Universiteit Leiden

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Latin American Studies (MA)

About the programme

During the Latin American Studies Master's programme you will focus on key social, political, linguistic and cultural developments which are currently shaping the complex reality of Latin America.

Choose from three tracks

At the start of the master in Latin American Studies programme you will choose a disciplinary track

Cultural Analysis in Latin America studies Latin American culture through literature and media in the broadest sense, with  a strong focus on the relationship between cultural production and social contexts. You will explore the ways modern  social dynamics in the region impact on, and are in turn impacted by, Latin American cultural production and identity representations. Also significant is the study of how cultural narratives (whether in literature or film, for example) play a role in allowing different voices and sections of society to articulate their experiences (even when traditionally silenced or marginalized). In this track, we study works drawn from a broad range of fields: from literature, to theatre, film and popular culture (soap operas graphic novels, song lyrics). Staff expertise cover disciplinary fields within literary studies, film and media studies, cultural studies, visual and performing arts, new media.

Examples of research you can  conduct   include specific cultural expressions one can find in the Latin American cities, from graffiti to blogs, from mass cultural events to neighborhood actions to keep their local identity. During fielwork, aside from interviews, for example, archival research can be done into film archives or cultural journals, to name a few, looking at the ways in which specific current issues are treated in film and television production.

If you choose for Public Policies in Latin America (modern Latin American history), you will have the chance to study the fast changing nature of current state-civil society relations in this region. Special attention is paid to such issues as the formulation and application of public policies dealing with problems in fields such as education, citizens’ security, poverty alleviation, indigenous groups, gender issues, health, and environment, and the ways civil society interacts with these initiatives. Staff expertise cover disciplinary fields within modern history, political economy, politics, international relations, anthropology, sociology.

You can conduct for instance fieldwork research on specific programmes implemented by state agencies as well as by local governments, NGOs, and citizens’ initiatives in several Latin American countries. By conducting interviews with citizens, policy-makers, and experts on the specific topic of study, you will obtain a unique experience in Latin America.

Within the Language Variation and Bilingualism track you will study a series of current issues related bilingualism and language variation in the Spanish and Portuguese language as spoken in Latin America. Our faculty members do research on topics such as second language acquisition, grammatical aspects of bilingualism and language contact and syntactic variation. Moreover, faculty members and students bring a strong interdisciplinary focus to scholarship and teaching and actively collaborate with other Leiden University programs, such as the Leiden University Center for Linguistics (LUCL) and the Leiden Institute for Brain and Cognition (LIBC). Staff expertise cover disciplinary fields within sociolinguistics, bilingualism, second-language acquisition, morphosyntax, heritage languages, minority and indigenous languages, language policy, language contact.

During the master main theoretical and methodological issues will be discussed based on examples drawn from studies of bilingualism and language variation in Spanish and Portuguese. Several topics will be presented, from first to second language acquisition, individual to social bilingualism and finally language instruction and language policies concerning bilingualism.

You can conduct research on for instance second language acquisition, language variation, heritage Spanish and Portuguese in the Netherlands.

Fieldwork research

As part of the programme you will spend six to eight weeks in a Latin American country of your choice to conduct fieldwork research for your final thesis. This is a very important part of the programme in which you will not only develop your research but also your personal skills.  In recent years Latin American Studies students have been doing their fieldwork research at the following institutions:

  • Mexico:  Colegio de Mexico (Mexico D.F.), Universidad Jesuita de Guadalajara/ITESO, Benemérita Universidad Autónoma de Puebla 
  • Ecuador: FLACSO 
  • Brazil: Universidade de São Paulo, Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro, Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina, Fundação Getulio Vargas. 
  • Chile: Universidad Diego Portales, Universidad Central de Chile, Universidad de Chile. 
  • Puerto Rico: University of Puerto Rico, Mayaguez 
  • Guatemala: Universidad del Valle de Guatemala 

Course overview

For a detailed programme and an overview of the courses offered on the Latin American Studies Master's programme, please check the Prospectus.

