Born and raised in working‐class Latinx Hackensack, New Jersey, just north of Rutgers NB, Yesenia Barragan is a social historian of modern Latin America and the Caribbean. She specializes in the transnational histories of race, slavery, emancipation, and legacies of an‐Blackness in Afro‐Latin America and the African diaspora in the Americas. She earned her Ph.D. in Lan American History from Columbia University, where she was a Ford Foundation Fellow, and her B.A. in Philosophy and History (Magna Cum Laude, with Honors) from Brown University, where she was a Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellow and Beinecke Scholar. She is the author of two books, Freedom’s Captives: Slavery and Gradual Emancipation on the Colombian Black Pacific (Cambridge University Press, 2021), which is a narrative‐driven social, political, and geographical study of the gradual abolition of slavery in the majority‐Black Colombian Pacific coast, and Selling Our Death Masks: Cash‐for‐Gold in the Age of Austerity (Zero Books, 2014), which is a surrealist ethnography of cash‐for‐gold shops in the wake of the 2008 economic crisis. Her peer‐reviewed articles have appeared in The Americas, Slavery and Abolition, Revista de Estudios Colombianos, and Nuevo Mundo, Mundos Nuevos. Her next project bridges African American and Latin American history by telling the story of free and fugitive African Americans who fled to Mexico, Central America, and the Northern Andes during the antebellum period.
Yesenia is deeply committed to public historical work and scholarship. For several years, she was a regular contributor to Black Perspectives, an online platform for public scholarship on global Black thought, history, and culture established by the African American Intellectual History Society, and an opinion columnist for the major Latin American media outlet, Telesur. She is also interested in the digital humanities and is the Principal Investigator of “The Free Womb Project,” a bilingual(English and Spanish‐language) digital collection of gradual emancipation laws with Free Womb clauses across the eighteenth and nineteenth‐century world. This digital database has been used extensively by faculty and students in the United States and Latin America. Apart from these projects, Yesenia has served as a Country of Origin Information (COI) Expert for asylum cases related to Colombian asylum seekers. Based on her experience as a COI Expert, she designed a new undergraduate course titled “History and Asylum Law in the United States,” where students work on mock asylum cases from around the world and meet with an asylum lawyer and organizations serving asylum seekers in New Jersey. This course received a Humanities Plus award to support programming and teaching needs. At Rutgers, Yesenia is the convener of the interdisciplinary Slavery + Freedom Studies Working Group, currently sponsored by the Institute for the Study of Global Racial Justice (ISGRJ), which brings together faculty across departments whose work engages with the problem of slavery, freedom, and the post‐emancipation world trans historically and cross‐culturally, from ancient Rome, Asia, the United States, to Latin America and the Caribbean, Africa, and the Indian Ocean. For the 21‐22 AY,8 she will be an Early Career Faculty Fellow at the ISGRJ.
Thanks to the History Department Newsletter.