SPAN20310 Indigenous Cultures

Academic Year 2023/2024

This course examines representations of indigenous identity in Latin American film, art, literature and photography. You will study texts produced by both indigenous writers and artists and non-indigenous cultural producers, who represent indigenous identity from an external point of view, often with political or ideological aims in mind. You will learn about fundamental ideas such as the contact zone, which will help deepen your understanding of how indigenous identities are produced and maintained in societies dominated by Spanish speakers and western ideals. Some of the texts that you can expect to study are, Diego Rivera’s murals, Juan Rulfo’s short story ‘Luvina’, Estercilia Simanca Pushaina’s short story ‘El encierro de una doncella’, Martin Chambi’s Andean photos and José María Arguedas’s Los ríos profundos as well as other magical realist texts. The aim of the course is to develop your knowledge of the ways in which indigenous identities have become central concepts of nationhood in Latin America, but also how indigenous societies have continued to survive, adapt and construct their own identities.

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Curricular information is subject to change

Learning Outcomes:

On successful completion of this module, students should be able to:

--Demonstrate a detailed knowledge of the set texts of the module and an understanding of the broader critical concepts of representation, transculturation, hybridity conflict and the representation of indigenous peoples of Latin America.

--Independently research and evaluate critical responses to the texts and formulate an informed opinion based on such material.

--Be able to select, organise and present material to produce a coherent written or oral argument, supported by textual evidence and secondary reading, using English of an appropriate academic register, with correct syntax and spelling as appropriate.

--Provide accurate bibliographical information and make reference to sources in written and oral work according to recognised academic criteria.

Indicative Module Content:

Week 1 Introduction to course
Theoretical approaches and problems; study of indigenous images

Week 2 Juan Rulfo’s ‘Luvina’
Indigenous/Nahuatl myth in ‘Luvina’; Close reading of ‘Luvina’

Week 3 Diego Rivera’s Murals
Nation building and Indigenous Symbols in Rivera’s murals; Close analysis of Rivera’s murals

Week 4 José María Arguedas’ Los ríos profundos (chapter one)
Transculturation and Marxism in LRP; Close analysis of LRP

Week 5 Martin Chambi’s photos
Quechua identity in Chambi’s photos; Close analysis of Chambi’s photos

Week 6 Estercilia Pushaina Simanca’s ‘El encierro de una doncella’
Wayuu writers, writing in the crossroads; Close analysis of Simanca’s murals

Week 7 Pájaros de verano and the Wayuu
Cinematic representations of the Wayuu; Close analysis of Pájaros de verano

(11th to 27th March)

Week 8 Presentations
Preparation for presentations

Week 9 Presentations

Week 10 Essay masterclass
Lecture on essay writing: What to do and what not to do; Choosing an essay and making a plan

Week 11 Comparative approaches and conclusions
Revision of main themes for comparative purposes; Making a comparative plan

Week 12 Essay session
Individual support

Student Effort Hours: 
Student Effort Type Hours
Seminar (or Webinar)


Specified Learning Activities


Autonomous Student Learning




Approaches to Teaching and Learning:
The teaching and learning strategy will focus on independent learning and practice approaches. Students will be taught about the social and cultural contexts of the texts studied in a series of lectures. They will then analyse the different texts in workshops in different ways: group discussions, mini presentations, teacher-led close reading sessions, and group and individual written exercises, as well as independent research tasks. The aim of these types of practices is to show students ways in which they can become the owners of the new knowledge they are learning. The in-class practice sessions are also designed to help prepare the students for the two assessments: a group presentation, and a written close analysis of two texts. Finally, the overall learning and assessment strategies are designed to encourage the students to consider real world issues (concerning indigenous groups) and produce ideas on how we might tackle these issues. 
Requirements, Exclusions and Recommendations

Not applicable to this module.

