Contemporary Challenges in Latin America

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The details
Philosophical, Historical, and Interdisciplinary Studies (School of)
Colchester Campus
Undergraduate: Level 5
Thursday 03 October 2024
Friday 13 December 2024
08 September 2023


Requisites for this module



Key module for


Module description

This module takes an interdisciplinary approach to key challenges in contemporary Latin America, offering insights into major trends and processes that have shaped the region from the second half of the 20th century up to the present day.

Students will gain perspectives and methodologies from a broad range of fields, including economics, politics, art history, as well as sociology, contemporary history, political ecology and human rights.

Module aims

The aims of this module are:

  • To examine the broad social, cultural, economic, and political processes and trends that have shaped contemporary Latin America.

  • To foster understanding about the links between micro-and macro processes and the similarities and differences in the ways they are lived in different Latin American countries.

  • To encourage students to think in an interdisciplinary way, drawing on core concepts from relevant disciplines.

  • To encourage students to develop skills in written communication through the writing of essays, and in oral communication through active participation in seminars.

Module learning outcomes

By the end of this module, students will be expected to be able to:

  1. Have a working critical understanding of the historical formation of Latin America.

  2. Have a good understanding of contemporary challenges faced by the region.

  3. Be able to engage with scholarship from diverse disciplines related to topics featured in the module.

  4. Be able to take an interdisciplinary approach to researching Latin America through primary sources, theoretical literature and scholarly publications.

  5. Be able to write in an informed manner on challenges affecting Latin America.

Skills for your Professional Life (Transferable Skills)

By the end of the module, students should also have acquired a set of transferable skills, and in particular be able to:

  1. Define the task in which they are engaged and exclude what is irrelevant.

  2. Seek and organise the most relevant discussions and sources of information.

  3. Process a large volume of diverse and sometimes conflicting arguments.

  4. Compare and evaluate different arguments and assess the limitations of their own position or procedure.

  5. Write and present verbally a succinct and precise account of positions, arguments, and their presuppositions and implications.

  6. Be sensitive to the positions of others and communicate their own views in ways that are accessible to them.

  7. Think laterally and creatively (i.e., to explore interesting connections and possibilities, and to present these clearly rather than as vague hunches).

  8. Maintain intellectual flexibility and revise their own position based on feedback.

  9. Think critically and constructively.

Module information

The module starts with a critical introduction to the region grounded the violence of its colonial past, quest for independence and the impacts on ethnic composition and sociocultural formations. Then, we will explore and discuss specific contemporary challenges facing the region, such as the impacts of globalisation and neoliberalism; the struggle for democratization and human rights memory; femicide and women's rights; precarious urbanization and social justice; environmental activism and the Rights of Nature movement, among others.

As well as engaging with scholarly texts from different disciplines, we will also examine ways that cultural production from Latin America addresses the topics explored in the module. You will also have the opportunity to study artworks held at Essex's unique on campus resource, the Essex Collection of Art from Latin America (ESCALA). You do not need to speak Spanish or Portuguese to do this half-module. All you need is an interest in learning more about recent trends and processes shaping life in contemporary Latin America.


Topics will include:

  • From colonisation to independence.

  • The Idea of Latin America.

  • Ethnicity and social justice.

  • Precarious urbanisation and social segregation.

  • Legacies of dictatorship and human rights memory.

  • Environmental activism and the Rights of Nature.

Learning and teaching methods

This module will be delivered via:

  • One 2-hour combined lecture and seminar each week.

There will also be a Reading Week when no teaching will take place, exact week to be confirmed.


This module does not appear to have a published bibliography for this year.

Assessment items, weightings and deadlines

Coursework / exam Description Deadline Coursework weighting

Exam format definitions

  • Remote, open book: Your exam will take place remotely via an online learning platform. You may refer to any physical or electronic materials during the exam.
  • In-person, open book: Your exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may refer to any physical materials such as paper study notes or a textbook during the exam. Electronic devices may not be used in the exam.
  • In-person, open book (restricted): The exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may refer only to specific physical materials such as a named textbook during the exam. Permitted materials will be specified by your department. Electronic devices may not be used in the exam.
  • In-person, closed book: The exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may not refer to any physical materials or electronic devices during the exam. There may be times when a paper dictionary, for example, may be permitted in an otherwise closed book exam. Any exceptions will be specified by your department.

Your department will provide further guidance before your exams.

Overall assessment

Coursework Exam
100% 0%


Coursework Exam
100% 0%
Module supervisor and teaching staff
Dr Olivia Arigho Stiles, email: olivia.arighostiles@essex.ac.uk.
PHAIS General Office - 6.130; isugadmin@essex.ac.uk.



External examiner

No external examiner information available for this module.
Available via Moodle
No lecture recording information available for this module.


* Please note: due to differing publication schedules, items marked with an asterisk (*) base their information upon the previous academic year.

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