POL 380: Politics of Latin America - Fall 2019

General Information

Professor Chad Rector
Wednesdays, 9:30 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. St. Joseph Hall G102

This course meets Marymount's "Global Perspectives," "Writing Intensive," and "Advanced Social Science" requirements. 

Course Assignments and Grades

Course grades will be based on a weighted average of the following:
  • Midterm Exam. 20%. Identify, explain, and give an example of any 10 concepts, from a list of 15 terms. 75 minutes of class time. November 13.  
  • Term paper. 70%. Term papers are at least 4000 words long (about 16 pages), and explore in depth a political issue involving Latin America. Components of the assignment are due in several steps, emailed to me. Assignments are due at midnight at the end of the specified day. See here for a lot more detail about the term paper assignment. 
    • Topic paragraph. 5%.  Due September 20.
    • Summaries of three scholarly articles. 5% each, total 15%. Due October 4, 11, and 18 October 8, 15, and 22.
    • Literature review. 5%. Due November 4.
    • Hypothesis and case study draft. 5%.  Due November 11. 
    • Initial draft. 15%. Due November 18. 
    • Final draft. 20%. Due December 13.
    • Class presentation. 5%. As assigned, December 4 or the day of the final. 
  • Peer reviews. 10%. Two reviews (5% each) of other student drafts, following an assigned format. As assigned, in November. Students who turn in the "initial draft" assignment on time may write up to 2 additional high-quality reviews, for up to 3% in extra credit points each.
Extra credit:
  • Class participation. Students may earn up to 5% for sustained, constructive contributions to class discussions. 
  • DC event. 5% for a first event and 3% for a second. Attend an event in the DC area on the subject of Latin American politics and write a blog post summarizing your experience. Specific instructions about attending and reporting on events are here. Posts must be well-written to receive credit; I will send back poorly-written posts for revisions before they are accepted. You will receive 5 extra credit points for one event and post, and 3 points for a second. All blog posts submitted by the day of the final exam. (Blog posts are kept private by default, but we may make selected posts public by mutual agreement.)
  • Extra peer reviews. Students who turn in a complete draft on time may complete up to two additional peer reviews for up to 3% each. Email me within four days of turning in your draft to get an extra credit assignment. I will give specific due dates with each assignment.
Two additional mandatory course requirements do not count for any points:
  • Map test. A test of basic Latin American geography. Fill in the names of selected countries on a blank map. Spelling doesn't count. The test will be administered at the beginning of each class starting the second week. You may take the test as many times as you wish until you get them all right, up to once per class meeting including the midterm exam. Any student who fails to pass the test by the day of the midterm will lose a full letter grade. The answers to the map test are here.
  • Attendance. Any student who misses 4 class sessions will lose a full letter grade, 5 class sessions 2 full letter grades, 6 class sessions 3, 7 class sessions or more 4. 
Papers will be marked down one point for each day (or fraction of a day) late. Any assignment or paper that is turned in on time may be rewritten for partial credit, except for the draft and final paper. Students who miss an exam will have one chance to take a makeup and will be marked down unless they have a valid medical or university business excuse. Students will not be penalized for missing a class assignment for a recognized religious holiday. Exams will be written in class without books, notes, computers, phones, audio devices, or other aids.

I do not, in general, grant extensions on major assignments. If you think you have gotten an extension from me but you do not have something in writing from me that specifically says that, then you probably haven’t. Like, if you tell me in person that your paper is going to be late, and I say “okay” or I give you advice on how to complete it, that isn’t me giving you an extension – that’s me saying that I understand that your paper is going to be late. It is only an “extension” (a promise from me that you may turn in a paper late without being penalized) if I have said so, explicitly, in an email message. It is okay to ask me to clarify this.

There is no such thing as an "excused" absence. If you tell me that you are going to miss a class and I say "okay" or something polite like that, the absence will still count. If you are absent three times or fewer there is no reason to give me an excuse, or a note, or anything like that. 

I may, at my discretion, check any written assignments for plagiarism at any time during or after the semester, using electronic or other means. Students found violating the Marymount principles of Academic Integrity will fail the course and be formally charged through the University’s Academic Integrity process. I am totally serious about this, and have failed students in prior semester for cheating. By enrolling in the course you acknowledge that you have reviewed the University’s standards of academic integrity.
Make an appointment with Professor Rector

Course Schedule and Readings

There is one assigned book for the course:
Class meets each Wednesday. Except for the first day of class, the reading assignment should be completed before the class meeting it is listed under.


August 28 - Democracy and representation, Argentina (slides)

(No class September 4)

September 11 - Context
Read Modern Latin America, Chapters 1 and 2

Case studies and puzzles

September 18 -  Democratization and development in Mexico (slides)
Read Modern Latin America, Chapter 3

September 25 - State failure in Central America (articles)
Read Modern Latin America, Chapter 4

October 2 - Civil conflict in Colombia (slides)
Read Modern Latin America, Chapter 7

October 9 - Democratic collapse in Venezuela
Read Modern Latin America, Chapter 8

One-on-one meetings to discuss term paper

October 16 - No class today
Review notes on Argentina from August 28
Read Modern Latin America, Chapter 9


October 23 - Development (slides)
Read Modern Latin America, Chapter 12

October 30 - Democracy (slides)
Read Modern Latin America, Chapter 13

November 6 - International Relations
Read Modern Latin America, Chapter 16

Research papers

November 13 - Midterm exam and writing workshop

November 20 - Peer review and writing workshop

December 4 - Presentations 

December 11 (9 am to 11:30 am) - Presentations