MPhil in Latin American Studies

MPhil Latin American Studies

This is a twenty-one-month programme which spans six academic terms, plus a field work project in Latin America (up to 3 months). 

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This programme allows students to develop an individual research project informed by interdisciplinary teaching at the LAC and a period of fieldwork in Latin America. The programme is ideally suited to those students considering an academic or research-focused career, and is an excellent training for a doctoral degree. Find out more about our current MPhil students and their experiences here.

In their first year, students on this programme will join classes in the various disciplines taught at the LAC (including History, Politics, Sociology, International Relations and Economics), and will be asked to submit two portfolios of essays on subjects of their choice. The classes taught may emphasise the specific features of individual countries, but there is also broad comparative coverage of major trends such as authoritarianism and democracy, the economic cycle, the effect of international factors, the evolution of the Left and Right, revolutionary movements, and the effects of neo-liberal economic models. Students will also take a Research Methods course in their first year.

Students will receive a number of tutorials to review their academic progress and preparations for their fieldwork research. Students must pass three courses (two of which must be disciplinary courses) in order to qualify for entry on to the second year of the programme. 

The five disciplinary courses are: 

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  • Latin America since Independence
  • Introduction to the Latin American Economies
  • Sociology of Latin America
  • The International Relations of Latin America
  • The Politics of Democracy in Latin America

The number of optional courses on offer vary from year to year. Those for 2022-23 are: 

  • Andean Politics
  • Human Rights in Latin America
  • The Politics of Brazil
  • Drug Trafficking and Organised Crime State and Society in Latin America 

In the second year, students complete a 30,000 word thesis. The thesis is an in-depth research project, and will train students to apply theory to empirical study of their selected topic. A list of past thesis titles is available here. Students will take two further courses in their second year, or by agreement with the relevant department, take a methodology or other papers from an appropriate MPhil in another discipline at Oxford University. 

A lively programme of LAC seminars and conferences with visiting speakers complements the MPhil programme, and students are encouraged to make the most of these opportunities to meet with and learn from fellow Latin Americanists.

For any queries regarding the application process please contact enquiries@lac.ox.ac.uk

Watch our 'Why Study Latin American Studies at Oxford?' video to get a flavour of LAC student life.

LAC Disciplinary Courses

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Course provider

Professor Eduardo Posada-Carbó

Course aims and objectives

This course aims at providing students with a general understanding of the modern history of Latin America since independence; familiarizing them with some of the key debates in the academic literature; and enabling them to engage with their subject in a scholarly manner, both in their writings and in class discussion, and to relate the history of the region to other disciplines in the social sciences.

Course description

The course covers a selection of major themes, either generally applied to the whole region or to individual countries. The topics covered include: independence; problems of state and nation building; liberalism and state-church relations; the abolition of slavery in Brazil; the export economy and immigration in Argentina; the Porfirian regime and the Mexican revolution; elections and democratization; relations with the United States and the Cuban revolution.

Course structure

The course is taught in Michaelmas Term through a series of eight seminars. Students are expected to attend and actively participate in the seminars, to which they are required to contribute with at least one presentation. Covering at least the ‘core readings’ in advance is a requirement to attend the seminars.  Students are also required to write three essays, to be submitted by the end of weeks 3, 6 and 8.

Students are also expected to attend the Latin American History Seminar (Thursdays, 5:00 p.m.), and other seminars organized by the LAC and the University, especially those on topics directly relevant to the course.

Course assessment

An online open-book examination in Trinity Term. Students will be given the exam paper two days before the due date for submission (Weeks 6-8 of Trinity Term). Candidates will answer three questions per paper out of a possible ten to twelve options.

 

Course provider

Dr Javier Pérez Sandoval

Course aims and objectives

This course explores the economic trajectory of Latin America along with the main challenges faced by the region from a historical and comparative perspective. In doing so, we use concepts and theories from economics, political economy and development studies, to discuss how policy and economic models have changed in Latin American polities over the last century. More specifically, we look at how the political economy of the region has been modified by external shocks and internal factors, paying particular attention at how the former have influenced the latter. While the course is centred around the overall regional patterns and trends, we do consider the differences and commonalities between individual country-cases.

