Santa Arias is Professor of Latin American Literatures and Cultures and Director of the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies at the University of Kansas. Her current teaching and research highlight the critical importance of space, place, and nature in cultural products produced under colonialism. She deploys a comparative perspective for the study of early modern Iberian global engagements with a particular focus on historical narratives, cartography, and other forms of visual representation. Her second monograph (forthcoming), The Nature of Empire: Geo/graphing the Tropics during the Enlightenment, explores the centrality of geographical thinking in late colonial discourses on the tropical Americas. For this book project she was awarded a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship and a CIES/Fulbright Fellowship to Colombia.
During her time at the Rachel Carson Center, she will conduct research for a new book project: Entanglements from San Juan: The Imperial-Colonial Paradox of Enlightened Discourses on Nature and Development at the Caribbean Frontier. This book focuses on discourses and representations of nature, slavery, and land use produced to support Bourbon Spain's reforms. During the next few months, she will be researching Benedictine friar Iñigo Abbad y Lasierra (Historia geográfica, civil y natural, 1788), who provided detailed observations on geography, climate, and natural phenomena in a history that also served as a critique of Spain’s colonial engagements in the Caribbean.