The University of Kansas has named an established scholar with a strong vision for the future to lead the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies.
Santa Arias, professor of Spanish and Portuguese, was selected for the position in January. In her role as director, Arias will provide oversight and leadership for the Center, which includes a small staff, 45 core and 93 affiliate faculty members.
Arias received her PhD in Spanish from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She arrived at KU in 2008 after teaching for twelve years at Florida State University, where she also served as Director of the Latin American and Caribbean Studies Program. Her teaching and research focuses on the history and historiography of Spain’s global colonial engagements (XV-XVIII centuries), and the critical importance of space and place in the construction of colonial identities, representation of cultural difference, and missionary experience. Her interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary critical approach and heavy reliance on archival research distinguish her training of students and her own contributions to the advancement of scholarship in colonial studies.
Her books include Retórica, historia y polémica: Bartolomé de las Casas y la tradición intelectual renacentista (2001) and recently completed, The Nature of Empire: Geo/graphing the Spanish American Tropics during the Enlightenment (expected publication 2015). This book explores the centrality of geographical thinking in eighteenth-century historical discourses on the tropical Americas by Spanish and Spanish American authors. For this book project, she was awarded a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship and a CIES/Fulbright Fellowship to Colombia. In addition, she has published over thirty scholarly essays in academic journals and books; and four edited volumes: Mapping Colonial Spanish America: Places and Commonplaces of Identity, Culture and Experience (2002), Approaches to Teaching the Writings of Bartolomé de las Casas (2008), The Spatial Turn: Interdisciplinary Perspectives (2008), and Coloniality, Religion, and the Law in the Early Iberian World (2013). Next spring, she will be in residence at the Hall Center working on a third book project with the title “Enlightenment Entanglements from San Juan, Puerto Rico: Imperial Geopolitics on the Caribbean Frontier.”
Arias is an active member of the profession with noted service in national and international organizations such as the Latin American Studies Association, Modern Language Association of America, the Colonial Americas Studies Organization, and the Instituto Internacional de Literatura Iberoamericana.
She succeeds Jill Kuhnheim, who served as Director since 2011 and recently stepped down to return to full-time teaching and research.