Carollee Bengelsdorf, professor of politics, holds an A.B. from Cornell University, studied Russian history at Harvard, and received a Ph.D. in political science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She is the author of The Problem of Democracy in Cuba: Between Vision and Reality and coeditor of Cuba in Transition.
Professor Bengelsdorf has written extensively on issues related to Cuban politics and women in Cuba. In addition, she has conducted field research in Algeria and Peru and taught in Kenya, Honduras, and Cuba. She is interested in social change in the Third World, in American foreign policy, and in postmodern and postcolonial theory.
This seminar is designed for Division III students who are writing their independent study projects on some field within the Social Sciences. The course will center around discourses within the Social Sciences. This broad framework will facilitate exchanges between students working on various paradigms within the social and/or cultural realm. The seminar will focus upon this exchange. After we read key texts to help us develop a common vocabulary, the projects themselves, along with what students suggest in the way of additional reading, will constitute the syllabus.
How do we study a reality as complex and contested as that of Cuba? This course proposes an interdisciplinary approach that critically interrogates the available frameworks (geopolitical, historical, and cultural) for undertaking such a study. First, what images of Cuba-circulating in US popular and official culture-must we recognize and displace even to begin our study? What constructions of race, gender, and sexuality have defined the Cuban nation and Cuban transnationalism? In terms of the geopolitical, how do we locate Cuba as part of the Caribbean (with its history of plantation economies and slavery), as part of Latin America (linked by a shared history of Spanish conquest and the centripetal force of the Cuban Revolution), and as part of the African diaspora? How can Cuba be understood in relation to the U.S., as well as to other socialist or "post-socialist" countries, and to the exilic cultures and ideologies of Miami, "Cuba's second largest city"? In regards to historical periodization, how do different lenses (Spanish colonialism, the Cuban Revolution, the Cold War, the post-1989 period) shape an examination of Cuban history? Proceeding from the 19th century to the present, this course will engage with primary texts, historiography, literature, film, and music to examine Cuba within these multiple frameworks. Students will complete frequent short response essays and a substantial research paper. This course is recommended for 2nd and 3rd year students and will require approximately 8-10 hours of work outside of class per week.
How do we study a reality as complex and contested as that of contemporary Cuba? What intellectual, political and affective frameworks do we have available? What images of Cuba in US popular culture do we have to recognize and perhaps displace to even begin? What are the competing lenses for examining Cuban history? The Cuban Revolution? The post-1989 period? Can we extricate Cuba from the Cold War frameworks that have dominated US academic (and US political) approaches to the island, at least until recently? How do we locate Cuba analytically-as part of the Caribbean [with its history of plantation economies and slavery]? Latin America [conquered by the Spanish, and strongly influenced by the Cuban Revolution]? In relation to the US [with its "ties of singular intimacy"] ? To other socialist or "post-socialist" countries? As a significant part of the African diaspora? As part of worldwide neoliberal restructuring of economies, cultures, politics? This course will challenge Cuban "exceptionalism," the view of Cuba as unique, unrelated politically, culturally, economically, or historically to the forces and imaginaries that have shaped other parts of the world. We will ask how race, gender, and sexuality have figured in defining the Cuban nation. Finally, we analyze the development of exilic culture and ideology in Miami, "Cuba's second largest city."
This course will center upon Latin America in the western imaginary, in both historical and contemporary contexts. Its premise is that western, and particularly U.S "knowledge" about Latin America has shaped, disastrously, the cultural context within which policy towards the continent's peoples has been made, thereby supporting the currently popular notion that major conflicts in the international arena represent clashes between "us: and "fundamentally different" civilizations. Our materials of study will include literary texts, travel literature, diaries and popular culture. We will examine the "discovery" (Columbus, Cortez and las Casas), the 19th century reopening of Latin America to the west (Humboldt) and, in the 20th and 21st centuries, .revolution (Mexico and Cuba), tourism (Cuba) and immigration, both legal and illegal (Mexico).
Professor of Politics
Mail Code SS
Franklin Patterson Hall 213
893 West Street
Amherst, MA 01002