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.

I am a historian of Cuba, the Caribbean, and the Atlantic World. My research interests include slavery, race, and the law; abolitionism and emancipation; and memory and public history. The central questions that guide my research agenda are how ordinary people thought about race, social status, and political mobilization in slave and post-slave societies, and how such popular ideologies and actions mattered within larger political economic systems. My research has been supported by the Social Science Research Council, the American Historical Association through the Conference on Latin American History, and the University of Michigan.

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 women, men, and families of varying degrees of African ancestry came to embrace one of the structuring silences of Cuban nationalism (a silence that also pervades other Latin American nationalisms)—the silencing of color-based identities. The study explores how bureaucrats, political and economic elites, slaves, freed people, and people of African descent born free competed over the meaning of social status through property, kinship, and bureaucratic-documentary practices. Out of these conflicts, some individuals of African ancestry came to be associated with idiosyncratic social identities that did not openly reference race and that drew on French-Haitian, Spanish, and West African ideas about status. This taxonomy provided the groundwork for the later pro-independence insurgents’ vision of a raceless Cuba. The research draws on social and political history methods, and on two years of archival research in Cuba, Spain, France, and the U.S.. Primary sources include notarial and ecclesiastical records, judicial cases, manuscript census returns, property registers, and official correspondence.

While turning my doctoral dissertation into a book, I am also currently working on three articles: one on freedom suits in Santiago de Cuba (currently being revised for the Law and History Review); a second one on sexual violence and nineteenth-century court litigation in Cuba (in preparation for Slavery and Abolition); and a third piece on free people of color and racial classification in nineteenth-century Cuba (for the Hispanic American Historical Review).

During the summers, I have been conducting archival research for two future book projects. The first is an Atlantic history of childhood and of child-centered national and international humanitarian interventions in the Age of Emancipation. The second will be a global history of the Spanish Empire in the nineteenth century, with particular attention to the relation between racial ideologies, labor policies, and militarism.

My Curriculum Vitae

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