University of Pittsburgh


Lara Putnam

PhD, University of Michigan (2000)

University of Pittsburgh
Department of History
3506 Posvar Hall
Pittsburgh, PA 15260

Curriculum Vitae


Latin American History
Atlantic History
Power and Inequality



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.

“The Ties Allowed to Bind: Kinship Legalities and Migration Restriction in the Interwar Americas,” International Labor and Working-Class History 83 (Spring 2013): 191-209.

“Provincializing Harlem: The ‘Negro Metropolis’ as Northern Frontier of an Interconnected Greater Caribbean.” Modernism/modernity 20, no. 4 (November 2013): Special Issue on the Harlem Renaissance.

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).


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


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.

Transatlantic Maternalism, Labor Rebellion, and the Discovery of Caribbean Childhood, 1930s-1940s

 In a rapid shift between 1930 and 1950, British colonial policy went from paying almost no attention to family practice among colonized populations, to hailing family order among the colonized as essential to economic progress and societal stability.  This article explores the dynamics that drove that shift in a specific and crucial subfield of empire: the British Caribbean.  As riots and general strikes in the Caribbean called into question the permanence of imperial rule, British observers discovered the “native” family as the crucial incubator of proper working-class citizens. The new focus, championed by political progressives and feminist activists alike, foregrounded the hygienic, instructional, emotional, and community-building domestic labor that poor mothers and fathers were suddenly discovered to be both responsible for and failures at.

This paper mines unpublished Colonial Office sources along with newspaper articles and pamphlets to make visible the transatlantic dialogues and debates that brought the “problem” of the Caribbean family to the forefront of policymaking during the final decades of British imperial rule.