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 20 Colombians applying for political asylum in the United States, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and Hong Kong.