HL90 FG: Dictatorship and Resistance in Latin America

We’ve got lots of exciting HL90s coming this fall! Jennifer Alpert told us all about her new course, Dictatorship and Resistance in Latin America, which meets Mondays, 12:45-2:45.

What inspired you to teach this class?

I have dreamt about teaching a class like this for years because there were very few courses on Latin America available to me as an undergraduate and graduate student and they mostly focused on “high-brow” literature, avant garde cinema, and other kinds of art that seemed inaccessible for mass audiences. I always wanted to learn about widely watched films/TV or best-selling books, street art, and other forms of expression that reached large portions of the population. In this class we will investigate the role popular culture and fiction have in mediating the traumatic experience of state terrorism, repression, and genocide, and how these forms resisted state violence and conferred agency to nations that were being attacked by those intended to protect them. Despite returning to democratic forms of government decades ago, Chile, Argentina, and many other countries in Latin America are still grappling with the consequences of dictatorship. The fictional and artistic works being produced right now continue to reveal the persistence of these national traumas (spoiler: we’ll discover how).

What’s something you’re excited to share with students?

The films! As a film scholar and a total cinephile, watching and talking about movies gives me life!

Do you have any cool projects or activities planned?

YES! Throughout the semester, we’ll be engaging our “creative muscle” as we caption film screenshots, create memes, and make short video responses to make our bodies and voices keep the people who were forcibly disappeared alive. For the final assignment, students can choose between writing a paper or crafting a creative project such as a short film, a museum exhibit or film series, a set of educational TikToks, a podcast, or any other idea that might come to their mind. The sky is the limit!

What does your class help us understand about the present?

The attack on the Capitol on January 6 seemed to come as a surprise, but many Latin Americanists who study dictatorship predicted what could happen. Studying historical and cultural processes in specific times/places helps us to develop the tools and methodologies to “read” other regions and historical moments and there are always connections and comparisons to be drawn.

What would students be surprised to learn about you?

I worked in the film industry before becoming a professor (at Pixar and the Academy of Motion Pictures, where I was even invited to celebrity-watch at the Oscars red carpet). I am also a popular culture fan and have not missed a season of 90-day Fiancé!

How can students learn more?

Students are invited to check out the syllabus on Canvas, and to contact me with any questions at jalpert@fas.harvard.edu—I am happy to chat via email or set up a virtual office hours appointment.

Published by Hist & Lit

Committee on Degrees in History & Literature at Harvard University

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