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I am an historian of modern Latin America and the Caribbean. My research examines the social history of politics and ideas, with a focus on the intersection of peace, conflict, and society. I am the author of Forgotten Peace: Reform, Violence, and the Making of Contemporary Colombia (translated into Spanish as La paz olvidada: Letrados, políticos, campesinos y el surgimiento de las FARC en la formación de la Colombia contemporánea), and am currently working on book projects on the history of injustice and the history of inequality in modern Colombia. You can read more about my research below.

I am a Member at the Institute for Advanced Study, School of Social Science for AY 2019–2020, and previously taught at Princeton University from 2009 to 2019. I hold an A.B. from Dartmouth College and a Ph.D. from Harvard University, and have received fellowships from the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation, Fulbright Colombia, the Eisenhower and Johnson presidential libraries, Harvard's David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies, and Princeton’s Center for Digital Humanities and Program in Latin American Studies.

Soy historiador de los siglos XIX y XX en América Latina. Soy miembro del Institute for Advanced Study, School of Social Science para 2019–20; fui Profesor Asistente en Princeton University entre 2009 y 2019. He sido becario de reconocidas entidades en Estados Unidos y Colombia, entre ellas Fulbright Colombia. Además de La paz olvidada: Letrados, políticos, campesinos y el surgimiento de las FARC en la formación de la Colombia contemporánea, he publicado varios artículos sobre política, violencia, relaciones interamericanas y desarrollo.

My research explores how people in Latin America and the Caribbean experienced and made sense of three key problems in contemporary history: violence, development (particularly inequality), and injustice (particularly impunity). I draw on traditional methods from political and social history, as well as approaches from spatial history and the digital humanities. I am broadly interested in using digital history to advance both analysis and narrative, and in thinking about the importance of scale in historical analysis.

My book Forgotten Peace (University of California Press, 2017) examines how Colombians grappled with “violence” as an intellectual and a practical problem during a nearly decade-long process of democratization and social reform. Eventual disillusionment with these reformist experiments in the 1960s generated key components of the reputation for violence that would define Colombia over the remainder of the century: the formation of the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia), and the concept of "La Violencia." In building peace while contemplating violence, rural and urban Colombians arrived at new representations of their regions in the nation and their nation in the world. By highlighting the lived experience of politics and development in post-1945 Colombia, Forgotten Peace presents a sweeping reinterpretation of both the origins of the FARC and the dominant place of “violence” in modern Latin America. The book additionally provides a Colombian vantage on global processes of democratic transition, development, and memory formation in the 1950s and ‘60s. Forgotten Peace is also a spatial history project, mapping patterns of violence and political change. Click here for interactive digital versions of two of the book's nine maps.

As an outgrowth of my research and teaching, I am an advocate for public conversations about how students and scholars can utilize digital tools to work more efficiently as individuals and as groups. To help advance this project for educational equity, I’ve created two videos on quantitative research best practices: one on secondary sources and general tips, and another on digitizing and organizing archival sources. (I break both of them down on Twitter here). I’ve also made available templates for centralizing student recommendation requests, writing Twitter threads, and staying on top of to-do items with Google Tasks (in progress).

I am additionally interested in interdisciplinary collaboration and in engaged scholarship and pedagogy on contemporary Latin American affairs. I have served as an expert witness in the cases of more than 15 Colombians applying for political asylum in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Hong Kong.

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Interactive Maps for Forgotten Peace: Reform, Violence, and the Making of Contemporary Colombia

Forgotten Peace follows Colombian political leaders, intellectuals, and rural peoples over the course of a decade as they interacted across different scales and spaces on the question of violence. Spatial history fundamentally informed my approach to the book; compiling data on violence and displacement allowed me to identify key patterns, locations, and actors, many of which figure centrally in the narrative. In order to better convey these patterns, and to link to primary sources on the events, I have created interactive digital versions of two of Forgotten Peace's nine maps. With the help of programming assistants, I have created several versions of these maps, out of a conviction that different stories may be better told through a variety of interfaces. Please share your impressions and ideas for how we can further improve these maps and strengthen the practice of spatial history in Latin American historiography.

Map 6: Monthly homicides attributed to partisan violence, Tolima, 1958 (p. 73 in the print edition).

Map 9: Roadway attacks, 1962 (p. 156 in the print edition). The most immersive version exists as an Esri Story Map, but there also a basic version with a timeline slider (built using D3), as well as a less dynamic version that includes terrain data (built using Mapbox).

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La paz olvidada

Mi libro Forgotten Peace fue traducido y publicado en 2018 por Ediciones Lerner (Bogotá) bajo el título La paz olvidada: Políticos, letrados, campesinos y el surgimiento de las FARC en la formación de la Colombia contemporáneaLa paz olvidada es el relato de los años de esperanza que vinieron después de la transición democrática de 1957–58. En el libro se ponen en entredicho preceptos aparentemente inamovibles de la historiografía nacional, al tiempo que se nos recuerda que el balance entre expectativa y paciencia es el gran reto de los gobernantes, y que una política de paz sin dicho balance puede llevar al surgimiento de nuevas violencias, lo que ocurrió a partir de 1966 con el nacimiento de las FARC. 

Hay dos mapas interactivas que acompañan el libro: 

Mapa 5: Homicidios mensuales atribuidos a la violencia partidista, Tolima, 1958 (p. 90 en la edición impresa).

Mapa 8: Ataques en las carreteras, 1962 (p. 221 en la edición impresa, donde el mapa falta un dato).

 

El lanzamiento de La paz olvidada tuvo lugar en el mes de mayo de 2018 en la Librería Lerner, como parte del festival Nuevas Historias de Colombia. Se puede ver mi conversación con la politóloga Sandra Borda acá. También se puede leer una entrevista sobre el libro que hizo la historiadora Lina Britto conmigo para El Espectador.