Our central goal is to understand why the region has historically struggled to achieve structural change and reduce inequalities, discussing how these and other challenges continue to hamper development across the region. We will adopt a comparative historical approach, studying the main economic models that have been implemented in the region since the start of the twentieth century and assessing their impact on economic growth and inequalities. To conduct our discussions, we will adopt a political economy framework, which emphasises the interplay between the state, economic actors and economic structure.

This course is intended and designed for those interested in the political economy of the social and economic development of Latin America. It is primarily directed towards individuals registered for either the M.Sc. or the M.Phil in Latin American Studies, as well as towards the M.Phil in Development Studies postgraduate readers. Other graduate students are welcome to audit the class, as long as they send the course provider a request via email in advance. 

A basic understanding of economic concepts is desirable but not required. A selection of special readings on economic and development concepts will be available upon request.

Course requirements

Essays and Tutorials: Students taking the Economics paper can expect to write at least two essay and undertake other individual and group activities. The essays will be around 2,500 words and the questions and reading list should be agreed in advance. The essays will be discussed in a bi-weekly group tutorial (time and day to be agreed). There may be other written assignments during term.

Course structure

The course is taught in Hilary Term. Students will prepare for each class through a combination of core readings and other suggested material. These will be discussed in a two-hour seminar. Each student will also be expected to attend a group tutorial. Students should expect to spend around 12 hours per week in the course.

Course assessment

An online open-book examination in Trinity Term. Students will be given the exam paper two days before the due date for submission (Weeks 6-8 of Trinity Term). Candidates will answer three questions per paper out of a possible ten to twelve options.

 

Course provider

Professor Leigh A. Payne 

Course description

This course reviews the major sociological concepts and theories as applied to Latin America and the contribution of scholarship on Latin America to the field of sociology. The course covers issues including: sociology of the Latin American state; development; class, poverty and inequality; gender and sexuality; migration; social movements and counter-movements; religion; race and ethnicity; and crime and violence.

Course objectives

This course introduces students to advanced research on sociology in Latin America and prepares students for doctoral research in this area.

Course structure

This course consists of eight lectures and eight seminars and tutorials.

Course assessment

Unmarked assessments: The following will form part of the overall assessment of the student’s progress in the programme, but will not constitute part of the final mark for the course. 
•    Weekly attendance and participation in lectures and seminars.
•    Two essays of approximately 2500 words (excluding footnotes and bibliographies), one submitted during term and one before week 10. The essay questions should be selected based on past exam paper questions or in consultation with the course provider.
•    Short presentation of one essay in tutorial.
•    One critical written and orally delivered review of another student’s essay in tutorial.
•    Revisions sessions including a mock exam.
•    Critical review of another student’s mock exam question.

Marked assessment: An online open-book examination in Trinity Term. Students will be given the exam paper two days before the due date for submission (Weeks 6-8 of Trinity Term). Candidates will answer three questions per paper out of a possible ten to twelve options.

 

Course provider

Dr Francesca Lessa

Course aims and objectives

The course provides students with a general understanding of the international politics of Latin America over the course of the last decades. Students will develop an understanding of the major theories of international relations and learn to use these theoretical frameworks to systematically analyze international politics and events across the region. Students will also become proficient in studying theoretical frameworks self-sufficiently together with the search and collection of empirical evidence underpinning their analysis and argumentation. 

Course description

The course examines the international relations of Latin America. The first four weeks cover traditional international relations concerns, such as the evolution of the relations of the Latin American states with the United States; the foreign policy of the major states of the region and relations with other extra-regional powers (Europe, China); and regional integration. The last four weeks encompass new challenges in contemporary Latin American international relations, including new wars and intrastate conflicts (Mexico, Colombia); humanitarian crises and migration (Venezuela, Central America); the impact of climate change and environmental politics (Brazil, Ecuador, Honduras); and human rights, democracy, and the OAS. Students will become familiar with the broad historical development of the international relations of the region, as well as the major theoretical perspectives that are relevant to the field.

