In recent years, pundits and thinkers alike have questioned whether the age of the nation-state is reaching its end. For many reasons, this geopolitical entity — in everyday language, a country (see: Introductory Essay) — appears less and less capable of resolving the political, social, economic, and ecological challenges facing humankind. In a sense, this is a continuation of a historical trend: since World War II, numerous international organizations — such as the United Nations, the International Court of Justice, and the World Trade Organization — have been founded to govern matters that exceed national borders. Today, crises of inequality, global warming, and coronavirus all supersede the capacities of national governments; increasingly, these challenges demand we appeal to institutions both larger and smaller than the nation-state to find support and organize responses. Meanwhile, the countervailing power of multinational corporations, terrorist organizations, and crime syndicates belie the belief that national governments have the power and sovereignty to shelter and protect their citizens. For these and other reasons, it is possible that within your lifetimes you will witness the erosion of the nation-state and the emergence of new forms of political organization in its wake.
Through States of Belonging, we evaluate two centuries of revolution, repression, war, and democracy in Latin America to reflect upon the challenges of the present and possible political futures. Individually and cooperatively, students evaluate and analyze dozens of primary and secondary historical documents that speak to how citizens and non-citizens interpreted their relationships with their countries as they fought for rights, liberties, and justice. Through scaffolded assignments, each student creates a personal storymap — what we call an “Itinerary of Belonging” — that combines historical analysis with critical reflection on their own experiences and positionality vis-a-vis the nation-state.