This class examines the nature, historical roots, and present-day meanings of revolutionary and state-directed violence during the “Cold War” in Latin America.

Students will first acquire an understanding of how “hot” the region was during a global conflict which stretched across the late 1940s and 1980s. We will then focus on Guatemala’s “armed internal conflict” (1960-1996) which claimed at least 200,000 lives and involved the United States as a key provider of training and aid to Guatemala’s military and police forces. Students will engage with archival materials throughout the course, culminating in a project integrating documents from our library’s GAM Digital Archive Project. The GAM project is an effort to digitize and describe case files of disappeared persons housed at Guatemala’s oldest human rights group.

By the end of the course, students will

  1. gain a broad overview of the Cold War in Latin America,
  2. understand the way in which archives and their silences shape the production of historical knowledge
  3. conduct archival research aimed at affecting historical memory of state violence in Guatemala and promoting social justice for victims.


(25% of grade) Class participation, reading quizzes, and reflections
Students will learn to organize and work through ideas in our class discussions. Participation in discussion is central to most classroom activity and will be noted throughout the semester. Students will also take short, low-stakes reading quizzes at the start of classes focused on discussing readings. Throughout the early, reading-intensive period of our class students will also write short (~500 word) reflective essays.

(25%) Secondary source analysis
Students will learn to analyze secondary sources as scholarship produced from a specific disciplinary or interdisciplinary perspective (e.g. anthropological, historical, sociological). Students will be given a primer on “How to read a book” (Edwards 2011) and then tasked with selecting a monograph and analyzing how the author draws on primary sources and other forms of evidence to present their argument. Students will also engage with the academic journal book review as a form of modeling components of this assignment.

(25%) Primary source analysis
Students will be assigned case files from the Grupo de Apoyo Mutuo Digital Archive, a Haverford library post-custodial digital archive. Students will read and summarize translations of the case files in order to argue connections between these primary sources and the overview they have gained of violence in the context of Guatemala and Latin America during the Cold War. Students must draw on their secondary source analysis to make detailed examinations of how primary sources are used to make arguments. Students will present their work during the final week of class.

(25%) GAM Digital Archive Workshop
Students will participate in a workshop to digitize and describe case files as a part of the GAM Digital Archive project. Working in small groups, students will learn about the technical aspects of digitization, metadata, and tools for producing digital scholarship based on archival materials.

Haverford Access and Disability Services

Haverford College is committed to providing equal access to students with a disability.  If you have (or think you have) a learning difference or disability – including mental health, medical, or physical impairment, please contact the Office of Access and Disability Services (ADS) at  The Coordinator will confidentially discuss the process to establish reasonable accommodations. 

Students who have already been approved to receive academic accommodations and want to use their accommodations in this course should share their verification letter with me and also make arrangements to meet with me as soon as possible to discuss their specific accommodations.  Please note that accommodations are not retroactive and require advance notice to implement.

It is a state law in Pennsylvania that individuals must be given advance notice if they are to be recorded.  Therefore, any student who has a disability-related need to audio record this class must first be approved for this accommodation from the Coordinator of Access and Disability Services and then must speak with me.  Other class members will need to be aware that this class may be recorded.