Fall 2022 - IS 809 G100

Selected Topics - Economic and Social Development of Selected Regions (4)

Contemporary Latin America

Class Number: 5130

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    We 9:30 AM – 12:20 PM
    HCC 1325, Vancouver



Examines the specific development experience of a selected region, taking account of the historical context, of state capacity, development strategies and of the political economy of development - as well as of the particular problems of development across different sectors of the economy, and the outcomes in regard to poverty and levels of well-being.


This course is a weekly seminar on the politics and society of contemporary Latin America. It aims to build a basic understanding of continuity and change in relationships between the economies, societies, and politics of Latin American countries during the contemporary era. As a region characterized by trenchant colonial legacies, transitions from authoritarianism to democracy, and dynamic social movements, Latin America exhibits how history and politics can affect social and economic development, and vice-versa. Drawing on multidisciplinary readings from the social sciences and history, the course explores this dynamic throughout the region, while offering more detailed consideration of Brazil, Argentina, Chile, and Mexico, among other major countries. We begin in Part I by focusing on the region’s history of Spanish colonialism and its ramifications for contemporary economic and social development. We then survey major animating periods of 20th century Latin American political economy, including critical political junctures of the 1920s and 1930s, U.S. imperialism, authoritarianism from the 1960s through the 1980s, transitions to democracy and economic liberalization during the 1980s, and the still-debated record of the 1990s. In Part II, we consider continuities and changes in 21st century economic and social development and their roots. We focus on changes in social policy amidst the “left turn” of the early 2000s, the mid-2010s rise of right-wing governments, and the incipient return of left and center-left governments to national power thus far in the 2020s.


By the end of the course, students:
• gain substantive knowledge about contemporary Latin American politics, society, and economy
• gain familiarity with social scientific arguments about contemporary Latin America;
• improve skills in synthesizing such arguments through writing;
• improve skills in assessing such arguments through analytic writing


  • Critical Discussion Papers (x3) 24%
  • Responses to Discussion Papers (x3) 6%
  • Essay #1 30%
  • Essay #2 30%
  • Class Participation 10%


Students will be required to submit their written assignments to Turnitin.com in order to receive credit for the assignments and for the course.

The School for International Studies strictly enforces the University's policies regarding plagiarism and other forms of academic dishonesty. Information about these policies can be found at: http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/teaching.html.


Remote learning for this semester requires the following:
• You will need to access some course materials and upload assignments to Canvas and through Turnitin.com.
• Microsoft Office software. You can access a free version of Office 365 here: https://www.sfu.ca/itservices/technical/software/office365.html.



Peter H. Smith and James Green. 2019. Modern Latin America, 9th Edition. New York: Oxford University Press. [please be sure to get the 9th Edition, not prior versions]


In addition, we will read selected articles, book chapters, and other textual sources that will be available in digital form online through our Canvas website or through the SFU library website. These sources include the following books, which are accessible free, online through www.lib.sfu.ca:

Garay, Candelaria. 2016. Social Policy Expansion in Latin America. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Mahoney, James. 2010. Colonialism and Postcolonial Development: Spanish America in Comparative Perspective. New York: Cambridge University Press.

McGuire, James. 2010. Wealth, Health, and Democracy in East Asia and Latin America. New York: Cambridge University Press.


Your personalized Course Material list, including digital and physical textbooks, are available through the SFU Bookstore website by simply entering your Computing ID at: shop.sfu.ca/course-materials/my-personalized-course-materials.

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 website 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