Course code:



A - Advanced

Meets the following requirements:

  • HY - History
  • HS - Human Studies

Lab fee:


Typically offered:


This course explores the rich history of Guatemala through the lens of two vital products, corn and coffee.

The crops provide insight into the global and local dimensions of both historical and contemporary reality there. The course will cover the history of Guatemala from pre-contact native society through the myriad changes wrought by colonialism, decolonization, the rise of the modern nation state, and the transformations associated with the rise of coffee as a major export crop. Corn and coffee provide a convenient vantage point from which to examine the social, economic, and cultural dynamics of native society on the one hand and the globally-connected production of coffee on the other.

The course moves from a broad macro perspective on each crop to an intensive exploration of how both are produced in Guatemala. In this way, class participants will be able to look at how global historical trends in consumption have played themselves out in local communities. The class will simultaneously be able to look at the processes at work in pueblos throughout Guatemala that root the corn economy into rich cultural and social dynamics that are at the core of communal life.

Using these two crops as a starting point, the class will allow students to develop a holistic and synthetic understanding how Guatemalans live their everyday lives embedded in intensely local realities even as they experience much larger national and international processes. The course emphasizes attention to the broad global dimensions of corn and coffee’s production as well as the fine-grained study of Guatemala’s socio-cultural life in historical and anthropological perspective. Through discussions of the books, this seminar-style course seeks to provide students with deep insights into the history of Guatemala while maintaining a sense of the global and regional context.

Intensive readings will provide students with a snapshot of trends in both history and ethnography while broader synthetic analyses of both corn and coffee will embody more popular approaches to the topic. Students will lead discussions of the readings, write short synthetic essays, and undertake a research project for the class.


Signature of the instructor, any of the following courses: Native Empires to Nation States; Articulated Identities; American Worlds.

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