Course structure

The course is taught in Hilary Term. Students will attend a 75-minutes long lecture on Tuesdays and a 75-minutes long seminar on Thursdays each week (times and days subject to be confirmed). The essays will be discussed in group tutorials (time and day to be agreed).
Course requirements
Students who want to present themselves for examination in Trinity must write at least two 2,000-word essays. The first essay must be submitted by the end of week 5 and the second essay by the end of week 8. The essays should be based on past exam paper questions or on a question set in consultation with the course provider. Students are free in the choice of the topic and should present a theoretically guided and empirically-sound systematic analysis. Essays form part of the overall assessment of the student’s progress but do not count towards the final mark for the course.

Course assessment

•    Regular attendance, preparation of the weekly readings, and active participation in seminar discussions; 
•    Delivery of a 15-minutes long presentation;
•    Submission of two written essays of no more than 2000 words;
•    Critical discussion of another student’s essay during tutorials; 
•    Submission of a written review of the essay discussed during tutorials;

An online open-book examination in Trinity Term. Students will be given the exam paper two days before the due date for submission (Weeks 6-8 of Trinity Term). Candidates will answer three questions per paper out of a possible ten to twelve options.
 

Course provider

Professor Eduardo Posada-Carbó

Course aims and objectives

This course offers a historically grounded, area studies approach to the politics of Latin America. In particular, it aims at enabling students to understand the processes of democratization in the region from the late 1970s; to be acquainted with key themes in the academic debates and the related relevant literature; and to enable students to engage with their subject in a scholarly manner, both in their writings and their class discussions.

Course description

The course comprises a combination of the analysis of general themes with the examination of single aspects or problems of democratization in individual countries. The topics covered include: Democracy and Political Culture; Transitions to Democracy; the Rule of Law and Security; Presidentialism; Parties and Congresses; Elections; the Media and Public Opinion; Populism; Democratic Performance; and Attitudes Towards Democracy.

Course structure

The course is taught in Hilary Term through a series of eight seminars. Students are expected to attend and actively participate in the seminars, to which they are required to contribute with at least one presentation. Covering at least the ‘core readings’ in advance is a requirement to attend the seminars. Students are also required to write three essays, to be submitted by the end of weeks 3, 6 and 8 of Hilary Term.

Students are also expected to attend the general Latin American Seminar, and other seminars organized by the LAC and the University, especially those on topics directly relevant to the course.

Course assessment

An online open-book examination in Trinity Term. Students will be given the exam paper two days before the due date for submission (Weeks 6-8 of Trinity Term). Candidates will answer three questions per paper out of a possible ten to twelve options.
 

LAC Option Courses

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Course provider

Dr John Crabtree

Course aims and objectives

The course aims to give students a general understanding of the dynamics underlying the politics of Peru and Bolivia since the 1960s. It will familiarise students with the key debates that arise in the academic literature, reflecting issues from the two countries concerned but also comparing these with experiences elsewhere in Latin America.

Course description

The course covers a selection of major issues that have defined the politics of both countries, in the case of Peru from the military government (1968-80) onwards, and in the case of Bolivia from the aftermath of the 1952 revolution. Topics will include democratisation, political violence, social movements, the activities of political parties, institutional weaknesses/reform, elites, the narcotics industry, the military, amongst others. It will also involve some comparative analysis between the two countries, and reference to similar issues elsewhere in Latin America.

Course structure

The course will be taught in Michaelmas Term and, depending on numbers, probably on the basis of a weekly class. In principle, there will be eight classes, with students expected to write at least two essays of no more than 2,000 words, and to provide oral presentations on a topics of their choice. The essay topics will be designed to cover as much as possible of the syllabus but will also be chosen to reflect individual students’ particular interests. A general reading list will be supplied as well as reading lists on the essay topics that students choose to select.

Course assessment

A 5000-word extended essay assessment (excluding bibliography).
 

Course provider

Dr Francesca Lessa

Course aims and objectives

By the end of the course students will have developed a critical understanding of the key disciplinary and interdisciplinary concepts associated with the study of human rights and transitional justice issues in Latin America. They will also have acquired sound empirical knowledge of country case studies as well as the limitations and challenges associated with key human rights concepts and themes.

