Yesenia Barragan

Postdoctoral Fellow, Society of Fellows

Dr. Yesenia Barragan is a historian of modern Latin America and the Caribbean and a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Society of Fellows at Dartmouth College. She specializes in the history of Afro-Latin America and the African diaspora in the Americas, with a focus on race, slavery, and emancipation in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Dr. Barragan earned her Ph.D. in Latin American History at Columbia University, where she was a Ford Foundation Fellow, and her B.A. in Philosophy and History from Brown University, where she was a Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellow and Beinecke Scholar.

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 Her current book project, Frontiers of Freedom: Slavery and Emancipation on the Colombian Pacific, explores the protracted process of the gradual abolition of slavery (1821-1852) and the aftermath of emancipation on the frontier Pacific lowlands of Colombia, the former gold mining center of the Spanish Empire. The first English-language study of gradual emancipation in Colombia, Frontiers of Freedom reframes the history of emancipation in the Atlantic World by centering Colombia and the northern Andes within a larger history of antislavery and abolition. Her next book project turns to the making of the African diaspora in the Americas during the long nineteenth century, looking especially to North and Central America, the northern Andes, Cuba, and Brazil. Dr. Barragan is also the author of Selling Our Death Masks: Cash-for-Gold in the Age of Austerity (Zero, 2014), a creative, historical ethnography of cash-for-gold shops in the wake of the latest economic crisis based on fieldwork and archival work in Spain, Greece, and Colombia.

 Her article “Gendering Mastery: Female Slaveholders in the Colombian Pacific Lowlands,” is forthcoming in Slavery & Abolition: A Journal of Slave and Post-Slave Studies. “Gendering Mastery” is one of the first systematic attempts to better understand the practice and meaning of slaveholding for women slaveholders in a Latin American setting. She has published articles in NACLA Report on the Americas, Revista de Estudios Colombianos, and Nuevo Mundo, Mundos Nuevos, and is currently working on an article that comparatively examines “Free Womb laws” in the Atlantic World.

 Dr. Barragan is deeply committed to public historical work and engagement. She is a regular contributor for Black Perspectives, the leading online platform for public scholarship on global black thought, history, and culture established by the African American Intellectual History Society, and was previously an opinion columnist for the major Latin American media outlet, Telesur. Currently, she is the Principal Investigator for “The Free Womb Project,” which will be the first bilingual (English and Spanish-language) digital collection of “Free Womb laws” across the Atlantic World. With the support of Dartmouth Digital Humanities, the Society of Fellows, and History Department, this project will serve as an important scholarly resource for students of slavery, emancipation, and law in the Atlantic World.

 Lastly but importantly, Dr. Barragan is a first-generation daughter of working-class immigrants from Latin America, and a longtime activist involved in many social and racial justice movements. She has mentored students in the First Generation Network and Mellon Mays Fellowship. She has also served as a Legal Expert for asylum cases related to Colombia. Along with Drs. Pamela Voekel and Eman Morsi, she is the co-founder of the South-South Forum, an interdisciplinary working-group sponsored by the Leslie Center for Humanities that fosters conversations and collaborations between scholars of the “Global South.”

 Selected Works

 “Gendering Mastery: Female Slaveholders in the Colombian Pacific Lowlands,” Slavery & Abolition: A Journal of Slave and Post-Slave Studies (forthcoming),

 “‘To End 500 Years of Great Terror’: Struggles for Peace in the Afro-Colombian Pacific,” NACLA Report on the Americas, Issue 1: #BlackLivesMatter Across the Hemisphere 49 (2017): 56-63,

 “Death, Slavery, and Spiritual Justice on the Colombian Black Pacific,” Nuevo Mundo, Mundos Nuevos, June 2015,

 “Free Black Women, Slavery, and the Politics of Place in Chocó, New Granada,” Revista de Estudios Colombianos 47 (enero-junio de 2016): 57-66.

 “Uncovering Lisbon’s Forgotten History of Slavery,” Black Perspectives, June 2017,

 “Afro-Latin America and the Black Pacific: An Interview with Sherwin K. Bryant,” Black Perspectives, April 2017,

 “Christmas and Resistance to Slavery in the Americas,” Black Perspectives, December 2016,

 “Afro-Colombians and the Peace Agreement in Colombia,” Black Perspectives, November 2016,

 “#BrazilFreedomSchool, Anti-Black Violence, and the Rio Olympics: An Interview with Christen Smith,” Black Perspectives, September 2016,

 “A Country of Their Own: An American Ex-Slave's Search for Homeland in Panama,” Black Perspectives, August 2016,

 “La Esclava Blanca: The New Telenovela Rewriting Colombia's History of Slavery,” Black Perspectives, July 2016,

“Afro-Colombian Strike in Chocó: A Historical Reckoning,” Telesur, August 2016,

 “Compro-Oro: Cash-for-Gold in Times of Crisis,” ROAR Magazine, January 2016,

 “What is Peace Without Justice in Colombia?” Telesur, November 2015,

 "Moving on: The Logic of Slavery in the Reparations Debate," Telesur, October 2015,

“Slaves Patrols and the Murder of Walter Scott,” Telesur, April 2015,

 “Black Lives Matter in Colombia,” Telesur, December 2014,

 “Ferguson is the Afterlife of Slavery in the Americas,” Telesur, September 2014,

 “Ricardo Flores Magón and the Anarchist Movement in Southern California” (with Mark Bray), KCET, May 2014,


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