Dr. Counter and Dr. Hefferan
How did the two of you come together for this sequence, and how do you see your academic backgrounds complementing one another for this sequence topic?
We came together as scholars with longstanding research interests in Latin America and the Caribbean. Dr. Counter is a geographer who has spent over 10 years researching forced migration and armed conflict in Colombia, and Dr. Hefferan is a cultural anthropologist researching faith-based organizations and international development, with a focus on Haiti. In this context, we both analyze questions of inequality, mobility and human rights in Latin America and are keenly aware of how those dynamics tie in with West Michigan.
How would you describe the main approach you’ll take in the sequence? What kinds of readings and assignments are there? Will there be any out-of-class activities?
This sequence will take a global, regional, and local approach. We will start by investigating key themes related to immigration dynamics at the global scale, focusing specifically on the relationship between Latin America and the United States. With that background, we will then take a deep look at how those processes unfold in the regional context of West Michigan. Readings will include ethnographic accounts of borders and immigration enforcement, historical texts concerning Latin America in West Michigan, and popular culture and news coverage accounts of contemporary local experiences.
The sequence will tie the global to the local through community-focused partnerships and projects, as students themselves investigate issues of local importance. Students will gain research experience in ethnographic and qualitative data collection and analysis. This means that students will be spending time both in and out of the classroom, as they engage meaningfully with big questions of local, regional, and global significance.
What do you expect students, regardless of major, to take away from the sequence?
Regardless of major, students will take away from this course a deep understanding of how West Michigan is truly interconnected with global processes. Relatedly, students will see the important contributions people from Latin America and the Caribbean have made in shaping West Michigan as a region. At the same time, students will gain tremendous hands-on experience engaging directly with local communities around issues that matter to them.
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