University of Pittsburgh

Faculty

Lara Putnam

Professor and Chair
PhD, University of Michigan (2000)

University of Pittsburgh
Department of History
3506 Posvar Hall
Pittsburgh, PA 15260
lep12@pitt.edu

Curriculum Vitae

Field(s)

Latin American History
Atlantic History
Power and Inequality

 

Teaching

Rethinking the Black Atlantic
Transnational Labor History of the Americas
Modern Latin America
Politics of Memory in Latin America


Selected Publications

Radical Moves: Caribbean Migrants and the Politics of Race in the Jazz Age. University of North Carolina Press, 2013.

“Borderlands and Border-Crossers: Migrants and Boundaries in the Greater Caribbean, 1840-1940.” Small Axe 42 (2014): 7-21.

“Citizenship from the Margins: Vernacular Theories of Rights and the State from the Interwar Caribbean.” Journal of British Studies 53, no. 1 (2014): 162-191.

The Company They Kept: Migrants and the Politics of Gender in Caribbean Costa Rica, 1870–1960 (University of North Carolina Press, 2002)

“To Study the Fragments/Whole: Microhistory and the Atlantic World,” Journal of Social History 39, no. 3 (Spring 2006).

Honors/Awards

ACLS/SSRC/NEH International and Area Studies Fellowship (2006)

Project(s)

Bringing the Sweat Back In: Where is Labor in the Transnational History of Race?

The last decade has seen an outpouring of scholarship on the international history of racism and antiracism. The digitization of ever-greater swathes of the world's printed past, too, has made new research techniques possible.  As a result, the international dimensions of struggles long studied within national frames have received new attention. We have gained vivid portraits of activists, organizations, and publications that linked far-flung sites.  Yet in the process, topics deemed central by a previous wave of scholarship on the social construction of race—in particular, labor dynamics and the structure of production—seem to have taken the back seat.

Which aspects of the historical development of racism and anti-racism do we understand better now that we are routinely remembering to look beyond borders? What are we failing to see?  This essay traces different kinds of connections between Venezuela, Trinidad, and South Africa, and uses them as a springboard to examine the contributions and blind spots of recent work on the transnational history of race.

The Transnational and the Text-Searchable: Digitized Sources and the Shadows They Cast

Occurring simultaneously with the "transnational turn" has been a less-remarked but absolutely crucial shift in the accessibility of raw material at the core of all historical inquiry: sources generated in the past.  Text-searchable digitized newspapers, ancestry dot com, and Google books are suddenly at our fingertips, and with vertiginous speed are expanding their offerings outward from initial U.S.-heavy array to documents generated across the globe.  The ability to conduct instantaneous granular searches within vast arrays of secondary sources is no less revolutionary. These shifts have changed the practice of historical research in fundamental ways, yet are rarely discussed as such when folks talk about "digital history" or the "digital humanities."

Digitized, text-searchable primary sources make visible and accessible a much wider swathe of historical actors.  But they do not make visible everyone equally. What about those who didn't move, who didn't write, and who were not written up?  We now have extraordinarily powerful tools for answering certain kinds of questions—but not for answering all questions, and not for exploring all processes that might be part of the answers.  If we are disproportionately drawn to those topics and those people whose histories are suddenly, gloriously writeable, we risk generating a generation of scholarship in which each individual account is true, illuminating, and engrossing—and yet the overall picture is fundamentally skewed.