Fall 2016 and Winter 2017 quarters

Taught by

Spanish language, Latin American studies
Tom Womeldroff
  • UG

Nowadays, the word border conjures images of the U.S.-Mexico border, patrol agents, walls and barbed wire. Yet there are many kinds of borders: between racial, ethnic, and cultural groups; between social classes; between genders and sexualities; and even between belief systems, languages, and different ways of knowing. They are real and they are metaphorical.  Depending on who you are, you may barely notice some borders, while others may seem impossible to cross. What forces construct—and deconstruct—these various types of borders?  

Economic systems involve many borders. Businesses and policy makers determine how fruits of economic labor are distributed between profits and wages, white collar and blue collar, and between Wall Street and Main Street. Behaviors of real estate agents and bank policies create barriers for people of color buying homes in predominantly white neighborhoods. Immigration status delineates who has the right to work and fully participate in society. What determines which residents, workers, and groups are protected? Who is, and is not, allowed to move freely and why? 

Borders also play out in our identities, in sometimes conflicting ways. Society defines simplistic, often binary boxes—black-white, female-male, gay-straight, young-old, among others—that do not capture a range of experiences along a continuum. The intersections between different aspects of our selves create tensions between generations, within cultural groups, among political activists, within classrooms, or among friends.  

We will combine literature, history, economics, and political economy to examine the role borders play in identities, economic welfare, and community self-determination. While we will be cognizant of all types of borders during both quarters, we will begin fall quarter with the impacts of the international borders dividing the United States from Latin America. In winter we will shift our primary focus to the peoples living within the United States. Students will gain an in-depth ability to critically analyze a range of texts in social context and to use political economic models. We will work systematically on critical reading, writing, and collaboration skills. Quantitative study will focus on international economics and personal finance. We will also cross the campus border to surrounding communities though field trips and some community-based learning with local organizations. 

By the end of the program we will be better able to understand both the forces that create and enforce borders, and the forces that may modify or erase them, sometimes reinforcing patterns of domination, but other times enabling liberatory social change. 

Program Details

Fields of Study

community studies cultural studies economics gender and women's studies international studies literature political economy

Preparatory For

literature, community studies, economics, political economy, cultural studies.


Fall Open Winter Open

Location and Schedule

Campus Location


Time Offered


Advertised Schedule

First winter class meeting: Tuesday, January 10th at 9am (Sem II A1105)

Online Learning

Enhanced Online Learning


$150 per quarter for overnight field trips.