Northwestern Events Calendar


A Class That Does (Not) Matter: Rethinking Cold War Latin America from the Middle (Ricardo López-Pedreros)

When: Monday, November 30, 2020
12:00 PM - 1:30 PM CT

Where: Online

Audience: Faculty/Staff - Student - Public - Post Docs/Docs - Graduate Students

Cost: Free and open to everyone

Contact: Danny Postel  

Group: Latin American and Caribbean Studies

Category: Academic, Lectures & Meetings, Multicultural & Diversity, Global & Civic Engagement


Please join the Latin American and Caribbean Studies Program for this lecture by historian Ricardo López-Pedreros.

The last decade has seen the publication of important scholarship from different disciplines on the making of the middle classes across the world. In this presentation, historian Ricardo López-Pedreros will seek to bring together this interdisciplinary production to initiate a critical conversation on how to rethink the historical formation of the middle classes—as a social category, a political project, a subjectivity, and a material reality—in Latin America during the second half of the 20th century.

The presentation will proceed in two ways. First, it will offer a transnational genealogy of the idea of the middle class in the Americas to explain why, despite the increasing number of scholars committed to the study of the middle classes, this class appears vestigial—that is, as a class that does not matter—in what is considered a “proper” analysis of power relationships. Second, by drawing on the case of Colombia in a transitional framework, it will demonstrate how the study of the historical formation of the middle classes during the Cold War opens up a multiplicity of questions to rethink major historical processes in Latin America: meanings of citizenship, the relationship between state and society, experiences of (counter) revolutionary change, the growth of affective labor, the naturalization of different forms of material inequality, and democracy as a methodology of domination.

This presentation is an effort to stimulate a broader discussion on how we materialize interdisciplinary approaches to critically question the role of the middle classes in our current neoliberal order now that scholars and policy-makers alike have yet again sacralized the middle classes as the solution to the “crisis” of democracy, the expansion of unequal distribution of wealth, and the political repercussions of neoliberalism across the world.

Ricardo López-Pedreros is Professor of History at Western Washington University. He is author of Makers of Democracy: A Transnational History of the Middle Classes in Colombia (Duke University Press, 2019) and co-editor of The Middle Classes in Latin America: Subjectivities, Practices, and Genealogies (Routledge, 2021). He is the President of United Faculty of Western Washington.

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