Faculty of Arts


Latin American Icons: The Political Economy of Otherness

Please note: this is archived course information from 2021 for LATINAM 306.


The course foregrounds historical, social and cultural memory to challenge the ways in which Latin America as a place and a people has often served as a site of otherness and exoticism, providing economic and symbolic capital for the consumption and pleasure of colonial, neocolonial and neoliberal powers.

Beginning with indigenous contributions to historical memory, we study how colonialism created cannibals and noble savages that legitimated European doctrines of discovery. While all women were reduced to rigid gender constructs as they contributed to the formation of modern nation-states and national identity, this course deconstructs the icons of La Malinche (colonial Mexico), Frida Kahlo and Evita (modern Mexico and Argentina, respectively) with queer and other gender theories.

Primary resource extraction plays a central role in creating latinidad in imaginary Banana Republics (Carmen Miranda), while rhythms emerging in popular culture contributed to musical forms of othering (rumba, tango, samba, mambo, cha-cha and salsa) and served as the raw materials that culture industries required to develop new products for international consumption: Valentino, Carlos Gardel and Ricky Martin participate in the latin lover and macho stereotype.

Cultural movements for decolonisation, such as third cinema, challenge traditional readings of popular political figures arising out of mass movements. Labelled as banditos, guerrilla fighters, revolutionaries and terrorists, these figures are studied in their political historical context: Montezuma, Pancho Villa, Che Guevara, Sub Comandante Marcos, Hugo Chávez, Evo Morales.

We finish by demonstrating how these decolonising movements relate to grassroots civic movements from 1970s onwards that contest authoritarian regimes –with focus on the figure of the “disappeared"– and set the stage for current anti-neoliberal movements.

Learning objectives

When you successfully complete this course you will have gained:

  • An historical, political and cultural understanding of the context that produced these icons
  • A knowledge-based understanding of the role that culture industries and civic activism play in consolidating, reinforcing and/or challenging the formation of specific icons
  • A critical understanding of the role that cultural and poltical icons play in establishing and maintaining ideological and cultural agendas
  • A set of analytical tools from different disciplines to facilitate reading of other contexts and to understand current social, political and cultural changes taking place in other societies


Coursework only

Availability 2021

Not taught in 2021


Coordinator(s) Associate Professor Walescka Pino-Ojeda
Lecturer(s) Dr Kathryn Lehman
Associate Professor Walescka Pino-Ojeda


LATINAM 306: 15.0 points


15 points from LATINAM 201, 216, SPANISH 201, 202,or 30 points at Stage II in BGlobalSt courses


SPANISH 306, 729

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