Kevin P. ColemanAssociate Professor Historical Studies - History
Kevin Coleman is a historian of modern Latin America, specializing in the history of U.S.-Latin American encounters and visual culture. His recent articles and book chapters examine the intersection between photography, capitalist and imperial expropriations, labor history, and theorizing ways to read political subjectivities through visual archives.
In his first book, A Camera in the Garden of Eden: The Self-Forging of a Banana Republic, he argued that photographs allowed banana plantation workers, peasants, and women to represent themselves as full citizens long before the United Fruit Company or the state accorded them any such status. In making this argument, I had to break with the existing scholarship on political culture and nation-state formation in Latin America to examine two ideas. First, A Camera in the Garden of Eden attempted to show that certain social and legal devices of political exclusion were inherently visual, as were many of the countervailing popular claims to citizenship. For example, a newspaper photo of workers who had been beaten for attempting to organize a labor union graphically denounced an injustice while also calling upon those who saw the image to help restore the people’s right to freedom of association, which had been suspended by the government. Second, the book sought to demonstrate the ways that photographs captured and constituted processes of cross-class identity construction. When photos were not being used to denounce an injustice or to make avowedly political claims, members of all social groups tended to adopt a middlebrow aesthetic. Workers and merchants, peasants and fruit company managers: all posed in their best clothes to have pictures taken. These images were subsequently hung on living room walls or, in the case of Palestinian immigrants who made their living as merchants in banana-company towns, sent as postcards to family back home in Jerusalem. By tracing the outlines of popular photographic practices that went beyond the nation and could not be controlled by the state, Coleman found that the transnational circulation of photographs impinged on ideas of national membership to create broader categories of belonging and claims to the protections that full citizenship should afford. Research for this book received generous support from the Mellon Foundation / American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS), the Fulbright-Hayes Doctoral Research Abroad Fellowship, and several other grants.
Thinking through this intersection between capitalism and visuality also animates his teaching. Coleman offers surveys of Latin American history and advanced undergraduate seminars organized around a variety of themes, including the development of popular political cultures and nation-state formation, religion and the region’s encounter with the United States. His graduate offerings examine the role that photography and other visual technologies have played in shaping understandings of self, nation, and race in several national and transnational contexts.
Coleman’s research and teaching interests derive in part from the years that he spent working alongside people who were trying to get some good things done in their communities. Before pursuing graduate studies, he taught introductory philosophy classes at Navajo Community College in New Mexico. He then served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in southern Honduras, living and working with campesinos and developing friendships that continue to this day. The years that he spent with his sleeves rolled up continue to inform his research and teaching.
A Camera in the Garden of Eden: The Self-Forging of the Banana Republic (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2016).
Interview on the book, by Nicolás Quiroga for the Hispanic American Historical Review online. April 2017.
Photography and Work, edited by Kevin Coleman, Daniel James, and Jayeeta Sharma. Radical History Review, 132 (October 2018).
Capitalism and the Camera, edited by Kevin Coleman and Daniel James. (In-progress.)
Late Cold War Latin America: Coups d’état, Legal Infrastructures, and Cultural Processes, edited by Sebastián Carassai and Kevin Coleman. (In-progress.)
Articles and Chapters
“Photography and Work,” by Kevin Coleman, Daniel James, and Jayeeta Sharma. Radical History Review, 132 (October 2018).
“‘En uso de las facultades de que está investido’: El estado de sitio en Honduras, 1890-1956,” in Historia de las desigualdades sociales en América Central, edited by Ronny J. Viales Hurtado and David Días Arias (San José: Colección Nueva Historia Contemporánea de Centroamérica, 2016), pp. 275-304. For the tables documents uses of the suspension clause in Honduras between 1890-1956, see Tables 1 and 2_The State of Siege in Honduras, 1890-1956.
“The Right Not to Be Looked At.” Estudios Interdisciplinarios de América Latina y el Caribe, 25, no. 2 (2015): 43-63.
“The Photos We Don’t Get to See: Sovereignties, Archives, and the 1928 Massacre of Banana Workers in Colombia,” in Making the Empire Work: Labor and United States Imperialism, edited by Daniel E. Bender and Jana K. Lipman (New York: New York University Press, 2015), pp. 104-136.
An abbreviated version of this chapter was published as “Las fotos que no alcanzamos a ver: Soberanías, archivos y la masacre de trabajadores bananeros de 1928 en Colombia,” in Fotografía e historia en América Latina, edited by John Mraz and Ana María Mauad (Montevideo: Centro de fotografía de Montevideo, 2015), pp. 149-174, translated by Juan Pablo Bermúdez Reyes.
“Photographs of a Prayer: The (Neglected) Visual Archive and Latin American Labor History.” Hispanic American Historical Review, 95, no. 3 (2015): 459-492.
Awarded Honorable Mention for the James Alexander Robertson Prize for Best Article in the Hispanic American Historical Review, 2015-2016.
* “Fotografías de una plegaria: El archivo visual y la historia obrera latinoaméricana, Historia global y circulación de saberes en Iberoamérica, siglos XVI – XXI, editado por David Díaz Arias y Ronny J. Viales Hurtado (San José: Centro de Investigaciones Históricas de América Central, 2018).
“A Camera in the Garden of Eden.” Journal of Latin American Cultural Studies, 20, no. 1 (2011): 61-94.
An expanded version of this article was published as “Una óptica igualitaria_Autorretratos, construcción del ser y encuentro homo-social en una plantación bananera en Honduras” Diálogos, 15, no. 2 (2014), translated by David Díaz Arias.
