The Americas: Identity, Culture, Power
Instructor: Prof. César Seveso
University of Houston
Email: Blackboard Vista;
Teaching Assistant: Mr. Clayton Lust
University of Houston, Distance Education
This course is designed to offer you a novel and innovative alternative to conventional classes in
the humanities and social sciences. Truly interdisciplinary, the course draws on faculty from ten
academic departments and schools. You will be able to access the course’s lectures by going to
the following site:
This class is also genuinely comparative and hemispheric. Unlike traditional "American Studies"
programs, which define their subject matter exclusively by the geopolitical boundaries of the
United States, this course takes a hemispheric approach that also encompasses the "other
Americas": Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central and South America.
This course emphasizes three broad themes. The first is identity. Here we are interested in the
shifting ways that individuals have conceived and experienced their identity and their relationship
to larger communities. We are especially interested in the ways that identity has been defined
along--and across--racial, sex/gender, age/generational, ethnic, geographic, religious, and national
lines. Thus, we are concerned about the way political, economic, historical, and social forces have
shaped identities. Using the tools of anthropology, history, literary criticism, political science,
psychology, and sociology, we will examine the ways in which identity has been represented and
studied both by "insiders" and "outsiders," as well as the processes through which identity has
been repressed, celebrated, altered, multiplied, and extended.
A second major theme is culture. We are not only interested in the "high culture" of elite
intellectual and artistic activity, but also in "popular cultures," "folk cultures," "political cultures,"
and "commercial mass cultures" and the complex relationships among them. While our course
will pay close attention to the "hegemonic" cultures that achieve a degree of dominance at
particular times and places, we are equally interested in various subcultures and countercultures
that offer alternative forms of artistic expression and values and that have repeatedly challenged
and transformed dominant cultures. We are especially interested in issues of cultural resistance,
transformation, domination, and colonialism as well as the possibilities of post-colonialism.
A central issue that we will explore is the intricate connection between culture as expressed in the