Appalachian and the Andes: Dialogue North-South in the Americas
Carmen McEvoy has been awarded funds to create a History course comparing life and literature in the Andes and Appalachia. The course is called “Appalachia and the Andes: Dialogue North-South in The Americas.”
Is it possible to compare the rural world of the United States and peasant communities in Latin America? Although Rural History is not part of current historiographical trends this field is crucial to understand the experience of a vast majority of people. Both in North and Latin America, second class citizens struggle with urbanization, social dislocations and the challenges of modernity. Within that conceptual framework, “Appalachia and the Andes: Dialogue North-South” proposes a comparative view that starts with a set of historical readings organized around specific questions. In “The New Rural History: Defining the parameters” Robert Swirenga addresses 4 aspects of Rural history that I am planning to discuss in my course: 1) Social behavior in a variety of a rural historical settings (in this case the Andes and Appalachia); 2) emphasis on historical experience (life and activity of farmers and villagers in both regions); 3) uniqueness of the rural experience (values, large family networks, isolation, work patterns, seasonal labor, sense of pride and honor, etc.; and 4) peasant mentality and folklore.
In “Andes and Appalachia” there are overlapping concepts from older courses: “Peasants and Revolution in Latin America”, “US-Latin American relations” and “Writing the Nation”. This new course departs the understanding of rural life, nation-state building process, the forge of specific identities among peasant but also of the traditional vision Latin Americans have about the US. The course is an attempt to call into question the progressive and democratic view we have of the US exploring, in contrast, the shades of gray related to underdevelopment, isolation and resistance to change in some communities that, just as Appalachia, reproduces LA economic and social experiences.