Kirsten Weld

Kirsten Weld

John L. Loeb Associate Professor of the Social Sciences
Weld Photo

On leave 2017-2018

Kirsten Weld is a historian of modern Latin America. Her research explores struggles over (in)equality, justice, historical memory, and social inclusion in the twentieth-century Americas.

Her first book, Paper Cadavers: The Archives of Dictatorship in Guatemala (2014), offers a broad meditation on how history is produced as social knowledge, the labour behind transformative social change, and the stakes of the stories we tell ourselves about the past. It is a historical and ethnographic study of the archives generated by Guatemala's National Police, which were used as tools of state repression during the country's civil war, kept hidden from the truth commission charged with investigating crimes against humanity at the war’s conclusion, stumbled upon and rescued by justice activists in 2005, and repurposed in the service of historical accounting and postwar reconstruction. Paper Cadavers won the 2015 WOLA-Duke Human Rights Book Award and the 2016 Best Book Award from the Latin American Studies Association’s Recent History and Memory Section. In 2017, Guatemala’s Association for the Advancement of the Social Sciences published the book in Spanish translation.

Weld's second book, tentatively titled Ruins and Glory: The Long Spanish Civil War in Latin America, examines the impact and lasting legacies of the Spanish Civil War in the Latin American societies formerly colonized by Spain. An article from this research project, “The Spanish Civil War and the Construction of a Reactionary Historical Consciousness in Augusto Pinochet’s Chile,” will be published in the Hispanic American Historical Review in early 2018. She will spend the 2017-2018 academic year on leave as a Distinguished Faculty Research Associate at Harvard’s Weatherhead Center for International Affairs.

Born and raised in Canada, Weld holds a BA from McGill University and a PhD from Yale University, where her doctoral dissertation received institutional and national awards. She taught at Brandeis University as the Florence Levy Kay Fellow in Latin American History for two years before coming to Harvard, where she offers courses in modern Latin American history, US-Latin American relations, archival theory, and historical methods. In 2016, Harvard's Faculty of Arts and Sciences recognized her with the Roslyn Abramson Award for “excellence and sensitivity in teaching undergraduates.” She has won research fellowships from the American Council of Learned Societies, the American Philosophical Society, the Social Science Research Council, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and the William F. Milton Fund.

Selected Publications

“Archivos como armamentos en la guerra fría guatemalteca,” in Roberto García Ferreira and Arturo Taracena Arriola, eds., Guerra fría y anticomunismo en Centroamérica (Guatemala City: FLACSO, 2017).


Cadáveres de papel: Los archivos de la dictadura en Guatemala (Guatemala City: AVANCSO, 2017).


“Fighting Guatemala’s Archive Wars: Documentation, Mobilization, Justice,” in Carlos Aguirre and Javier Villa-Flores, eds., From the Ashes of History: Loss and Recovery in Archives and Libraries in Modern Latin America (Raleigh: Editorial A Contracorriente, 2015), 227-264.


“Washington’s Prying Eyes: The NSA Disclosures, Latin American Backlash, and What it Means for Hemispheric Relations,” NACLA Report on the Americas, Winter 2015.


Paper Cadavers: The Archives of Dictatorship in Guatemala (Durham: Duke University Press, 2014)


“How the U.S. Institutionalized Surveillance: Washington’s Global Intelligence Network Began with the Humble File Card,” Al Jazeera America, 24 May 2014


Because They Were Taken Alive: Forced Disappearance in Latin America,” Revista: Harvard Review on Latin America, Fall 2013


“A Chance at Justice in Guatemala,” The New York Times, 4 February 2013


“Dignifying the Guerrillero, Not the Assassin: Rewriting a History of Criminal Subversion in Postwar Guatemala,” Radical History Review 113, Spring 2012 (awarded Best Article Prize by the Latin American Studies Association’s Recent History and Memory Section)



Contact Information

CGIS South Building
1730 Cambridge Street
Room 419
Cambridge, MA 02138
p: 617-496-4360

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