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Skidmore College
First-Year Experience

Scribner Seminar Program
Course Description

The Garden of Forking Paths: Interpreting Latin American Images and Realities

Instructor(s): Aldo Vacs, Government

Why do societies that emerge in similar circumstances evolve so differently? Why is Latin America today so different from the United States after having started its development in similar conditions during the era of discovery and colonization? What makes it possible to refer to "Latin America" at all -- are the peculiarities and common features that make up this region the result of stereotyped (mis)perceptions, or do they correspond to reality? In this seminar, we will address these and other questions, analyzing the geographic, ethnic, gender, political, economic, religious and artistic characteristics that signify Latin America. Using an interdisciplinary perspective that draws on anthropology, art history, economics, literature and music, political science, sociology and religious studies, we will focus on issues such as: is Latin America a "racial democracy"?; why are income and class inequalities in this region so pronounced?; is "machismo" still the defining characteristic of gender relations in Latin America and Catholicism still the main religious component of Latin American identity?; is politics in the region as unstable and violent as is often depicted in movies and novels?; and, how does soccer contribute to and define Latin American identity?

Course Offered