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Teaching

Teaching Philosophy

My approach to teaching is guided by the following principles:

  • In reading and writing assignments, in lectures and discussions, each of my courses tacks between history, theory, and method.
  • As a teacher, I value the diverse perspectives, experiences, and lifestyles of my students and I try to create a safe and engaging classroom environment that allows for honest and respectful communication.
  • The best way to learn history is by actually practicing the craft, by reading the relevant secondary sources and by attempting to interpret primary source material.
  • The ability to write clearly and persuasively will serve students well, regardless of the professional paths they pursue. Hence in each of my classes, students write to learn, frequently turning in brief reflections on the assigned readings, and they write to communicate, developing and refining their arguments in successive drafts of their formal research papers.

My Contribution to UofT’s Project on Decolonizing Education in a Post-Secondary Setting

I’ve embedded the full video below. To skip right to the portion that features my thoughts on decolonizing eduction, click here.

Graduate Courses Taught

University of Toronto

Images as History: Photography, Historical Method, and Conceptualizing Visuality

This seminar examines photography and photographs in three ways: historical, methodological, and conceptual. Historically, the seminar will cover the era of the photographic image, from its invention in the 1830s to the present. We will be especially concerned with examining the role that photography has played in shaping modern understandings of self, nation, and race. Historical monographs will be drawn from various national and transnational studies, with a primary but not exclusive focus on the Americas. The course, however, is designed for all students regardless of geographic area.  In addition to examining relationships between photography, identity, and power, we will develop a set of conceptual and methodological tools for analyzing photographic images, carefully considering the status of photographs as primary sources for historical research.

In terms of the conceptual, we will read and discuss foundational theoretical works, including key essays by Walter Benjamin, Roland Barthes, Ariella Azoulay, Jacques Rancière, and Nicholas Mirzoeff. Here, we will consider the ethics and politics of human visual experience as such. What does it mean to see and be seen? Who has “the right to look”? How did photographs change the kinds of claims that people could make in their respective private and public spheres?

Universidad de Costa Rica

Imágenes como Historia: 
Fotografía, metodología, y la conceptualización de la visualidad

Este seminario estudia la fotografía y las fotos de tres maneras: histórica, metodológica y conceptual. Históricamente, el seminario cubrirá la era de la imagen fotográfica, desde su invención en la década de 1830 hasta la actualidad. Se examinará el papel que la fotografía ha desempeñado en la formación de concepciones modernas del yo, la nación y la raza. Además de examinar las relaciones entre la fotografía, la identidad y el poder, se desarrollará un conjunto de herramientas conceptuales y metodológicas para el análisis de las imágenes fotográficas, considerando cuidadosamente la situación de fotografías como fuentes primarias para la investigación histórica. En términos de lo conceptual, vamos a leer y discutir trabajos teóricos fundamentales, incluidos ensayos claves de Walter Benjamin y Roland Barthes. Aquí vamos a considerar la ética y la política de la experiencia visual humana como tal.

Undergraduate Courses Taught

University of Toronto Mississauga

Introduction to Latin American History

This course introduces students to the history of Latin America, covering the five-hundred year sweep from the European invasion that began in 1492 to our current era. Geographically, we will move between Mexico, Brazil, Chile, Argentina, Cuba, and the borderlands between the United States and Mexico. Through reading primary source documents and analytical narratives, this course explores the following themes: conquest, colonization, cultural hybridity, independence movements, nation-state formation, revolution, neoliberalism, and the recent Latin American turn to the Left. Students will read primary and secondary sources that reflect different perspectives on these major events in the region’s history. Lectures will usually be followed by class discussions of the issues raised in the readings and lectures.

By the end of the course, students will have gained (1) an understanding of the key historical events and themes of this important region of the world, (2) skills for interpreting primary source documents, (3) multiple opportunities to critically reflect on primary and secondary source documents, and (4) an ability to begin thinking and reasoning historically. The reading, lectures, tutorials, and assignments for this course support these four learning goals.