“Entre la Historia y la Trascendencia: El Padre Guadalupe Carney y la lucha por la reforma agraria en Honduras,” Boletín AFEHC—Asociación para el Fomento de los Estudios Históricos en Centroamérica, 44 (2010): 27 ms pages.
This article was republished in English as “Between History and Transcendence_Father Guadalupe Carney and the Struggle for Agrarian Reform in Honduras,” OPSIS, 14 (2014), 429-448.
“La fotografía y la construcción del sujeto hondureño moderno.” (Photography and the Construction of the Modern Honduran Subject”). Envío-Honduras, 18 (2008): 27-35.
“La pedagogía de la burla: Entre los binarios históricos en El estrecho dudoso” (The Pedagogy of Sarcasm: Between Historical Binaries in El estrecho dudoso”). Istmo, 13 (2006): 21 ms pages.
Selected Awards, Grants, and Fellowships
- Social Science and Humanities Research Council, Connection Grant, 2016. Social Science and Humanities Research Council, Insight Grant, 2014-2019.
- Connaught New Researcher Award, University of Toronto, 2014-2015.
- Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, Institutional Grant, 2013 – 2015.
- Andrew W. Mellon Foundation / American Council of Learned Societies Dissertation Completion Fellowship, 2011-2012.
- Future Faculty Teaching Fellowship, Indiana University, 2010-2011.
- Bernardo Mendel Fellowship, Indiana University, 2010.
- Fulbright-Hays Doctoral Dissertation Research Abroad Fellowship (DDRA). Honduras. United States Department of Education, 2008-2009.
- Shriver Practical Idealist Award, 2009.
- John H. Edwards Fellowship, Indiana University, 2008.
- Samuel F. Bemis Research Grant, The Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations (SHAFR), 2008.
“Practices of Refusal in Images: An Interview with Tina M. Campt,” in Radical History Review, 132 (forthcoming, October 2018).
“What Hasn’t Changed in Yesterday’s Banana Republics,” History News Network, March 20, 2016.
“Vintage Photographs of Banana Farmers,” Slate Magazine, by Jordan G. Teicher, February 29, 2016.
Coordinator, Latin American Research Group, a network of Toronto-based scholars who come together on a monthly basis to discuss their work in progress, 2014-2015.
Consultant for “Immigrant America: Murder and Migration in Honduras,” VICE News, September 9, 2014.
“Concert–Voices against the Coup.” Winning Photograph, Spring 2012, NACLA Photo Contest.
“A Coup is Not a Coup. A Not-Coup is a Coup.” History News Network. July 7, 2009. This article was reprinted on multiple websites and referenced by many political bloggers. It was listed as “Best of the Fray” by Slate.
“A Chance for Real Democracy in Honduras.” History News Network. July 28, 2009. This article was listed as “Best of the Fray” by Slate.
This article was translated by Basta de Casaca as “Honduras: Una oportunidad para la verdadera democracia.”
“A Flamethrower to His Image,” Department of History, Indiana University, Bloomington, April 14, 2016.
Keynote Lecture, Navigating the MetaModern, Department of Art History Annual Symposium, York University. March 19, 2016.
“Possibility Eruption Exists,” invited lecture at Brock University, March 4, 2016.
“Fotos, archivos y violencia.” Universidad de Panamá. October 10, 2015.
“Reading Images to Document the Past.” Skidmore College. Workshop sponsored by the John B. Moore Documentary Studies Colloborative. October 2015.
“Photography, Archive, Stories.” Skidmore College. September 2015.
“Las fotos que no alcanzamos a ver: Soberanías, archivos y la masacre de trabajadores bananeros de 1928 en Colombia.” Universidad de Costa Rica. June 2014.
“The Photos that We Don’t Get to See: Sovereignties, Archives, and the 1928 Massacre of Banana Workers in Colombia.” Historical and Cultural Studies seminar series. University of Toronto Scarborough. December 2013.
“Vodevil y el imperio: La ‘República Bananera’ como una representación visual.” Open Seminar. Universidad de San Andrés, Buenos Aires, Argentina. August 2013.
“La fotografía, el “quizás”, y las memorias de la gran huelga bananera en Honduras.” Department of Sociology, Universidad de Buenos Aires. Argentina. August 2013.
Keynote Address. Photographing the Perhaps.” Returned Peace Corps Volunteer Graduate Research Conference. Boston. June 2013.
“‘The Miraculous Virgin is on Strike’: Photography, Labor, and Claims to Dignity in Cold War Honduras,” Research Roundtable, Department of Historical Studies, UTM. October 2012.
“Linking the Production and Consumption of Bananas.” University of Toronto Mississauga. November 2011.
“Transnational Imagescapes: Palestinian Honduran Family Photographs in a Banana-Company Town.” University of Toronto. November 2011.
“An Encounter with the Other—An Encounter with Ourselves: A Photographic History of Honduras,” curated exhibit of photographs and gave opening lecture, Gopalan Contemporary Art Gallery. April 2010.
“Honduras and the Catholic Movement for Social Justice,” guest lecture at Marian University. March 2010.
“A Chance for Real Democracy in Honduras,” keynote address for the Shriver Practical Idealist Alumni Award. University of Maryland, Baltimore County. November 2009.
“The Honduran Connection,” feature presentation for a panel on the 2009 Honduran coup d’état. Indiana University, Bloomington. October 2009.
Modern Latin American History; Visual Culture; History of Capitalism; U.S.-Latin American Relations
Undergraduate: Introduction to Latin American History; Politics and Political Change in Latin America; Religion and Society in Latin America; History of Capitalism
Graduate: Images as History: Photography, Historical Method, and Conceptualizing Visuality