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 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 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 foregrounds the study of transnational social inequalities formed by power relations based on race, ethnicity, nationality, citizenship, class, territory, gender and/or sexuality in the Américas. These social hierarchies are analyzed as institutions, historical processes, discourses, or signifiers 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.
  • Culture, Power, and Knowledge. Another distinctive area of inquiry 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 the Américas and in an increasingly interconnected world. The transnational analysis of culture focuses on the ways 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 bi-nationality.” 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 mid-December in the preceding year. The program only accepts students for admission in fall quarter.

Advancement to Candidacy

Course Requirements

Twelve Courses

The program requires a total of 12 courses with LALS Graduate Program affiliated faculty. Of the required courses, up to two may be independent studies with LALS faculty and up to four may be taken in other departments. The graduate advisor will determine whether these courses count for the LALS program requirements.

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

The following are the course requirements:

These four core courses are required for all students.

LALS 200Bridging Latin American and Latina/o Studies


LALS 200APower and Structure in the Américas


LALS 200BCultures and Subjectivities in the Américas


LALS 201Research in Practice


Two methodology courses taught in LALS or in a disciplinary department.

Six additional 5-credit graduate courses taken in consultation with the faculty advisor.

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

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

Incoming LALS graduate students may petition to substitute up to four equivalent courses completed in other graduate-level programs. No substitutions will be granted for the four core courses.

Foreign Language Requirement

The language of instruction in most seminars is English, and students are expected to develop their reading, writing, and speaking/presentation abilities as they complete the program requirements. In addition, they are expected to develop their research abilities and proficiency in Spanish, Portuguese, an Indigenous language of the Americas, or another language that is central to their research, according to their research goals and in order to engage with the scholarship being produced across the Americas.

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. UC Santa Cruz graduate courses in Spanish, Portuguese, or another language central to the research project:
    Passing a 5-credit graduate seminar in LALS or other UCSC department offered in the language during the academic year, or passing a UCSC Literature Summer Research Language course
  2. Accredited 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 their faculty advisor, and the student must submit to the graduate advisor a letter from the program attesting to their completion of the program and their satisfactory performance in the language.
  3. Graduated from a university with primary instruction in Spanish, Portuguese, or another language central to the research project.
  4. Pass LALS Department language exam in Spanish or 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 (field statements), two original course syllabi, a dissertation prospectus, and an oral Qualifying Examination (QE), as described below.

A Qualifying Exam Committee, composed of four faculty members, will approve both the scope of the field statements and the final written products, including the dissertation prospectus, and will conduct the oral examination. The committee also provides students with guidance and feedback throughout the QE process. Of the four members, this committee must include at least two LALS faculty members—at least one of whom is an LALS core faculty member, while the other may be LALS core or affiliate. One of these two must chair the committee. The committee also must include one tenured faculty from outside the LALS department (this person might or might not be an affiliate faculty member). Emeriti faculty are not permitted to chair the committee, and only one emeritus faculty member is permitted on each committee. Both the outside member of the QE committee and the QE chair must be tenured. The qualifying examination committee must be approved in advance by the Graduate Division.

Students should take their oral examinations by spring quarter of the third year. The Qualifying Exam process is discussed in detail in a mandatory colloquium session with the graduate program coordinator and graduate director each academic 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. Prospectus. The prospectus is a carefully conceived, coherent research proposal for the doctoral dissertation. It should clearly present and justify the student’s research interests and the questions that will guide the dissertation. It should demonstrate command of the methodology relevant to the student’s specialized interests (e.g., ethnographic field methods, textual analysis, archival research methods, statistics, media/content analysis and/or comparative methods, etc.). The prospectus will often need to be revised even after the student passes the Qualifying Exam and advances to candidacy.
  3. Qualifying Examination. An oral examination will follow the approval of the qualifying essays.

After successfully completing the Qualifying Examination, students are expected to assemble a Dissertation Committee that includes a minimum of three faculty members, one of whom must be designated as the dissertation chair/advisor. The Dissertation Committee chair may be the same faculty member who served as the QE committee chair. The Dissertation Committee must be chaired by a LALS core ladder-rank faculty member and include two additional members, one of whom must be a faculty member from LALS—including core ladder-rank, emeriti, and affiliate faculty. Only one faculty emeritus/a is permitted on each Dissertation Committee. Students may have one member from another campus. Normally the Dissertation Committee is selected from the QE Committee, but this is not required.

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.