Decolonial Aesthetic Practices in the Américas


Latin American and Iberian Cultures

Columbia University

Casa Hispánica

612 W116th St. between Broadway and Riverside Dr.

Professor Ana Paulina Lee

Office Hours: Tuesday 12-1pm, and by appointment

Casa Hispánica, 306

Undergraduate Seminar

Course Description

This course is a comparative study of decolonial aesthetic practices of Latin America, with a focus on understanding the relationship between art, politics, and memory. Course readings, in-class mapping workshops, field trips, and discussions will be paired with readings about visual and cultural production in a Latin American context. Alongside readings and class discussions, students will develop their own research projects that explore how decolonial artistic practices have interrupted state politics of recognition through demanding accountability for state violence, invisibilized memories, and silenced histories. This class pairs mapping software projects with theoretical discussions about imaginative geographies, including racialized and gendered notions of proximity and distance that get associated with bodies and places. Through our discussions and in our digital media labs, students learn new ways to think about the relationship between the perceived world and the lived world. This is a hybrid digital media class. Students will have the chance to create their own decolonial maps.

Course Expectations

Each class will be divided into two parts: discussion and digital media lab. During the first half of class, we will use assigned readings as a jumping off point. In some cases, we will build on the readings. In other cases, we will depart from them, always in critical engagement with how we can build upon ideas through our own debates and practice. In the second half of class, we will shift gears to the digital studio lab, which will consist of tutorials and digital media activities that have the objective of finding, making, and collecting data sources that students will use to create their own pages on the class ebook. Throughout the semester, we will question what is applicable to making and collecting data, and what might not be directly related but could give us context.

For labs: Come with computers and assigned digital software installed. What are you working through? What have you tested? The labs are an opportunity to discuss what you and your group are finding. What questions are arising? How do your analyses relate to readings? What are patterns that are becoming apparent in the data sets and maps you are constructing?

Spatial mapping exercises: 20%

Discussion posts and Class Participation (20%): For each class, each student will post a critical response (one to two paragraphs) on the week’s assigned readings to Tome’s blog section by 6:00 PM Mondays. In addition to discussion posts, students will post a map (any map) that they have found interesting and relevant to that day’s readings or previous class discussions.
Facilitation (20%) Each student will present for 10 minutes on a reading in our syllabus. The presenter will also facilitate the seminar discussion on the day of the scheduled presentation. Presenters should integrate discussions made on blog posts into that day’s discussion.

Prospectus (20%) The prospectus is the first step of any research project. In this assignment, you will conceptualize your final project, with the understanding that your prospectus may change when you begin your research.For the prospectus, you will choose an artist who works on any of the course’s themes, for example, migration, settlement and/or urbanization in Latin America.

Provide a brief biography of the artist’s life. Describe their artistic medium. Discuss why you chose this particular artist. Sketch out a few possible information layers you would like to research alongside the biographical research about your artist, for example you may choose a particular historical, political, economic context or cultural and aesthetic movements (approximately 500 words).

Friday, October 6: Prospectus Due – Send as a google doc to and

Final Project (20%) Throughout the course, students will work through basic mapping tutorials and spatial mapping exercises in a collaborative context and with support from our course’s data science specialist. During midterm, students will switch gears and begin to conduct research to compile data for the final project, which will be a map-based project based on the work of an artist or artistic piece. Based on this research, each student will create a visual narrative that tells a particular story about Asian Diasporic Art. Students will create maps and write an accompanying map-based argument. Final projects and papers should be developed in consultation with instructors (approximately 1,000-1,200 words). Students also have the option to turn in an artistic response, in consultation with instructors.

Friday, November 17 Draft of final Madap webpage content due (1,000-1,500 words) Send as a google doc to and

Tuesday, December 5: Class Symposium ***Presentation of final projects***

Plagiarism and Academic Dishonesty Policy:

Columbia College is dedicated to the highest ideals of integrity in academia. Therefore, in Literature Humanities and Contemporary Civilization, any instance of academic dishonesty, attempted or actual, will be reported to the faculty chair of the course and to the dean of the Core Curriculum, who will review the case with the expectation that a student guilty of academic dishonesty will receive the grade of “F” in the course and be referred to dean’s discipline for further institutional action.

