Westenly Alcenat

Yesenia Barragan

Email: Yesenia Barragan
Field: Latin America
Advisor: Nara Milanich
Year: 2009

I am a Ph.D. Candidate in Latin American History, focusing on social and environmental history, and slavery and abolition in Colombia and the Americas. My dissertation entitled, “To The Mine I Will Not Go: Freedom and the Abolition of Slavery in the Colombian Black Pacific, 1821-1852,” is a social and political history of the gradual abolition of slavery (1821-1852) in the heart of Colombia's Black Pacific, the Pacific coastal province of Chocó, located in the northwestern, frontier region of Colombia. The historic gold-mining center of the Spanish Kingdom, Chocó is currently the region most densely populated by Afro-Colombians, descendants of slaves who were forced to labor in the province's grueling mines. Using archival sources such as notarial and judicial records, government correspondence, and the local press, in addition to oral traditions, I examine the various labyrinths of freedom and unfreedom enslaved and free black communities confronted and maneuvered during this protracted process of gradual emancipation. My dissertation committee includes Nara Milanich (Chair), Pablo Piccato, Caterina Pizzigoni, Natasha Lightfoot, and Michael Taussig (Anthropology).

My archival research and studies at Columbia have been supported by the Ford Foundation Predoctoral Fellowship, the Social Science Research Council-International Dissertation Research Fellowship, the Evelyn Walker Fellowship, the George E. Haynes Fellowship, and the Richard Hofstadter Fellowship, in addition to grants from the Institute of Latin American Studies, the Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race, and the SSRC-Mellon Mays Initiative. At Columbia, I was also the co-founder of the Workshop on Critical Approaches to Race and Ethnicity, a program of the Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race at Columbia, in addition to being the 2011-2012 Coordinator of the Columbia/Barnard Latin American History Workshop. I also helped form the Graduate History Association's Students of Color and Allies Chair. In addition to working on initiatives to increase racial and social diversity in higher education, I also serve as a staff member for AfroColombia NY, an NYC-based organization that organizes events on AfroColombian history, culture, and social issues.

My publications include articles such as “Freedom and the Politics of Place: The Case of María Antonia Serna in Chocó, Colombia, 1843-45,” in Negritud: Journal of Afro-Latin American Studies, “States of Emergency: Green Capitalism and Transnational Resistance,” in The End of the World As We Know It? Crisis, Resistance, and the Age of Austerity on AK Press, and “Dear 47 Pink Street: A Memoir,” in Anamesa: An Interdisciplinary Journal, in addition to forthcoming pieces in World Turning: Race, Class, Gender and Global Climate Change and The Dictionary of Caribbean and Afro-Latin American Biography on Oxford University Press. Moreover, I write fictocriticism, and am particularly interested in exploring alternative modes of historical analysis and methods of composition. My short, experimental book entitled, Selling Our Death Masks: Cash-for-Gold in the Age of Austerity, examines the transhistorical significance of gold and cash-for-gold shops in our times, and is forthcoming on Zero Books (2014). For more about my work and studies, feel free to check out: http://columbia.academia.edu/YeseniaBarragan

I received my Masters from Columbia in 2010, with a thesis entitled "From Agricultural Modernization to Alternative Energy: The First and Second Green Revolutions in Colombia," and my M.Phil. from Columbia in 2012. Prior to Columbia, I received my B.A. with Honors, Magna Cum Laude, in Political Philosophy and Ethics and Latin American History at Brown University in 2008, where I was a Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellow and Beinecke Scholar. Prospective students interested in the PhD program in Latin American History at Columbia are welcome to contact me.