Adriana Chira

Assistant Professor

Department of History

Office: Bowden 115

Phone: (404) 727-2213

Email: adriana.chira@emory.edu

Biography

Adriana Chira, Assistant Professor of Atlantic World History (Ph.D. University of Michigan, M.A. Cornell University, B.A. Cambridge University, UK). Atlantic history; Cuba in world history; race; slavery and the law; the African diaspora; public history.

My first book project, Becoming Free of Color: Popular Racial Thought in Cuba, 1791-1868, explores vernacular ideologies of race in the eastern province of Santiago, home of the first official Cuban ideal of “racial confraternity” during the War of Independence from Spain (1868-1898). This work offers a genealogy of how ordinary women, men, and families of varying degrees of African ancestry embraced a silence that would come to structure later Cuban nationalism (and that also pervades other Latin American nationalisms and hemispheric visions of post-racialism)—the silencing of color-based identities. Drawing on social and legal history methods, and on insights from critical geography and ecocriticism, Becoming Free of Color explores how official and vernacular racial identities were mapped onto, contested, and remade through the rural and urban landscapes that were supposed to fix them in a Caribbean borderland situated outside yet in the orbit of plantation economies. The vernacular taxonomies that individuals of African ancestry lay the foundation for through property, kinship, and archival-documentary practices provided the groundwork for the pro-independence insurgents’ vision of a raceless Cuba after 1868. Becoming Free of Color also offers a meditation on how to write histories of non-plantation Caribbean borderlands. It asks how we can narrate such spaces and their histories without reproducing a plantation-centered history of race and inequality while also avoiding a romanticized vision of borderlands as locations of resistance or radical alterity. Primary sources include notarial and ecclesiastical records, judicial cases, manuscript census returns, property registers, and official correspondence collected over two years of research in Cuba, Spain, France, and the U.S..

My second book project is a study of reverse Atlantic networks following Iberian expansionism into North and West Africa after the 1860s, as the Spanish Crown, Catalan merchants, and some planters in Cuba became eager to make investments in new colonies. With attention to Barcelona, Morocco, and Bioko, the project will explore the emergence of new forms of social control in the Iberian Atlantic as the institution of slavery was being rolled back in the Americas. It will focus on how policy-makers in Spain approached children, convicts, and immigrant laborers as a testing ground for new theories of heredity and race, penal discipline, and citizenship rights. 

Education

  • B.A. Cambridge University, United Kingdom, 2005.
  • M.A. Cornell University, 2008
  • Ph.D. University of Michigan, 2016.

Interests

  • Atlantic history
  • Cuba in world history
  • Race
  • Slavery and the law
  • African diaspora
  • Public history