Kirsten Weld is an historian of modern Latin America, focusing primarily on 20th-century Central America, Mexico, and the Southern Cone. Her research centers on the political and cultural history of revolutionary and counterrevolutionary movements in the Americas, with special attention to the region's long Cold War and its aftermath, as well as on the politics of historical and archival knowledge production.
Her first book, Paper Cadavers: The Archives of Dictatorship in Guatemala, was published by Duke University Press in 2014. 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 36-year civil war, kept hidden from the United Nations-sponsored truth commission charged with investigating crimes against humanity at the conflict's conclusion, stumbled upon and rescued by justice activists in 2005, and repurposed in the service of historical accounting and postwar reconstruction. Paper Cadavers is a broad meditation on how history is produced as social knowledge, on the labour behind transformative social change, and on the stakes of the stories we tell ourselves about the past.
Professor Weld's other major research interests include Latin America's myriad relationships with the wider world (especially the United States and Spain), the histories of indigenous peoples in the Americas, memory, and political violence. Hailing from Canada, she holds a PhD from Yale University, where her doctoral dissertation won both 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 and colonial Latin American history, US-Latin American relations, and historical methods.