Fall 2019 - SA 835 G100

Social and Political Change in Latin America (4)

Class Number: 3899

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Sep 3 – Dec 2, 2019: Fri, 9:30 a.m.–1:20 p.m.

  • Instructor:

    Gerardo Otero
    1 778 782-4508
    Office: HCC 7248
    Office Hours: Fr: 2:00 p.m.-4:00 p.m. or by appointment



A general overview of social and political change in Latin America, including revolutions, independence, transition to democracy, and contemporary social movements. Theoretical approaches may include social-movement theory, democratic theory, etc. Students who have taken IS 835 or LAS 835 for credit may not take this course for further credit.


This course will offer an overview of Latin American development, with a focus on social and political change since the neoliberal turn in the 1980s. Since the 1930, the state had played a central role in economic development in a top-down and mostly authoritarian model of politics. In the larger countries of the region, focused on import-substitution industrialization (ISI), the state-centered model came to depend heavily on foreign indebtedness and proved unsustainable economically and politically. By the 1980s, the debt crisis forced a shift in the development model toward reducing state intervention, enhancing the role of private firms and market liberalization. Most Central American countries, however, remained focused on agro-exporting economies, with deep cleavages between landlords and peasants, often resulting in bloody repression and civil wars. Yet, democracies of varying characteristics have supplanted dictatorships and diverse social actors have articulated longstanding grievances in new ways. The region remains plagued by levels of inequality, which were deepened by the neoliberal reform.  Trade liberalization and biotechnology have led to new patterns in food production, dependency and crisis. Hence, some of the most important social movements in the region are based in the countryside. Modes of thinking about development have also changed, with some authors proposing epistemologies from the south to resist and transcend imperialism.            

Since the late 1990s, new political forces coming from a broadly-defined “left” have won political office or exercised hefty influence from civil society and tried to transcend the neoliberal model with varying degrees of success. New centre-left governments talk of a post-neoliberal development model, but they have also introduced a new impetus in promoting foreign direct investment in the extractive industries. To what extent is neo-extractivism a route to sustainable development or to a new form of imperialism? This seminar aims to familiarize students with the key characteristics of contemporary Latin American politics and society and to situate the rise of the left historically. Readings analyze a range of countries and draw from several disciplines in the social sciences and history.


  • Five Discussion Papers (DPs) 25%
  • Responses 10%
  • Final Paper Outline 5%
  • Essay Draft Presentation 10%
  • Participation 15%
  • Final Review Essay 35%


All students are expected to read and understand the university’s policies with regard to academic dishonesty (T10.02 and T10.03).  These policies are available through the following url: http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/teaching.html  

Forms of academic dishonesty include but are not limited to the following: 

  • Submitting all or a portion of the same work for credit in more than one course.
  • Representing another person’s work as your own for course assignments. 
  • Failure to acknowledge sources of facts, information, analyses, interpretations, and arguments that you incorporate in your work, whether from a source that is written, spoken communication, or the internet and whether it is published and unpublished.  Appropriate documentation of your sources is necessary when you quote, paraphrase or incorporate information and ideas generated by others.  In particular, please be aware that “patchwriting” is unacceptable.
All students in SIS classes are expected to read the SFU Library lesson on “What is Plagiarism?” and take the interactive tutorial, “Understanding and Avoiding Plagiarism”  

SFU Library: What is plagiarism? http://www.lib.sfu.ca/help/writing/plagiarism  

Understanding and Avoiding Plagiarism: http://www.lib.sfu.ca/help/tutorials/plagiarism-tutorial



Galeano, Eduardo. 1997 [1973]. Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent. New York: Monthly Review Press.
ISBN: 978-0-853-45991-0.

Gerardo Otero, ed. 2008. Food for the Few: Neoliberal Globalism and Biotechnology in Latin America. Austin: University of Texas Press.(Available as online resource.)
ISBN: 9780292726130.

Henry Veltmeyer and James Petras. 2014. The New Extractivism: A Post-Neoliberal Development Model or Imperialism of the 21st Century. London and New York: Zed Books.
ISBN: 9781780329925

Lapegna, Pablo. 2016. Soybeans and Power: Genetically Modified Crops, Environmental Politics, and Social Movements in Argentina. New York: Oxford University Press.
ISBN: 978190215149

de Sousa Santos, Boaventura. 2018. The End of the Cognitive Empire: The Coming of Age of Epistemologies of the South. Durham: Duke University Press. 
ISBN: 978148000150

Graduate Studies Notes:

Important dates and deadlines for graduate students are found here: http://www.sfu.ca/dean-gradstudies/current/important_dates/guidelines.html. The deadline to drop a course with a 100% refund is the end of week 2. The deadline to drop with no notation on your transcript is the end of week 3.

Registrar Notes:

SFU’s Academic Integrity web site http://www.sfu.ca/students/academicintegrity.html is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating.  Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the University community.  Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the University. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the University. http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student/s10-01.html