Rick A. López














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“It is not so very important for a person to learn facts. For that he does not really need a college. He can learn them from books. The value of an education in a liberal-arts college is not the learning of many facts but the training of the mind to think something that cannot be learned from textbooks.”

-- Albert Einstein



History 263 (formerly History 14):

Struggles for Democracy in Modern Latin America, 1820 to the Present

This course traces Latin Americans’ struggle for democracy from the Independence wars of the early nineteenth century into our own day. It follows the permutations of this Latin American saga, while considering the changing meanings of democracy. We will address the relationship between Liberalism and democracy in the nineteenth century; the broadening of democracy at the start of the twentieth century; the rise and fall of military dictatorships in the 1960s-80s and their corrosive impact upon civil society; clashes between pro-democracy advocates and the neo-Liberal economic technocrats and international financial institutions that took control of much of Latin America from the 1980s through the early 2000s; and the current neo-populist resurgence of the Left. Readings and discussions will focus on the ways broad economic and political shifts impacted individuals’ lives; how each economic class experienced these shifts differently; the way race and gender have shaped peoples’ experience with democratization and repression; and the personal processes of radicalization by which individuals became inspired to take risks in their struggles for inclusion and against repression. Because the approach is thematic and chronological, some countries and regions will receive more attention than others. Meetings and readings will draw on secondary studies, historical documents, testimonials, music, images, and film. Two meetings per week.

History 265 (formerly History 54):

Environmental History of Latin America

Environmental history has taken off in exciting new directions. Lament over the felling of thetrees has given way to larger questions that connect environmental history with social, political, and economic issues. In this course we will focus on the unexpected links that exist between environmental impacts (such as environmental degradation, desertification, soil “exhaustion”, species extinction, genetic simplification, oil extraction, biotic invasions, deforestation, pesticide contamination, and animal grazing) and human problems (such as colonial and imperial domination, declining subsistence, defense and violation of civil rights, income inequality, scientific racism, regional underdevelopment, incomplete capitalist transformation, social marginalization, and political violence). Questions we will engage include: How have environmental changes contributed to, or otherwise conditioned, processes of conquest and domination? How have these processes of conquest, domination, and resistance, in turn, altered the environmental? What models of environmental activism have worked in Latin America, and which have not? Why? What about the Latin American context is typical and what is unique? Can history guide us in our current efforts to develop a sustainable approach to the environment that helps the land and its fauna, but does so in a way that brings greater justice and self-determination to the people who live there, while at the same time balancing the interests of the state and of investors? The class will introduce students to classic texts in Latin American environmental history (including the foundational studies by Warren Dean and Elinore Melville), as well as some of the newest scholarship. Two class meetings per week.


History 310 (formerly History 35/European Studies 72):


This course addresses the vexing questions of what fascism is, whether it was a global phenomenon, and whether it has been historically banished. The first part of the semester will consider the conceptual issues related to nationalism, modernity, and fascism. Next we will address case studies, noting comparative continuities and regional peculiarities. The countries that will receive the most attention are Italy, France, Argentina, Britain, Brazil, Germany, Spain, and Mexico, with additional attention to Portugal, Japan, China, New Guinea, Chile, Turkey, Palestine and Australia. This will be followed by an examination of gender and fascism, including the role of women as agents of this radical ideology. The course will close with two recent works of scholarship, one on transnational fascism in early twentieth-century Argentina and the other on the applicability of the term “fascism” to contemporary movements in the Middle East. Two meetings per week.


History 365 (formerly History 53):

Popular Revolution in 19th and 20th Century Mexico

In September 2010 Mexicans will commemorate the centennial of their popular revolution of 1910-1920, and in October they will celebrate the bicentennial of Miguel Hidalgo’s famous 1810 “Grito de Dolores” that launched a decade of bloody wars for liberal government and independence from Spain. In this year of weighty commemorations, we will take stock of 200 years of struggle among Mexico’s popular classes. Few countries are as well known, yet so poorly understood, as is Mexico among North Americans. Headlines about illegal immigration, street violence, and drug smuggling often take the place of real understanding. As a result, few North Americans appreciate their neighbor’s historical odyssey in search of political stability, national unity, democracy and economic prosperity. This course provides a general overview of the dominant narratives of Mexican history, while challenging those narratives through an examination of the experience of subaltern groups (including women, indigenous peoples, peasants, and those from the periphery). We also will grapple with the question of what genuine social revolution looks like, how it unfolds, and to what degree it has been attained in Mexico. Original documents, testimonials, movies, images, music, and art will supplement discussions and secondary readings. Two class meetings per week.


History 402:

Proseminar: Research and Writing

The topic for this proseminar changes year to year. In 2011-2012 the topic is wine. Through analysis of the production and consumption of wine in various regions of Europe, North Africa, and the Americas the course will introduce students to such issues as the environmental impact of wine; the politics of taste; the impact of global trade; the changing ways producers have dealt with blights (phylloxera); the development and impact of monocrop production; class conflict within both production and consumption; and the emergence of claims about terroir (the notion that each wine, like each culture, is unique to a particular place) and how such claims relate to regional and national identities. Course content will be student-driven, since members of the class will take responsibility for identifying many of the documents and secondary studies. Through class discussion, focused workshops, and close supervision each student will learn to design a research prospectus related to wine before designing a second research prospectus followed by a 20-25 page research paper on any environmental or historical topic of his or her choosing. The class is limited to juniors and seniors; priority will be given to juniors preparing to write a senior thesis in History or Environmental Studies and seniors who have opted not to write a thesis. Prof. López. Limited to 15 students.

