The interdisciplinary program of Latin American & Latino/a Studies (LALS) fosters a rich and critical understanding of Latin America, including Brazil and the Hispanic Caribbean, in its broadest sense. The program focuses on the cultural production, history and political, social and economic structures created by the inhabitants of the area extending from Mexico to Tierra del Fuego, from California to Cuba, and in dialogue with the rest of the world. Students explore the diversity that existed in Latin America before the arrival of Europeans, the societies that subsequently developed among Native Americans, Europeans, Asians and Africans, and contemporary issues and forms of expression both of Latin Americans and of Latinos in the United States.
The LALS Program has four primary goals for its students:
- To understand Latin America and Latinos in the United States through the lenses of literature, the arts and the social sciences.
- To investigate the specific historical conditions that have shaped—and continue to shape—these societies.
- To develop communication skills in Spanish and/or Portuguese.
- To further knowledge of the unique ways in which visual culture, literature, artistic production, history, politics and economics intertwine for present-day people who consider themselves Latin Americans.
These goals focus our curriculum to prepare majors to successfully attain essential capacities, with particular strengths in developing historical and comparative perspectives through the study of the development of societies, cultures and philosophies; the study of languages; and the understanding of multi- and interdisciplinary approaches. Likewise, the program curriculum fosters the development of informed global citizens with its fundamental commitment to engaging with communities beyond Smith, domestically and internationally, and its attention to the regional and global challenges of ethnic and racial diversity, as well as gender, environmental and social justice.
The curriculum is attentive to the development of critical and analytical thinking skills and the cultivation of the skills necessary to convey information and understanding. Students develop close reading, clear speaking and writing skills, most explicitly but not exclusively in literature and history courses. Course offerings in the humanities create opportunities for creative expression, in written as well as visual media and performance, and those in the social sciences develop the necessary skills to evaluate and present evidence accurately, verbally and in writing. Community-based research courses and public scholarship -oriented research projects provide opportunities for students to work collaboratively and to reflect critically on the collaborative process.
The major (10 courses, 40 credits) builds upon core interdisciplinary work in Latin American Studies and centers a commitment to the study of Spanish and/or Portuguese. Building on the strength of the core, students will follow a program of studies related to Spanish America and/or Brazil from the disciplines of anthropology, art, dance, economics government, history literature, sociology and theater, through courses offered in affiliated departments and programs. Given the importance of Latino/a studies within the field of Latin American Studies, majors are required to take at least one course in this field. LALS emphasizes student-adviser mentoring partnerships to chart an appropriate curricular path through the major based on students' academic and co-curricular interests.
- LAS 150
- Other core requirements: LAS 250 and LAS 310: Capstone
All students must also complete seven electives:
two humanities courses (e.g., literary studies, historical studies, cultural studies) in Spanish or Portuguese; normally these will be at the 200-level [8 credits]
- Two courses in the social sciences (e.g., Sociology, Anthropology, Government, Economics); normally these will be at the 200-level [8 credits]
- One historically-focused class on Latin America (e.g., a course that considers Indigenous, Black and/or other histories of Latin America across a long durée, a temporal stretch that extends beyond 1950-present); normally at the 200 level [4 credits]
- One course that focuses on the arts in/of Latin America (Art History, Film Studies, Theater, Dance); normally this will be at the 200-level [4 credits]
- One course on Latin America at the 300-level; this class may be in any discipline [4 credits]
Of these seven courses, at least one must focus on the period before Independence (e.g., pre-1825) and one must focus on Latino/a studies.
To build coherence across this range of classes, we expect students to work with their major advisers, choosing their seven courses to develop an intellectual focus. Such foci may be:
- Thematic (e.g., Race/Diaspora, Indigeneity, Gender/Sexuality, Latinidades, Migration/Immigration)
- Geographic (e.g., National, Transborder/border Studies, Regional)
- Temporal (e.g., pre-1825, 19th/20th century, contemporary)
The minor in Latino/a studies consists of six semester-long courses (24 credits). This minor emphasizes key intellectual and methodological capacities for Latino/a Studies: exposure to the shared, transnational histories of Latin and Latino/a America; critical engagement with Spanish as a language of thought and cultural production; a shared, intellectual and interdisciplinary experience with a community of majors and minors in the program.
