Course code:



IM - Introductory/Intermediate

Meets the following requirements:

  • HS - Human Studies

Lab fee:


Social struggles for human rights, indigenous community autonomy, ecological sustainability, equality, sovereignty and other concerns invoke values, draw on methods and appeal to allies from the larger international context and yet play out with their own very distinctive dynamics at community, regional and national levels.

When social movements achieve political power that enables them to use the state in advancing their goals, these dynamics become even more complex. An especially rich and important case study of these complex dynamics is provided by the struggles leading up to the election of Bolivia’s first indigenous president, Evo Morales, and the subsequent efforts to establish a pluri-national state in which rights of Nature (“Pacha Mama”) and of indigenous communities are embedded in a vision of sustainability as “Vivir Bien” (living well as opposed to living “ever better” with more GDP).

The goals of this course are to introduce students to the history and current dynamics of Bolivia with the aim to: a.) develop understanding of development issues as applied to Bolivia’s current context; b.) develop abilities to use theories of social change to interpret and critically analyze cases like Bolivia, and c.) develop their skills in research to generate useful knowledge for activists and change agents.

The class format will include readings, discussion, visiting lectures from other COA faculty, short analytical papers, and term long projects in which students will define and pursue research on a specific topic such as the struggles over issues related to water, food, climate change, coca production, or indigenous culture.

Students will also organize poster presentations as part of the October session of the Society for Human Ecology in which a session on the concept of Vivir Bien in Andean countries is being organized. Evaluation will be based on the extent to which student work in discussion and in these papers, presentations, and other activities provide evidence of achieving the three goals for the course.

Readings will include shorter excerpts from texts in general theories of social change by Charles Tilly, Bill Moyer, Paulo Freire, and others and extensive readings related to Bolivia’s geography, culture, history, economy, and politics. Some summer reading will be assigned as preparation for the course.


Permission of instructor

Always visit the Registrar's Office for the official course catalog and schedules.