In order to receive disability-related academic accommodations, students must first be registered with Disability Services (DS) . More information on the DS registration process is available online at Faculty must be notified of registered students’ accommodations before exam or other accommodations will be provided. Students who have, or think they may have, a disability are invited to contact Disability Services for a confidential discussion at (212) 854-2388 (Voice/TTY) or by email at

September 5 : Introduction to class

Mental Map

A mental map is a person’s internalized representation of the world, combining the objective knowledge of the world and an individual’s subjective perspective. Draw your city, town, or neighborhood according to you. What places do you visit often? How do you get there? Without looking at a map, draw and label places such as your school, stores you visit, routes you take frequently, your home and the homes of your friends, and other favorite landmarks. Photograph your maps and email them to me.

September 12:

Nicolas Mirzoeff, “On Visuality” (PDF)

Sara Ahmed, Orientations: Towards a Queer Phenomenology (PDF)

Digital media lab: Introduction to Mapping and data visualization concepts

Data Visualization of Mental Maps (creating fields, clean data, and methodology)

Write a 500 word narrative about your Mental Map.

September 19:

Edward Said, “Imaginative Geography and its Representations” in Orientalism (PDF)

Nancy Stephan, Chap 5 “National Identity and Racial Transformations” in The Hour of Eugenics

Visit with Lex Taylor, creator of Tome Press

Digital media lab: “Asian Diasporic Aesthetic Practice” (, a look at our class website

Assignment due: Come to class prepared to discuss 1-2 aspects of data visualization based your exploration of the website

Upload Mental Maps and 500-narrative to Madap

September 26: Field trip

“Anatomy of the 7 Train”

Field trip on the 7 train line to Jackson Heights, Queens.

Field work: Linguistic Mapping, in pairs students will map the linguistic landscape of Jackson Heights.

October 3:

Arjun Appardurai, “Here and Now” in Modernity at Large (CLIO)

Walter Mignolo, “Coloniality at Large”

Digital media lab

October 6: Prospectus Due – Send as a google doc to and

October 10:

W.J.T. Mitchell, “What do Pictures Want?” (PDF)

Guy Debord, “Separation Perfected” in Society of the Spectacle

Digital media lab

Assignment: Fill in at least 10 biography data fields about your chosen artist

October 17

Margo Machida, Unsettled Visions: Contemporary Asian American Artists and the Social Imaginary (Chapters 1 and 4)

Digital media lab

Assignment: Fill in at least 10 data fields about one chosen historical, aesthetic, or cultural movement relevant to your chosen artist.

October 24:

Andrea Noble, “Visual Culture and Latin American Studies” The New Centennial Review. (PDF)

Kency Cornejo, “Does that come with a Hyphen? A Space? The Question of Central American-Americans in Latino Art and Pedagogy.” Aztlán: A Journal of Chicano Studies. (PDF)

Digital media lab

October 31:

Field trip to Chinatown

Digital media lab

Intro to web-mapping with Carto (cont’d)

November 7

No Class, Election Day

November 14:

Thomas DaCosta Kauffman, Toward a Geography of Art Part III: The Americas (Chapter 7,8,9) (PDF)

Friday, November 17 Assignment Due: Draft of final Madap webpage content due (1,000-1,500 words) Send as a google doc to and

November 21 Lunch at Faculty House

November 28

Michel de Certeau, “Walking in the City” in The Practice of Everyday Life. (PDF)

Sara Ahmed, Happy Objects (PDF)

História do bairro da liberdade:

Digital studio session

Workshop final presentations, give/receive feedback

Digital studio, workshop final presentations, give/receive feedback

December 5

Class symposium – open to the public

***Presentation of final projects***

Resources for Help with digital software –Columbia data science librarians:

1) Lex Taylor, creator of Tome Press:

2) Will Geary Graduate Assistant and Data Science Specialist

3) Eric Glass (Lehman Library)

4) Dare Ann Brawley (CSR)