Course description

Human Rights has been a salient social, political, legal, economic, and cultural issue in the Americas since its so-called “discovery” or “conquest.” This seminar-based course takes an interdisciplinary approach to the historical legacy of human rights abuses, contemporary human rights challenges, and international, state and non-state actors’ responses to those abuses and challenges. It examines a core paradox: the region is viewed as a locus of human rights atrocities, but it is also a region where the most innovative approaches to the definition, remedy, and protections for human rights haves occurred. The course explores this paradox in the history of human rights in the region. It looks at the region’s innovative response to past human rights violations through transitional justice mechanisms and memory processes. The salient role of the Inter-American human rights system in those advances is analysed. The course also examines new human rights challenges in the areas of physical integrity, economic, social, and cultural rights, gender and sexuality, and the environment. 

Course structure

This course consists of weekly seminars and one tutorial in Michaelmas term.

Course assessment

*    Regular attendance, preparation of the weekly readings, and participation in class discussions
*    Delivery of one class presentation
*    Submission of two written essays of no more than 2,000 words. Essays, due in weeks 5 and 9, form part of the overall assessment of the student’s progress, but do not count towards the final mark for the course
*    Active participation in the tutorial group by providing critical feedback on students’ essays
*    Completing the final marked assessment:
A 5000-word extended essay assessment (excluding bibliography).
 

Course provider

Dr Andreza A de Souza Santos 
 
Course aims and objectives

This course explores politics and society in contemporary Brazil. With a population of over 200 million, Brazil has been hailed as an “emerging power” and a “fallen giant” in just over a decade. Brazil's singular importance justifies the attention it receives. In this course we focus on a sustained theoretical and empirical evaluation of Brazil’s political system.
 
Course description

While the broad theme of the course is the Brazilian democracy, we will focus on many of the theoretical concepts and literatures that have been brought to bear in the comparative study of Brazil. These include clientelism, patrimonialism, race and inequality, the military, social authoritarianism, new social movements, the politics of federalism, and formal political institutions in the country.
 
Course structure

The course will be organised as a series of eight 1.5-hour sessions. There will be a mix of introductory remarks by the instructor and seminar-style discussion on selected readings. Students planning to sit the “Politics of Brazil” paper in Trinity Term should complete two tutorial essays. Wherever possible, students will be paired for tutorials on allied topics.

Course assessment

A 5000-word extended essay assessment (excluding bibliography).
 

Course provider

Dr Mónica Serrano

Course aims and objectives

This course aims to explain and help students understand the evolution of illicit drug markets and their mutation into criminal governance in Latin America, tracing the implications of these transformations through to contemporary times. The course will focus particularly on the impact of factors such as drug prohibition, the balloon effect and the geopolitics of drug control, the rise of drug cartels and drug related violence, the emergence of criminal systems of governance and crime related humanitarian crises. 

Course description

The course addresses urgent questions in contemporary Latin American politics with a particular emphasis on militarized drug wars and criminal conflict. Drawing on an interdisciplinary set of readings from International Relations, History, Criminology, Sociology, Anthropology, Political Economy, and Drug Policy, the course will seek to compare the evolution and impact of illicit drug markets and trafficking across the region (with particular reference to Mexico and Colombia), and to critically assess the track record and politics of police and regulatory efforts. Particular attention will be paid to the role of the U.S. in building the international drug control regime, and its embrace of prohibition. A recurring interest will be exploring how an exceptional perspective on narcotics determined the U.S. role in developing a regional and global drug control infrastructure, and the impact of its global policing role on American and Latin American politics and society

Course structure

Covering key works in the field, course readings and sessions will be organized around a set of 8 core questions. The topics will be introduced each session by the course provider. These presentations will be followed by a general discussion. Attendance and substantial participation in weekly discussion sections are required. Students attending this course are required to prepare two essays of approximately 2500 words each, to be discussed in tutorials

Course assessment

A 5000-word extended essay assessment (excluding bibliography).