Postprint version. Published in Yearbook of the Association of Pacific Coast Geographers, Volume 70, January 1, 2008, pages 161-164.
The definitive version is available at https://doi.org/10.1353/pcg.0.0000.
Studying Latin America can seem like a fatalistic endeavor, with the heavy burden of structural legacies weighing down on progress and change. In Placing Latin America, Edward Jackiewicz and Fernando Bosco have assembled a volume that not only addresses the stifling effects of these legacies but also, and more importantly, highlights the role of human agency in exploiting the spaces made available to local actors as they stimulate change. As the editors rightfully claim, the underlying themes throughout the work are the seemingly contradictory, and yet related, concepts of continuity and change. The 14 chapters bring together an impressive collection of submissions from established Latin American geographers and fresh faces as well. Conceived as a thematic textbook, it diverges from the traditional pattern of focusing on general themes with interspersed case studies. Instead, the submissions present more specific topics with general themes developed in the process. While this style takes a little adjusting to, it does provide an exciting way to cover the human geography of Latin America in the classroom. For example, Kent Mathewson’s contribution focuses on psychoactive drug production, processing, and trafficking as both a way of exploring this specific issue and covering the historical legacy of Latin American agriculture as a source of luxury crops for the global North. While the same can be done with bananas, I doubt it would be as effective in capturing the attention and imagination of students.
Social and Behavioral Sciences