Venezuela: Building Economic and Social Justice
Last Updated: 05/18/2009
Fall, Winter and Spring quarters
Faculty Signature Required: Students will meet with faculty at the Academic Fair, May 14, 2008 to discuss academic preparedness and Spanish language skills. For more information, contact Anne Fischel at firstname.lastname@example.org or Peter Bohmer at email@example.com.
Major areas of study include history of Latin America and Venezuela, political economy, Latin American studies, quantitative research, social documentation (photography, audio, writing), participatory research, popular education and Spanish.
Class Standing: Sophomores or above; transfer students welcome.
Prerequisites: Students must demonstrate some familiarity with basic Spanish. Previous studies of Latin America, political economy or community studies, visual/audio documentation skills and previous experience working/collaborating with a community organization are desirable, but not required.
The transformation of Venezuela is being closely observed by nations and social movements around the globe. President Hugo Chavez asserts the Venezuelan "proceso" (the process) is constructing socialism for the 21st century. Venezuela is spearheading a Latin American movement to develop alternatives to the neo-liberal model of development favored by the United States. Venezuela is also creating new international alliances to redistribute global power and influence.
Our program will study the Venezuelan proceso and its efforts to develop new models of political and economic democracy and justice. We will develop an in-depth understanding of the work of community organizations, social movements and the Venezuelan government to construct a political and economic system to meet peoples' needs for food, health, shelter, education, employment, transportation and political participation. We will also examine struggles for indigenous rights and racial equality. Working with perspectives drawn from political economy, community studies and popular education , we will focus on the experiences of ordinary people as they participate in a massive popular movement to redistribute power and wealth and change the basis of social organization and decision making in their communities and nation. We will also study the historical role of United States policy in Venezuela and Latin America, and the current impact of that policy. Possible texts include: Galeano's Open Veins of Latin America , Wilpert's Changing Venezuela by Taking Power, Harnecker's Understanding the Venezuelan Revolution and Horton and Freire, We Make the Road by Walking . Among the questions we will address are: What is the Venezuelan model of development? What are its political, social, environmental, and economic implications? What are its strengths, weaknesses and potential problems? Is the proceso leading to increased popular participation and power? Can it create the deepening of democracy and prosperity for all? Is this model applicable to other nations?
In fall our focus will be on preparing to travel to Venezuela and work collaboratively with communities in or near Barquisimeto, an agricultural and industrial center. Our studies will include Spanish language (advanced beginning or intermediate), political economy of Latin America (international political economy, comparative social systems), and Venezuelan history and politics. We will pay special attention to Venezuela's long struggle for political and economic independence, culminating in the election of President Hugo Chavez, and the process of creating sustainable models of political and economic democracy.
In fall we will also study research methods, develop documentation skills using writing, photography and audio recording, and explore popular education-based strategies of community collaboration. Students will select an area of focus and prepare for our work in Venezuela by writing a research paper and presenting their preliminary findings. Agriculture, education/literacy, sustainable development, labor, the economy, culture, cooperatives, community-based media, gender, youth, community organizing and health are some areas we will explore.
In winter quarter most of us will travel in Venezuela for 9 weeks. We’ll begin in Caracas, visiting national sites and attending presentations about Venezuelan political and economic development. We will spend most of our time near Barquisimeto, working collaboratively with local organizations and documenting the experiences. There will be opportunities for English-Spanish language exchange or Spanish instruction. Students who choose to stay in the United States have the option to pursue an internship with an organization involved with the Spanish-speaking community.
In spring we will prepare our documentary materials for publication and present them to the campus and community. Possible forms of publication include a zine, book, photo exhibit or Web site. Students who held internships in winter with local organizations can contribute documentation of their internships, or work on the Venezuela materials. Based on our experiences in Venezuela and continued reading in political economy and community studies, we will deepen our understanding of the Venezuelan proceso and its implications for understanding and creating social change.
Credits: 16 per quarter
Internship Possibilities: Winter, if not traveling to Venezuela. Local internships with Spanish-speaking organizations, subject to faculty approval.
Special Expenses: $3600 for 9 weeks of study abroad in Venezuela. Limited scholarship assistance will be available. A deposit of $200 is due by November 10th, 2008.
Program is preparatory for careers and future studies in community studies, documentary journalism, community education and organizing, work with non-governmental organizations and international studies.