Cultural Studies Adjunct: Arlene Diaz
As a Latin American historian, I am particularly interested in understanding gender relations and their relationship to broader issues of politics, law, and race in slave and post-slavery societies such as those of Venezuela and the Caribbean. More specifically, my research seeks to understand the ways in which Latin American women responded to the limitations imposed on their lives by a pervasive patriarchal social and political culture, racial prejudice, and poverty from the late eighteenth to the early twentieth centuries. My scholarship has been guided by the need to understand women in their own terms. Understanding the logic of their lives is essential to explaining the particularities of family organizations and forms of political struggle in Latin America. In my book, Female Citizens, Patriarchs, and the Law in Caracas, Venezuela, 1786-1904, I examine the debates over the meaning and responsibilities of gender relations that transpired between ordinary people and the official culture during the process of state formation in Caracas, Venezuela between 1786 and 1904. I analyze the interactions between competing constructions of femininity and masculinity in the government, the court, and the household during a period when liberalism—an ideology that supported the autonomous individual, equality and liberty—became increasingly entrenched in Caracas society. Currently, I am investigating discourses of equality among elites and common people in nineteenth-century Venezuela.