Latin American and Latino Studies Ph.D.


The Ph.D. program in Latin American and Latino Studies at UCSC offers an innovative transnational and interdisciplinary approach to the study of the peoples, cultures, societies and institutions of the Americas. The program is designed to educate students in this new field of study and train them to develop the conceptual and analytical skills necessary for understanding the dynamics of hemispheric change. This is the first doctoral program in Latin American and Latino Studies.

In preparing students for research and teaching at the university level, the department offers four thematic clusters in the emerging field of Latin American and Latino Studies: 1) transnational migrations within the Americas; 2) social inequalities; 3) cultural politics and cultural flows; and 4) collective action and social movements. Doctoral students specialize in one of these four substantive themes, as well as a focus area of their own design.

  • Transnationalisms , Migrations, and Displacement. While transnational migrations are the subject of research in multiple disciplines, this program analyzes these transformative processes through an interdisciplinary lens. A transnational approach examines links between regions in the Americas, analyzing the social and historical foundations of economic dynamics such as remittances from the United States or the dollarization of Latin American countries. A transnational approach to the study of migratory processes explores the dynamics of bi-national communities, bilingualism and multilingualism, immigrant integration into host societies, and North-South exchanges of ideas and cultures.
  • Intersectionality , Identities, and Inequalities. This program’s research in the Americas foregrounds the study of transnational social inequalities formed by power relations based on race, ethnicity, nationality, citizenship, class, territory, gender and/or sexuality. These social hierarchies are analyzed as institutions, historical processes, discourses, or symbols with multiple meanings, and are examined in terms of how they have been mobilized to build, transform, or challenge identities, communities, and social movements in local, national, and global contexts over time.
  • Cultural, Power, and Knowledge. Another distinctive area of inquiry in the Americas is the study of cultural politics and cultural flows that shape everyday life, institutions, social identities, discourses, meanings, and cultural forms and practices, in global, regional, and local contexts in an increasingly interconnected and integrated world. The transnational analysis of culture focuses on the ways in which cultural forces and cross-cultural communication and media are contributing to the formation of new transnational imaginaries, as well as how these cultural processes are transforming and redefining national and local cultures.
  • Collective Action, Social Movements, and Social Change. This area of research addresses collective action and social movements at local, national and international levels viewed through transnational lenses. As migrants engage in public life, both in their communities of residence and in their communities of origin, they construct diverse practices of political participation, including "civic binationality.” These processes are crucial for understanding the largest wave of immigration in a century, including how migrants relate to US society.

The doctoral program provides rigorous training in both disciplinary and interdisciplinary approaches to the study of transnational processes that link the Americas. The program educates doctoral students in the theories and research methods based in disciplines of the social sciences and the humanities.

The deadline for applications to the doctoral program is December 15 in the preceding year. The program only accepts students for admission in fall quarter.

Advancement to Candidacy

Course Requirements

Thirteen Courses

The program requires a total of 13 courses with LALS Graduate Program Affiliated Faculty, including the definition of two areas of concentration. Of the required courses, up to three may be independent studies with LALS faculty. Of the 13 required courses, students may take up to five graduate courses offered in other departments and with approval from the graduate director.

Before advancement to candidacy, a full-time course load is two or three courses at the graduate level.

The following are the course requirements:

LALS200Bridging Latin American and Latina/o Studies


LALS200APower and Society


LALS200BTheories of Culture in the Americas


LALS201Research in Praxis: Epistemology, Ontology, and Ethics


Two Methodology Courses Taught in LALS or in a Disciplinary Department

All graduate students in-residence are required to enroll in the 2-credit LALS Graduate Colloquium every quarter.

Six additional 5-credit courses leading to the definition of two areas of concentration, taken in consultation with the faculty adviser.

If students enroll in a graduate summer language course, the course will not count as part of the six additional required courses.

If a student enters with a master’s degree from another university, they may petition to the graduate director to apply some

Foreign Language Requirement

The program requires significant reading, writing and speaking abilities in both English and Spanish.

As per Graduate Division requirements, the secondary language requirement must be satisfied by the end of the third year, prior to Advancing to Candidacy. The secondary language requirement may be fulfilled by:

  1. Departmental sit-down, Spanish-to-English translation examination
    1. UCSC graduate courses in Spanish/Portuguese
    2. Passing a 5-credit graduate seminar in LALS or other UCSC department, offered in secondary language during the academic year
  2. Passing a UCSC Literature Department summer research language course
  3. Summer immersion program, e.g. Berkeley, Cornell, or abroad. The program must have a scholarly and rigorous focus, the student must receive advance approval from faculty adviser, and the student must submit to the graduate adviser a letter from the program attesting to their completion of the program and their satisfactory performance in the secondary language. We urge students who choose this option to organize their language training early in their graduate career.
  4. Graduating from a university with primary instruction in Spanish/Portuguese.

Students will be required to include information regarding their plans for satisfying the secondary language requirement in their End-of-Year statements in the first and second years.

Students are required to demonstrate, by one of the methods listed above, their proficiency in a language other than English before the completion of the qualifying examination.

Qualifying Examination

Doctoral students will be required to submit two qualifying essays, and a qualifying examination, as described below. A qualifying examination committee, composed of four faculty members, will approve both the scope of the field statements constituting the qualifying essays and the final written products, and conduct the oral examination. This committee must include at least two LALS faculty members (i.e. LALS core faculty and LALS graduate program affiliates), and follow graduate division guidelines. The qualifying examination committee must be approved in advance by the Graduate Division. Students should take their examinations by spring of the third year. The qualifying-examination process is discussed in detail in a meeting with the graduate program coordinator and graduate director as graduate students finish the fall quarter of their second year.

  1. Qualifying Essays. Students are required to complete two qualifying essays. The qualifying essay topics should address broad non-overlapping fields and review the literatures related to the proposed dissertation questions. Students should consult with their qualifying examination committee early in the process, regarding the appropriate scope and content of their essays.

    One of the qualifying essays must focus on one of the department’s four themes: transnational migrations and social displacement; intersectionality, identities and inequalities; collective action, social movements and social change; and culture, power, and knowledge. The qualifying essay should demonstrate command of the methodology relevant to the student’s specialized research interests (e.g., ethnographic field methods, textual analysis, archival research methods, statistics, media analysis, and/or comparative methods) and include relevant texts in the second language. The committee chair must approve these essays at least one month prior to the oral examination.

    In addition, the essays must be accompanied by two proposed course syllabi for potential undergraduate courses.
  2. Qualifying Examination. An oral examination will follow the approval of the qualifying essays.
  3. After successfully completing the qualifying examination, students are expected to assemble a dissertation committee chaired by a LALS principal faculty member chosen from the LALS core or LALS graduate program affiliate faculty lists.
  4. Coursework and the qualifying process should be completed by the end of the third year. Students may petition for a non-terminal master’s degree after advancing to candidacy.



Students will be expected to complete the dissertation prospectus and secure approval from the dissertation committee by the last day of the quarter after the qualifying examination. In the prospectus, students should clearly articulate the logic of an interdisciplinary, transnational approach, as well as the methodologies to be used for addressing the research questions.

The dissertation must demonstrate in-depth research, make a significant and original scholarly contribution, and include material worthy of publication.