Memories Need to Swim: Heritage and Myth-Making in Latin America

Course Lecturer: Dr. Arij Ouweneel
Period: 1 November - 20 December
Schedule: Thursday at 13.00 - 16.00
Course load: 4 / 6 / 7.5 EC
Course ID: 180421006Y

People continue to produce and reproduce narratives of who they are; and how their “being-in-the-world” is defined by heritage and histories of a birthplace, hometown, ancestors and journeys. They form mnemonic communities. In the reproduction of their testimonies and narratives over time, new elements are woven into existing narratives, creating innovative ways of mythmaking. Such new narratives and myths are created in the streets of Latin American urban centers, using films, street art, epitaphs in cemeteries, Facebook, Twitter, and the ‘regular’ media on a daily basis. This is the field of memory studies, maintained over the past century by historians, anthropologists, geographers, literary scholars and other humanity and social scientists.

This course discusses contemporary mythmaking by mnemonic communities in Latin America and traces its components of testimonials and narratives across time and space to interpret the present and look for a collective future. First, the approaches are explained and discussed. Next, students will be challenged to explore the workings of memory politics, mythmaking and its roots. Discussing different memory mediators like film, paintings, urban public space, popular artworks, urban myths, students engage in the analytic discussion of Latin American contemporary identity construction and cultural production.

Upon successful completion of this course, students will be able to:
understand and apply basic concepts and theories from the memory studies literature;
distinguish and apply different approaches to investigate mnemonic communities;
identify and qualify key themes in academic and policy debates on Latin American histories, identity-building processes, and on the social construction of communities throughout the region.

The literature will be available on Canvas one month before the course starts. One of the course's key texts is: Astrid Erll, “Travelling Memory,” Parallax 17:4 (2000), pp. 4-18.

Form of instruction and assessment
This master course consists of a series of seven 3-hour class meetings that contain both lectures and seminars in which students present and discuss weekly assignments.

Written exam: 70%
Group paper (consisting of individual chapters): 30%

For the examination dates please consult the timetable on
Click here for the course description in the UvA Studiegids.

Registration and Participation

UvA Students
Students registered at the University of Amsterdam can register for the CEDLA courses through SIS.

Students registered at other Dutch universities
BA students that are registered at another Dutch university can register as a guest student Spanish Language and Culture (‘bijvakstudent Spaanse Taal en Cultuur’) at the University of Amsterdam in Studielink.

MA students that are registered at another Dutch university can register through our digital registration form.

Persons who are interested in our courses, but are not registered as students at a university, may participate in some courses under certain provisions. Those interested, should provide the secretariat with some information on their background, their background knowledge and their special interest in taking the course. Non-students can register for the courses through our digital registration form

If you have any questions, feel free to contact the CEDLA secretariat. We are open on weekdays from 9.00 to 17.00 hours.

Telephone: +31 20 525 3498

Picture: Gael Varoquaux (CC BY 2.0)