Module Requisites and Incompatibles
Not applicable to this module.
Assessment Strategy  
Description Timing Open Book Exam Component Scale Must Pass Component % of Final Grade In Module Component Repeat Offered
Essay: A comparative essay of 1,500 words on two of the texts studied to be submitted at the end of the module Coursework (End of Trimester) n/a Standard conversion grade scale 40% No


Presentation: A group presentation on two of the texts studied to be presented in weeks 10 and 11 Week 10 n/a Standard conversion grade scale 40% No



Carry forward of passed components
Resit In Terminal Exam
Autumn No
Please see Student Jargon Buster for more information about remediation types and timing. 
Feedback Strategy/Strategies

• Feedback individually to students, post-assessment
• Group/class feedback, post-assessment

How will my Feedback be Delivered?

Not yet recorded.

Below are texts that deal with the different issues of Latin American identity that we will study throughout the first half of the course. They analyse and discuss the following themes:

Principal Texts:

Diego Rivera’s Murals

Juan Rulfo’s ‘Luvina’

José Maria Arguedas Los ríos profundos

Martin Chambi’s Photo Collection

Estercilia Simanca Pushaina’s ‘El encierro de una doncella’

Text on Indigenous Identities and Literatures:

Rice, Roberta, The new politics of protest: Indigenous mobilization in Latin America's neoliberal era, Book collections on Project MUSE. UPCC book collections on Project MUSE. Political Science and Policy Studies Supplement., 2012. Available online through library

Andersen, Martin Edwin, Peoples of the earth: ethnonationalism, democracy, and the 2010. Available online through library

Brotherston, Gordon, Indigenous literatures and cultures in twentieth-century Latin America, edited by Bethell, Leslie, The Cambridge History of Latin America, 1995. Available online through library

Rocha Vivas, Miguel, 2012. Palabras mayores, palabras vivas: tradiciones mítico-literarias y escritores e indígenas en Colombia (Bogota: Fundación Gilberto Alzate Avendaño). On order

—, 2018. Textualidades oralitegráficas y visiones de cabeza en las oralituras y literaturas indígenas contemporáneas (Bogota: Ediciones Andes). On order

Texts on Hybridity and Latin American Intercultural Identity

Mignolo, W. and F. Schiwy, ‘Translation/transculturation and the Colonial Difference’, in Beyond Dichotomies: Histories, Identities, Cultures, and the Challenge of Globalization, ed. Mudimbe-boyi, M Elisabeth (Albany: State University of New York Press: 2002) [Available in Ebridge]

Fernando Ortiz, Contrapunteo cubano azúcar y tabaco (Madrid: Cátedra, 2002) [In library]: read especially Chapter II ‘Del Fenómeno social de la ‘Transculturación’ y de su importancia en Cuba’, pp. 254-260.

Angel Rama, Transculturación narrativa en América Latina (México: Siglo XXI, 1982) [In library]

Fernando Coronil, 'Transculturation and the Politics of Theory: Countering the Centre, Cuban Counterpoint', in Fernando Ortiz, Cuban Counterpoint, trans. by Harriet de Onis (Durham, NC, and London: Duke University Press, 1995), pp. ix-lvi [photocopies available]

Catherine Davies, 'Fernando Ortiz's Transculturation: the Postcolonial Intellectual and the Politics of Cultural Representation', in Postcolonial Perspectives on the Cultures of Latin America and Lusophone Africa, ed. by Robin Fiddian (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2000), pp. 141-68 [In library]

Postcolonial Theory and Criticism, edited by Laura Chrisman and Benita Parry (Woodbridge: D. S. Brewer, 2000) [In library]

The Cambridge Companion to Postcolonial Literary Studies [electronic resource] edited by Neil Lazarus Cambridge (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2004)

The Routledge Companion to Postcolonial Studies, edited by John McLeod (London: Routledge, 2007) [In Library]

The Latin American Cultural Studies Reader, edited by Ana del Sarto, Alicia Ríos, and Abril Trigo (London: DUP, 2004) see especially the essays by Angel Rama, and Antonio Cornejo Polar [photocopies available]

Vivian Schelling, Through the Kaleidoscope: the Experience of Modernity in Latin America (London: Verso, 2000) [in library] see introduction.

Bibliographies for individual texts will be provided in the relevant classes.
Name Role
Dr Mary Farrelly Lecturer / Co-Lecturer
Dr Tara Plunkett Lecturer / Co-Lecturer