Bolivia: Multiculturalism, Globalization, and Social Change


Three recent semesters of college-level Spanish or equivalent and the ability to follow coursework in Spanish, as assessed by SIT.

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Students on the Bolivia program take two thematic seminars, a language course, and a methods seminar. They then engage in a full Independent Study Project as the final course of the program.

The following syllabi are either from a recent session of this program or for an upcoming session. Because courses develop and change over time to take advantage of dynamic learning opportunities, actual course content will vary from term to term.

The syllabi can be useful for students, faculty, and study abroad offices in assessing credit transfer.  Read more about credit transfer.

Historical and Contemporary Social Change in Bolivia -syllabus (PDF)
(LACB 3000 / 3 credits / 45 class hours)
In this interdisciplinary seminar, students explore Bolivia’s complex history and current realities in order contextualize the program’s theme of community well-being (or “vivir bien”). Students examine the encounter between indigenous groups and the Spaniards, the psychological impact of conquest/colonization, and the extractivist mentality, as well as histories of resistance and resilience. With the largest indigenous population in Latin America (coming from 36 different ethnic groups) and the first indigenous president in the Americas, Bolivia provides a unique site in which to consider these issues. Students will explore the influence of indigenous cosmovisión and systems of knowledge in the articulations of new visions of social change in Bolivia. As they move through the seminar, students will consider the interplay between multiculturalism and globalization and, in particular, critically examine Western models of “helping” or aid. This course includes lectures from both leading intellectuals and leaders of social movements in Cochabamba, Sucre, and Potosí. All coursework is conducted in Spanish.

Vivir Bien: Well-Being and Resilience in Andean and Amazonian Communities - syllabus (PDF)
(LACB 3005 / 3 credits / 45 class hours)
While the first seminar outlines a larger context of struggle and grounds students in the social realities of the nation, the second seminar focuses on community well-being and resilience. Students will inquire into how different Bolivian communities are employing a range of resources to find new ways forward in the face of rampant change. In particular, they will explore Western concepts such as resilience, well-being, health, and happiness, in dialogue with the Bolivian concepts of vivir bien and ayni (reciprocity), asking how these different ways of viewing the world affect communities’ encounters with globalization and Bolivia’s contemporary sociopolitical struggles. They will examine how these understandings and interactions play out at both the community and the family levels. Students will ask: How does migration affect families, and how do they cope? How are childhood and adolescence changing in an increasingly globalized context? What is happening to gender roles? How do reaffirmations of cultural tradition, spirituality of different origins, healing, new ways of looking at education, harmony with Pachamama (mother earth), and the arts all provide potential routes to resilience? Do NGOs and government agencies play a positive or negative role in improving community lives and striving for sumak kawsay (living well)? Through the seminar lectures, experiential activities and direct engagement with a range of local community members in Andean and Amazonian communities, students will begin to construct their own understandings of the complex psychology and socio-politics of community well-being in Bolivia. All coursework is conducted in Spanish.

Intensive Language Study: Spanish for the Social Sciences I - syllabus (PDF)
(SPAN 2500 / 3 credits / 45 class hours)
Intensive Language Study: Spanish for the Social Sciences II - syllabus (PDF)
(SPAN 3500 / 3 credits / 45 class hours)
Guided Self-Instruction: Advanced Literature - syllabus (PDF)
(GSI 4000 / 3 credits / 45 class hours)
Guided Self-Instruction: Specialized Language Study - syllabus (PDF)
(GSI 4500 / 3 credits / 45 class hours)
Intensive Language Study: Quechua I - syllabus (PDF)
(QUEC 1000 / 3 credits / 45 class hours)
Based on in-country evaluation, including oral proficiency testing, students are placed in intensive intermediate or advanced Spanish classes, with further language practice in homestays, lectures, and field visits. Emphasis is on speaking, reading, and writing skills through classroom and field instruction. In lieu of the Spanish courses, and for an additional fee, students already fluent in Spanish may choose either to study Quechua or to participate in either one of the Guided Self-Instruction courses. Students who choose the Guided Self-Instruction: Advanced Literature course will meet weekly with a prominent Bolivian author to discuss selected works. Students who choose the Guided Self-Instruction: Specialized Language Study will have the opportunity to combine intensive language study with field research or fieldwork with a local organization. Quechua language instruction will be taught either by a private Quechua language teacher or by an instructor at the Instituto IICA.

Research Methods and Ethics - syllabus (PDF)
(ANTH 3500 / 3 credits / 45 class hours)
In this research methods course designed to prepare students for the Independent Study Project, students learn how to organize and conduct a research project. Through lectures, readings, and field activities, students study and practice a range of methods. They examine the ethical issues surrounding field research and are guided through the World Learning/SIT Human Subjects Review process, which forms a core component of the course. By the end of the course students will have chosen a research topic, selected appropriate methods and written a solid proposal for an Independent Study Project related to the program’s themes. All coursework is conducted in Spanish.

Independent Study Project - syllabus (PDF)
(ISPR 3000 / 4 credits / 120 class hours)
Conducted at any approved and appropriate location in Bolivia, the Independent Study Project offers students the opportunity to conduct field research on a topic of their choice within the program’s thematic parameters. The project integrates learning from the various components of the program and culminates in a final presentation and formal research paper. Students are also welcome to do creative projects along with the research paper with approval from the director. Sample topic areas: the use of graffiti in Andean urban feminist communities in La Paz; systems of Andean community justice in rural communities; integrating traditional midwives into rural community hospitals serving indigenous families; using equine therapy in programs for marginalized youth; decolonizing education within Bolivia’s rural indigenous universities; using dance to visibilize discrimination against Afro-Bolivians; community organizing in women’s domestic workers unions; harvesting the Brazil nut as a community response to deforestation in the Amazon; community responses to intimate partner violence in Cochabamba; psychology of children of Bolivian migrants; examining identities of youth migrants through art and theater; and women leading the fight against mining contamination in their communities.

Browse this program's Independent Study Projects/Undergraduate Research

Costs Dates

Credits: 16

Duration: 15 weeks

Program Base: Cochabamba

Language Study: Aymara,  Quechua,  Spanish

Prerequisites: 3 semesters Spanish


View Student Evaluations for this program:

About the Evaluations (PDF)

Fall 2013 Evaluations (PDF)
Spring 2013 Evaluations (PDF)
Fall 2012 Evaluations (PDF)

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