SPAN 497: Culture and Social Struggle in the Amazon
Instructor:Sarah J. Townsend
This course focuses on the culture and politics of the Amazon, a vast region of South America that comprises parts of Colombia, Peru, Ecuador, Venezuela, Bolivia, Brazil, Guyana, Suriname, and French Guiana. As the ongoing outcry over the burning and clearcutting of the Amazon show, the fate of the forest is key to current debates about the environment and the future of human beings around the world. But what about the people who actually live in the Amazon – whether in the forest or in one of its fast-growing cities? How have they responded over the centuries to colonization, the extraction of natural resources, and violent threats to their very existence? Throughout the semester, we will read news reports, oral histories, and historical texts, and we will watch fictional films as well as documentaries created in and/or about the Amazon. Topics of discussion will include the fantasy of Eldorado, the rubber boom, the effects of hydroelectric dams, environmental activism, struggles for indigenous rights, indigenous women’s collectives, urbanization in the Amazon, popular music, and the role of media such as radio and film.