Venezuela: Building Economic and Social Justice Fall 2011

Latin American Political Economy and Economics take-home exam, due Friday, December 2nd–for Economics workshop students only.

Synthesis Paper Assignment

The purpose of this assignment is to synthesize ideas and information drawn from several sources into a thoughtful, well-written essay. Select one of the following two topics. If you wish to propose an alternative topic, please discuss it first with your seminar faculty.

Topic 1. Through our readings, lectures and screenings you have been exposed to a variety of perspectives on Latin American development in national, regional and international contexts. How are you coming to understand the history of Latin American struggles over development? What are the development models that were imposed on Latin America, and what have been the consequences? What alternatives are being proposed, and what new opportunities and challenges do they create? You are invited to consider the question of development broadly, drawing on economic, political, social and cultural perspectives, or some subset of those.

Topic 2. “Central to understanding the Bolivarian revolution, a term commonly used to describe the ongoing social change in Venezuela, is social change from above and from below.” Drawing on many of the readings, e.g., Gott, Wilpert, Venezuela Speaks, and the various articles assigned and movies seen, examine, develop and assess this idea. In your essay, make sure to analyze the role of Hugo Chávez in the political, economic, cultural and social changes that have been occurring in Venezuela since 1998, and the relation between grassroots and local community organizations and movements, and the Hugo Chávez led government. From your study up to now, what are some of the most important changes and advances that have occurred and why have they occurred; and what are some of the major problems, challenges, limitations that you see?

Organize your paper carefully around a central thesis (a main argument or idea). Explain your ideas thoughtfully and clearly, using the texts for support, citing carefully and explaining the meaning and significance of the information, examples and quotes you cite. Be specific, but make your analysis or analytical framework explicit. Provide evidence and arguments for your claims. Be sure to add your own conclusions, even if tentative, that reflect your developing grasp of this critical process. Use and identify at least four program sources in your synthesis paper. They should include at the minimum two of the books we have read and one of the movies we have seen. No outside sources are necessary.

Your paper should be 6-7 pages, typed, double-spaced, including a Works Cited page. Use Times New Roman font or the equivalent. Larger fonts, extra spacing between paragraphs or exceptionally large margins are unacceptable. We recommend that you use a style sheet for your citations: a good summary of the MLA Writer’s Guide is available from:

You may use another style sheet if you choose, but please be consistent.

A paper outline is due Friday, week 5; paper drafts (4 pages) are due Tuesday, week 7 for small-group discussion and critique the following day; final papers due Tuesday, week 8.


Self-in-Context Essay

“To take stock of others is to call upon one’s self…This mix of the objective and subjective is a constant presence and, for many of us, a constant challenge.” Robert Coles, Doing Documentary Work

“Her first step is to take inventory . . . Just what did she inherit from her ancestors? This weight on her back . ..” Gloria Anzaldua, Borderlands

All of us start with our own experience, an experience shaped by the places and people among whom we have lived. When we’re exposed to new learning, it helps us step back and begin to understand our experience, identity and the identity of others differently—in light of the new context that we’re creating with others.

a. First Version: Write a 2-page essay (typed, double-spaced) about your social location, learning goals and aspirations in regard to Venezuela. Think of our program as a project that provides the context in which new questions or realizations about yourself will emerge. What do you hope to explore and learn in this class? How do you understand your personal and social identity within this context? What do you bring to this project? What challenges do you expect to face? What strengths do you bring to this work?

It isn’t important to answer every one of the questions above, but instead to use them as guideposts and invitations to a piece of thoughtful, reflective writing. You’ll be sharing this writing with one other member of your seminar. Keep a copy in your journal and hand a copy to your seminar faculty.

We’ll ask you to revisit and update your self-in-context periodically throughout the year. The second version will be due Friday, Dec. 9.

Second version: 3-4 page reflective essay addressing changes in your understanding of the world and Venezuela, challenges you confronted through this learning, what you hope to learn in our visit to Venezuela (or future studies), and your developing sense of your own work and possible contribution. We encourage you to draw on the Self-in-Context essay while writing your fall quarter self-evaluation.