Field: Latin America
Advisor: Nara Milanich
Yesenia Barragan is currently a Woodrow Wilson National Dissertation Fellow (15-16) and Doctoral Candidate in Latin American History, focusing on race, slavery, and emancipation in Colombia and the Americas. Her dissertation titled, “To The Mine I Will Not Go: Freedom and Emancipation on the Colombian Pacific, 1821-1852,” explores the social and political struggles over freedom and bondage during the gradual abolition of slavery along the Pacific coast of Colombia, the gold-mining center of the former Spanish Empire. Drawing upon never previously examined notarial and ecclesiastical records, civil and criminal cases, and government correspondence in archives across Colombia, Spain, the U.S., and the U.K., her dissertation analyzes the rule of freedom as it played out in the lives of enslaved families, the children of the Free Womb, white, mestizo, and free black slave masters, and republican officials during gradual emancipation in Colombia. Her committee includes Nara Milanich (Advisor), Pablo Piccato, Caterina Pizzigoni, Michael Taussig (Anthropology), and Marcela Echeverri (Yale).
Yesenia is the past recipient of a Ford Foundation Predoctoral Fellowship (3 years), the Social Science Research Council-International Dissertation Research Fellowship, the Evelyn Walker Fellowship, the George E. Haynes Fellowship, and the Richard Hofstadter Fellowship. Grants from the Institute of Latin American Studies, the Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race, the SSRC-Mellon Mays Initiative, and the Mining History Association have supported her archival research in Colombia, Spain, and the United States. At Columbia, she was the co-founder of the interdisciplinary Workshop on Critical Approaches to Race and Ethnicity, and the Graduate History Association’s Diversity Chair. Last year, she organized a national conference Reworking Freedom: Graduate Student Workshop on Re-Centering the Enslaved in Histories of the Americas at the Institute for Research in African-American Studies at Columbia. She has served as a Teaching Fellow for Colonial and Modern Latin America, and recently designed and taught her own undergraduate seminar “Race in Latin America.”
Currently, Yesenia is a monthly opinion columnist for TeleSur English, where she writes on race, popular culture, and social movements in the Americas and Europe, including pieces such as "Ferguson is the Afterlife of Slavery in the Americas" and "Black Lives Matter in Colombia." Recently, she published "Death, Slavery, and Spiritual Justice on the Colombian Black Pacific (1837)" on Nuevo Mundo, Mundos Nuevos, and has a forthcoming article “Slavery, Free Black Women, and the Politics of Place in Chocó, Colombia” in Revista de Estudios Colombianos, in addition to entries for The Dictionary of Caribbean and Afro-Latin American Biography (Oxford University Press, 2014). Last year, she published a book, Selling Our Death Masks: Cash-for-Gold in the Age of Austerity (Zero Books, 2014), an experimental historical ethnography on cash-for-gold shops in the wake of the latest economic crisis based on fieldwork in Colombia, Spain, and Greece. With a foreword by the anthropologist Michael Taussig, Selling Our Death Masks was recently reviewed in the Los Angeles Review of Books.
Yesenia received her Masters from Columbia in 2010, with a thesis entitled “From Agricultural Modernization to Alternative Energy: The First and Second Green Revolutions in Colombia,” and her M.Phil. from Columbia in 2012. Prior to Columbia, she received her B.A. with Honors, Magna Cum Laude, in Political Philosophy and Ethics and Latin American History at Brown University in 2008, where she was a Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellow and Beinecke Scholar. For more on her public intellectual work, follow her on twitter @Y__Barragan.