dr Malu Gatto

Outline

From a comparative and multidisciplinary perspective, this intermediate-level module takes a gendered perspective to discuss some of the most important political, economic, and social problems of contemporary societies in the Americas. The course is divided into three parts. In the first part, it will discuss the gendered nature of politics, the state, and democracy. In the second section, it will turn to assessing the quality of democracy from a gendered perspective, focusing on descriptive representation, elections, and voter behavior. Finally, in the third section, the course turns to examining the gendered dimensions of inequality, violence, and sexual rights. Throughout, the module will illustrate comparable and distinctive features of the contemporary societies in North, Central, and South America.

This module will use different forms of assessment to test the students’ ability to demonstrate appropriate knowledge of the contemporary issues in the Americas and their ability to use case-study knowledge to build social science theories and explanations. There will be three graded assignments. For the first assignment, students are required to write a short essay profiling a politician from the Americas who has challenged traditional gendered norms. Second, students are required to present relevant case studies to discuss the day’s class topic. Presentations will take place in the beginning of each class as a means to prompt discussions. Finally, students are required to demonstrate appropriate knowledge of the contents of the module by writing a final essay.

Find out more about assessment, key resources and lectures by visiting the module page.

AMER0043 Challenging the Straight State: Regulation, Repression, and Resistance in US Sexual Politics 

Module convenor: Professor Jonathan Bell

Oultine

Using Margot Canaday's landmark 2009 book, The Straight State, as its point of departure, this module explores the ways in which the American state has sought to control sexual norms, behaviours, and identities over the course of the twentieth century, a time in which medical experts, politicians, and bureaucrats became increasingly concerned with questions of sexuality and sexual dissidence. The module also examines the ways in which Americans have resisted and contested state regulation and control of their sexualities, and how sites of resistance to state power have played a role in reshaping activist strategies and legal and social norms around sexuality. We explore the twin themes of regulation and resistance in sexual politics using case studies of social policy, immigration, marriage and relationships, the law, and medical discourses around sexuality.

Find out more about assessment, visit the module page.

AMER0044: American Political Development: Politics and Institutions, 1900-present  |  **NOT RUNNING IN 2020/21**

Not running in 2020/21

Find out more about assessment, key sources and lectures by visiting the module page.

AMER0045: States of Exception: US State-building through its Exceptional Geographies

Module convenor: Dr Nadia Hilliard

Outline

Using the metaphor of the 'state of exception,' this module explores the ways the US state has developed capacity by excluding specific groups of people while simultaneously exercising sovereignty over them. After an introduction to the political concept of the state of exception, the course covers four cases: the "Immigrant exception"; the "African American exception"; the 'Native American exception'; and the 'Insular exceptions.' In each case, the state has exercised power over non-citizen subjects, using geographical or legal "exceptions" to avoid the rule of law. The module will examine how the state developed specific capacities to maintain separate and exceptional conditions, including definitional capacities, coercive capacities (e.g., border control), and 'remote control' capacities (e.g., deportation regimes and guest-worker programs).

Find out more about assessment by visiting the module page.

AMER0057: Researching the Americas

Module convenor: Dr Nadia Hilliard

Outline

This team-taught module presents core concepts in research methodology and introduces students to a range of different disciplinary and interdisciplinary approaches to researching North America, Latin America, and the Caribbean. The course explores how a range of social science and humanities methods might be applied to the study of historical, political, and social research in the Americas and reflects on common challenges encountered in research design and data collection. Lectures acquaint students with how to read, analyse, and critique diverse kinds of research, while workshops develop practical skills in research design and in data collection and analysis.

Find out more about assessment by visiting the module page.

AMER0082: The Making of the Modern US Presidency

Module convenor: Professor Gareth Davies

Credits: 15

Level: 7

Term: 1

Outline

The framers of the U.S. Constitution were suspicious of executive power and designed the Presidency to be a weak institution, but it has become immensely powerful. This process has its roots in the ‘Progressive Era’ at the start of the twentieth century, and this course explores its development since then. The approach of the course is historical, focussing on presidencies that have changed the nature of the office, including those of Franklin Roosevelt, Richard Nixon, and Ronald Reagan. But it also discusses such political science concepts as the ‘rhetorical’, ‘public’, and ‘personal’ presidencies, and Stephen Skowronek’s influential notion of ‘political time’.

Assessment: Essay (4000 words)