The S/U grading option is not allowed for courses counting towards the minor, except for these (pandemic) exceptions: any relevant classes taken in the spring of 2020, which were graded S/U by the College, will count towards the minor; students may also count up to two classes towards the major S/U, if thoses classes wre taken in the 2020-2021 academic year.
All students must complete three core courses:
- One course in the history of Latin America and/or the Caribbean (e.g., a course that considers Indigenous, Black and/or other histories of Latin America across a long durée, a temporal stretch that extends beyond 1950-present); normally at the 200 level [4 credits]
- One humanities or cultural communication course in Spanish (normally at the 200-level)
- LAS 310: Capstone
All students must also complete three Latino/a-focused courses that fulfill these distribution requirements:
• At least one course in the social sciences, normally at the 200-level (ANT, ECO, GOV, SOC, HST)
• At least one course in the humanities/arts, normally at the 200-level (ARH, CLT, DAN, ENG, SPN, THE)
Students may count one course in Latino/a studies from another Five College institution toward the minor.
Honors Director: Dana Leibsohn (2021–22)
Please consult the director of honors for specific requirements and application procedures. More information about honors is available on the class deans website.
Admission by permission of the Latin American and Latino/a Studies Committee.
- The same as those for the major.
- Thesis proposal, preferably prepared during the second semester of the student's junior year and submitted for consideration no later than the end of the first week of classes the following September.
- A thesis and an oral examination on the thesis.
LAS 430d Thesis
Credits: 8 (yearlong course); offered each year
LAS 431 Thesis
Credits: 8; offered each fall
Students can choose from approximately 30 courses on Latin America offered every year by the departments of art, comparative literature, dance, government, history, sociology and Spanish and Portuguese, as well as from the interdisciplinary courses offered in the Latin American studies program. Fifty or more courses on Latin America are available through the Five College Consortium.
For additional information, please refer to the Smith College Course Search.
LAS 150 Introduction to Latin American and Latino/a/x Studies
LAS 201 Colloquium in Latin American and Latino/a Studies
- Banana Republics--Crops and Capitalism
LAS 400 Special Studies
For additional information, please refer to the Smith College Course Search.
AFR 111 Introduction to Black Culture
ANT 269 Indigenous Cultures and the State in Mesoamerican
ARH 204 Inkas, Aztecs and Their Ancestors
DAN 149 Salsa Dance
FYS 110 A Century of Revolutions in Latin America
FYS 129 Tierra y Vida: Land and the Ecological Imagination in U.S. Latino/a Literature
FYS 170 #BlackLivesMatterEverywhwere: Ethnographies & Theories on the African Diaspora
GOV 226 Latin American Political Systems
GOV 307lp Seminar in American Government: Latinos the Politics of Immigration in the U.S.
POR 220 Contemporary Cityscapes: Mapping Brazilian Culture onto an Urban Grid
SPN 230 Topics in Latin American and Peninsular Culture and Society
SPN 240 From page to Stage: Mujeres de Artes Tomar
SPN 373 Seminar: Topics in Cultural Movements in Spanish America-Embodied Politics in Latin American Films
SPN 375 Seminar: ARTivism: Staging Political Memories
Studying Latin America at Smith
Opportunities & Resources
Study Abroad Opportunities
The Smith College Office for International Study has an extensive list of programs available for students wishing to go abroad. This list changes frequently, so please contact them directly for details.
Study Abroad in Brazil
See your academic adviser for more opportunities.
Master’s in Latin American Studies at Georgetown University
Students interested in pursuing graduate studies in LAS have the option of completing a Master of Arts in Latin American studies at Georgetown University in only one extra year and a summer. Those interested must consult with an LAS adviser during their sophomore year or early in their junior year.
Students primarily interested in Latin American literature may wish to consult the major programs available in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese.
Five College Certificate
The Five College Certificate in Latin American, Caribbean, and Latino Studies gives you the opportunity to show an area of specialization in Latin American studies in conjunction with or in addition to your major.