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New anthropology course focuses on Afro-Latin America

Selected Topics in Anthropology (ANT 383, Section 02) will be taught by Associate Professor of Anthropology Kathryn Sampeck, focusing on Afro-Latin American experiences.

“Although resources and activities in coursework will touch upon many parts of Latin America, we will have a particular focus on Brazil, Cuba, Costa Rica, Haiti, El Salvador, and Mexico,” Sampeck said. “Course readings and other resources will draw from history, art, literature, archaeology, and anthropology.”

“Courses like ANT 383 allow students to understand the complexity of race, gender, and class in the Latin American experience.” —Maura Toro-Morn

The class will start with an examination of slavery, in particular the dynamics of early slavery in Africa and Europe as a context to understand the development of the Atlantic Slave Trade. Afro-Latin Americans were foundational to the colonial economy, serving in diverse roles that reached far beyond coerced agricultural labor.

The history of Afro-Latin Americans allows us to question when the idea of race emerged and how it developed. The fluid social categories in the 15th century shifted to colonial efforts to socially classify people, what is known as “castizaje.” The concept of caste eventually merged with the modern Hispanic concept of race as it developed in the 18th and early 19th century. Afro-Latin America offers a chance to see how blackness, race, and racism operate outside of the United States.

As many Latin American nations came into existence through their respective revolutionary efforts, the idea of citizenship becomes important too. The class will read recent transnational scholarship on political efforts to end racism and build “raceless” nations throughout the Americas. Why has racism persisted in Latin America despite political revolutions claiming to eliminate discrimination?

Last, cultural practices matter too. Afro-Latin Americans made deep and enduring contributions to many realms of Latin American life. The class will also explore art, music, food, dance, and other Afro-Latin American forms that have done much to shape Latin America as we know it today.

“Courses like ANT 383 allow students to understand the complexity of race, gender, and class in the Latin American experience and began to articulate comparison with the U.S. African American experience,” said Maura Toro-Morn, director of the Latin American and Latino/a Studies Program.

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