The most difficult text we read this semester– certainly the longest– is Joseph Conrad’s Nostromo, which narrates the political vicissitudes of the imaginary country of Costaguana (remember the significance of that name?). In the aftermath of independence and the decades that followed, when a new liberal-nationalist order consolidated, foreign capital increasingly began to control local politics. The era, which most historians argue extends from roughly 1880-1930, is properly known as the age of neocolonialism. In contrast to sub-Saharan Africa, which only fully decolonized in the 1970s (with South Africa, after a fashion, as the major exception) Latin America nations achieved sovereignty by the earlier part of the 19th century. Paradoxically, the “postcolonial” condition Latin Americans found themselves in gave way to a new effort on the part of European nations– particularly the UK– to take up where Spain had left off. The difference, however, lay in the methods for asserting hegemony: rather than caravels and arbalists, foreign powers, represented by private corporations, used money as a means of control. For those who would explore this phenomenon more deeply, the classic text is Galeano’s The Open Veins of Latin America. For those who are concerned solely with acquiring enough information to do well on the final exam, read on.
The final half of the semester took us from the UK’s system of higher education to Argentina on the verge of collapse, to the the neoliberal dystopia of a near-future South Africa. In each case the question of capital and its effects– whether on consciousness, geography, demography, or social control– arose. Given that early on in the semester we committed to an exploration of “the dark side” (a phrase which will perhaps, in years to come, owe more to Dick Cheney than Pink Floyd) it seems likely none of us were surprised at the horrors and banalities revealed. What follows is an abbreviated tour of some of the major concepts, figures and locales we encountered.
Final Papers are due in class on Dec. 15 and on-line by 10.45 am.
Final Papers are due in class on Dec. 15 and on-line by 1.30 pm.