History 467 (formerly History 87):

Research Seminar: Race and Nation in the US-Mexico Borderland

The U.S.-Mexican borderland has been the site of intense struggle and even violence over race and nation. These tensions have a long history within the region, and they have had important consequences both for the region, and for the rest of Mexico and the U.S. Most studies tend to focus on either the U.S. Southwest or northern Mexico, but in this course we will attempt to unite the study of these two regions and their people. Withinthis land short on ecological resources, whites, Native Americans, and mestizos (mixed bloods) competed violently over politics, economics, and culture. We will discuss the similarities and differences between U.S. and Mexican understanding of the boundaries and significance of race, particularly concerning Native Americans, and how this related to politics and economics. We also consider the emergence of the European-American as the ideal U.S. type north of the border, and the mestizo as the ideal Mexican type south of the border, and how these developments impacted indigenous politics differently within the two countries. Central themes include race, gender, violence, state and nation formation, industrialization, colonialism and imperialist expansion, popular politics, and environmental change. In addition to secondary readings, the class incorporates original documents, music, and images. Two meetings per week. Requisite: One course in either U.S. or Latin American history. Not open to first-year students. Limited to 15 students.


First Year Seminar 28: Reading Nature

dOne of humankind’s greatest ambitions has been to understand, measure, and control nature, as well as imitate its appearance and harness its powers.  Scientists and artists labored over millennia to discover what they believed were principles and fundamental truths embedded in natural phenomena.  Rulers and citizens, masters and servants, scientists, craftsmen, doctors, cartographers, artists and historians traversed landscapes and seascapes. They mapped familiar and unfamiliar territories, documented their fauna and flora, wrote descriptions of them, and created microcosms and macrocosms of these spaces for the privileged to possess. The seminar will raise issues of how we know what we know about the past and about the world around us, and about how we think about, look at, and experience material culture and landscape. We will think about how we ask questions about human experience, about accumulated histories of power relations, and about change over time. We will hike through altered landscapes in the area, and walk around Amherst College to consider its design and place in the universe of education when it was founded.  We will visit Historic Deerfield and analyze its relationship to ideas about nature in the early history of the colonies, and contrast it with Louis XIV’s gardens at Versailles and their role in early modern absolutist control within Europe. We will examine how nature and the products of nature have been understood in the past, looking at botanical drawings and photographs in Frost Library’s Special Collections, rocks in the Natural History Museum, and art in the Mead Art Museum. Throughout the semester students will do close readings of visual and printed material, weekly will write brief analyses of historical sources, spaces, and images, and will design interdisciplinary projects of inquiry.  Students will be asked to hone and critique their own writing, speaking and thinking skills as the course progresses.


History 52:

US Latino/a History

An introduction to the history of U.S. Latinos/as in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Central themes include ethnic and national identity, community formation, cultural imperialism, migration, gender, art, and political mobilization. Most U.S. Latino groups will be addressed, but the concentration will be on Chicanos and Puerto Ricans, with a secondary emphasis on Dominicans and Cubans. The first half covers the nineteenth century through WWII to consider how U.S. imperialism in the Caribbean, Central America, and the present-day U.S. Southwest related to social, political, and economic changes within emerging Latino societies. The second half of the course traces the rise of radical politics after WWII; the emergence of the Chicano and Puerto Rican Movements; and the more recent turn toward a Pan-Latino or Hispanic identity. Discussions and secondary readings supplemented by original documents, fiction, film, lectures, and visual materials. Two class meetings per week.

History 89:

Research Seminar: Indigenous People in Latin American Society

This course considers the changing significance of being Indian in Latin America, 1492 to the present. The historical study of changingideas of Indianness in Latin America provides insights into how the unity and disunity of humanity has been understood and experienced in the Americas at different historical moments. The course will cover the first contact between Europeans and Amerindians, then follow through colonial expansion, the nineteenth- century wars for independence and struggles for statehood, and end with the indigenous movements at the end of the twentieth century. Through this period, and across Latin America, ideas about indigenous peoples have been inextricably linked with questions of religion, race, gender, nationality, and, more recently, human rights. The course focuses on broad themes and social and political processes and pays particular attention to the politics of memory. In addition to secondary readings, the class incorporates film, music, and art images. Two class meetings per week. Limited to 15 students.


History 13:

Colonialism and Resistance in Latin America, 1492-1820

The course will cover the clash between indigenous and European societies as played out through the conquest. It will then address the issues of how Spain (as well as Portugal) created one of history’s most enduring colonial systems, and why this system eventually collapsed. We will also consider the lingering effects of Latin America’s colonial past. Coverage includes core regions ( Mexico, Brazil, Peru, Caribbean) as well as “fringes” ( Colombia, Rio Plata Region, Venezuela, and the present-day U.S. Southwest). Themes include: formation of economic and political systems, religious conversion, slavery, race, gender, political reform, and popular mobilization. Secondary readings and discussions supplemented by original documents, fiction, visual materials, and lectures. Two class meetings per week.

Kenan Colloquium 22:

Public Art

What is public art and what role does it play in public life and collective memory? This seminar will consider art that is commissioned, paid for and owned by the state (from the “hero on a horse” to “plop art”), as well as private works that the state agrees to allow in public space. We will focus on works of art made in the twentieth century in the United States and Latin America that may include Richard Serra’s Tilted Arc, Maya Lin’s Vietnam Veterans Memorial, proposals for memorials to 9/11, Diego Rivera’s mural cycle for the Federal Ministry of Education and Judy Baca’s “The Great Wall of Los Angeles.” We will ask whether and how public art mediates between private and public life, when and how it defines national values, and why so many works have aroused controversy. One class meeting per week. Limited to 15 students. (Team taught with Prof. Carol Clark)


Department of History
23 Chapin Hall — Amherst College — Amherst, MA
(413) 542.5846 — ralopez@amherst.edu