Please note that this guide applies to the current academic year, which means that the curriculum for next year may slightly differ.



Theoretical seminar within chosen track


Research Methods seminar within chosen track


Research in Latin America, November – January (or over Summer period if you start the MA in February)






Public Policies

  • National Identity and Nation Branding in Chile
  • The project of the Nicaraguan Canal: Nationalism versus economic development

Cultural Analysis

  • The representation of domestic servants in Brazilian cinema
  • The conceptualization of the border in contemporary Mexican literature

Language Variation and Bilingualism

  • The phenomenon of Code-switching among Polish Immigrants in Argentina
  • The acquisition of Grammatical Gender in Dutch: a comparison between Dutch Monolingual Children and Spanish-Dutch Bilingual children

Topics within the courses are connected to the evolving social, linguistic and cultural issues shaping Latin America. Each year, we organize a rich programme of invited academic speakers, including guest lecture series by scholars from Brazil, and a dedicated course taught by a prominent scholar from Chile. . Speakers from other Dutch and foreign universities, NGOs, embassies and International Relations also regularly speak at guest lectures. 

The aim of the MA in Latin American Studies is to ensure you graduate with state-of-the-art knowledge about key academic issues that are currently under discussion in and on Latin America in the fields of modern history, cultural analysis or linguistics. In addition, you will have learned how to carry out independent research in a Latin American country, and how to develop this research into an academic piece of work in the form of a written dissertation.

Gabriel Inzaurralde


Gabriel Inzaurralde

“Because of the traumatic phenomenon of the European conquest, among other factors, Latin America has always been the territory of extreme inequalities, cultural and political confrontation, but also the continent of utopian experimentation, revolutions and social movements. In the Cultural Analysis track we take the pulse of the flow of texts, images and ideas that have accompanied the unique process of Latin American modernity. In this way, students acquire familiarity with topics within Latin American debates that also connect with many of their own concerns about the future of culture in our time."

"We study in detail the complex relationship between politics and culture in Latin America, the traumatic background of oppression and looting as well as the memory of the historical sufferings of a continent. But we also study the cultural memory of hope that cinema, literature, music and Latin American social movements have been building with the traces left by the enthusiasm, creativity and rebellion of the people.”

Maria del Carmen Parafita Couto

University Lecturer

Maria del Carmen Parafita Couto

“When the Spaniards and the Portuguese arrived in what is now known as Latin America, they came into contact with multiple indigenous linguistic communities (Quechua, Aymara, Mayan languages, etc.). Latin America is also home to many migrant languages (Italian, German, Welsh, etc.). The combination of Spanish and Portuguese with indigenous and migrant languages makes Latin America a remarkable area for the study of multilingualism as a linguistic, cultural and social phenomenon."

"In the Language Variation and Bilingualism track, students develop critical insights into the role that multilingualism plays in Latin American cultural, social and political life, and how multilingualism plays a role in shaping Latin American society. Students also develop an understanding of the underlying linguistic mechanisms of multilingual phenomena such as code-switching and borrowing, as well as specific issues that arise during the process of language acquisition and in the grammars of so-called ¨heritage¨ speakers."

"The Language Variation and Bilingualism track supports inter- and multi-disciplinary research involving local communities and languages in different regions of Latin America. We welcome students interested in completing research projects on any aspect of multilingualism or language variation in the region.”

Patricio Silva

Professor of Modern Latin American History

Patricio Silva

“Most of our students not only want to learn about Latin America but also, if possible, to contribute to the solution of its problems. The programme is entirely focused on the explorations of key social problems in the region but also on their possible solutions. The fact that students are challenged to think about what to do, how and why, motivates them enormously.”

No easy solutions

“I turn my students into critical thinkers by confronting them with the very hard reality that there are no easy and fast solutions for complex developmental problems. Hence, all the existing choices have their pros and cons. So what seems to be the optimal solution at first glance, can produce disastrous consequences for a country. They become critical thinkers by being cautious and inquisitive about the possible effects of specific public policies.”

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