The creation of Latinx and Latin American studies—one of two new Amherst majors—is a development both long in the works and especially timely. The second new major, called classical civilization, dates back to the Greek and Roman cultures of antiquity.
Approved by the faculty in May, these areas of study bring the list of Amherst majors up to 40.
Latinx and Latin American studies (LLAS) is an interdisciplinary program that aims to critically examine the histories and cultures of Latin America, the Caribbean and U.S. Latinxs.
“The nice thing is, we already have most of the classes that we need,” says Rick López ’93, professor of history. Last year, for example, he and Solsiree Del Moral, associate professor of American studies and black studies, taught “An Introduction to U.S. Latino/a History, 1848–Present.”
And this fall Professor of Spanish Paul Schroeder Rodriguez, who was central to the proposal’s approval process, will teach “Literature and Culture of the Hispanic World” and “New Latin American Documentary.”
Across departments, in fact, more than 40 courses deal with Latinxs, Latin America and the Caribbean. Mary Hicks (of black studies and history) will teach the fall course “Latin America: Conquest, Colonization and Rebellion.” Leah Schmalzbauer (of American studies and sociology) will offer two fall courses on Latino immigration. Lloyd Barba (of religion), will teach a spring course on religion and migration. Faculty are also developing a 200-level course, “Major Debates in Latinx and Latin American Studies,” that will be among the major requirements.
Efforts to create LLAS date back to Lopez’s own undergraduate days. He credits the 2015 student protests on campus and resulting conversations about race and representation with helping the major become a reality. Demographics were another factor, he says: The number of students who self-identify as Latin American, Latinx or of Caribbean origin has doubled in the past decade.
The classical civilization major will open up studies in the classics to a larger audience. Until now, the classics department has offered three majors: Latin, Greek and classics (a combination of the two). The new, fourth major requires fewer courses in ancient languages and more in ancient history, philosophy, archeology and literature.
Associate Professor Christopher van den Berg says this more accessible major could result in a higher enrollment in Greek and Latin. It will also increase options for students who had no instruction in the classical languages in high school. “We cherish the experience of our focused, intensive language courses,” he says, “but it is also worthwhile to recognize the potential value that greater inclusivity can bring to such courses.”
To mark the start of the major, the department will cross-list a new fall course taught in theater and dance, “Reimagining the
Classics.” In the spring, classics will offer another new course, “Sport and Spectacle in Ancient Greece and Rome.”