Politics and Political Theory in Latin America

This course examines the politics of modern Latin America. We will focus on one of the concepts that has been most debated in Latin American political theory: the notion of “hegemony.” The idea of cultural hegemony attempts to explain how a group of people appears to accept an inferior or subordinate social position. To examine and evaluate the notion of hegemony, we will read short contemporary statements of Western political theory. At the same time, we will consider how this term has been applied to specific Latin American cases. This will require us to delve deep into one of the most important recent studies of Latin American political theory, Jon Beasley-Murray’s Posthegemony: Political Theory and Latin America. In this book, Beasley-Murray critiques the notion of hegemony and investigates contemporary politics and political analysis by focusing on affect, habit, and the multitude. Each of the readings and class discussions aim to unsettle our everyday notions of politics and the political and to ground our reevaluation of these terms in Latin America’s historical movements.

Indiana University

Images as History: Photography, Race, and Citizenship in the U.S. and Latin America

-What is a picture? And is it worth 1,000 words? If so, why?

-Do photographs represent Reality or structure “reality”?

-How has a black box that captures light changed our culture? How has this same technology of “mechanical reproduction” worked in Latin America? How do discourses—of gender and race, class and citizenship—congeal in photographs? And what role have visual images and technologies played in shaping those discourses?

-In what ways has photography served as a technology of imperial power?

-How is one’s perception shaped by their historical context?

-In what ways do photography and photographs stratify societies and exacerbate social, economic, and political inequalities? And in what ways do photos break down barriers, allowing us to recognize each other and prompting us to respond to each other’s needs?

In this course, we will systematically reflect on the nature of visual images and visuality. We will also examine the role that photography and other visual technologies have played in shaping modern understandings of self, nation, and race in the United States and modern Latin America. Finally, we will develop tools for analyzing photographic images. By the end of this course, we will have a deeper understanding of the historical specificity of vision and of the role of visual images in public cultures.

We will critically read and discuss selections from the writings of Roland Barthes, Michel Foucault, Walter Benjamin, Pierre Bourdieu, Alan Trachtenberg, and Deborah Poole. Students will interpret several historic photographs and write two book reviews.

Movies and History in Latin America

This interdisciplinary course introduces students to the history of Latin America and to important feature films made by Latin Americans (with a few exceptions). Chronologically, the films and accompanying texts will cover the five-hundred year sweep from the European invasion that began in 1492 to our current era. Geographically, we will move between Mexico, Brazil, Chile, Argentina, Cuba, and the borderlands between the United States and Mexico.  Through film and books, the course explores the following themes: conquest, colonization, cultural hybridity, independence movements, nation-state formation, revolution, and neoliberalism. Students will read primary and secondary sources that reflect different perspectives on these major events in the region’s history. Lectures will often be followed by class discussions that will involve debates about the issues raised in the readings, films, and lectures.

By the end of the course, students will have gained (1) an introduction to the key historical events and themes of this important region of the world, (2) skills for interpreting film and better understanding cinematic production in Latin America, and (3) an opportunity to reflect on cinematic attempts to represent the past.


American Photography: Iconic Images and Public Culture

This course explores the question of American identity through photographs and photography. We begin with an intensive history of American photography, reading classic essays by Louis Jacques Mandé Daguerre, Charles Baudelaire, Lewis Hine, Walker Evans, and Walter Benjamin. We then delve into visual representations of the Mexican American War, frontier exploration, and Native Americans. From there, we pause to engage with thinkers who have attempted to understand the three interconnected themes of this course: nationalism, identity, and photography. Finally, we examine several iconic images—like the Times Square Kiss and the Flag Raising at Iwo Jima—that have come to serve as resources for critical reflection and signposts for collective memory.

In this class, students will read three books, watch two movies, and look at dozens of photographs. Assignments include writing a four-page essay, five critical responses to the shorter readings, and two book reviews.

As we begin reflecting on the intertwined issues of American identity and photography, let us pose the following questions:

  • What is an “American photograph”?
  • How did photography help “make the West”?
  • What happened when Native Americans lost control over photographs of themselves?
  • In what ways do our collective responses to certain photographs—like Dorothea Lange’s Migrant Mother (1936) or Alfred Eisenstaedt’s Times Square Kiss (1945)—reveal our national and cultural characters?
  • What roles do iconic images play in modern democratic societies?