Kirsten Weld is an historian of modern Latin America, specializing in 20th-century Mexico, Central America, and the Southern Cone. Hailing from Canada, she holds a PhD from Yale University, and she taught at Brandeis University as the Florence Levy Kay Fellow in Latin American History for two years before coming to Harvard. Her research interests include revolutionary and counterrevolutionary movements, the Cold War, dictatorships and transitional justice, memory, indigenous and First Nations history, and the politics of history, history-writing, and archival access in society writ large.
Her first book, Paper Cadavers: The Archives of Dictatorship in Guatemala, is forthcoming from Duke University Press. 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, were kept hidden from the United Nations-sponsored truth commission charged with investigating crimes against humanity at the conflict's conclusion, were stumbled upon by human rights activists in 2005, and are today being 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. The book is based on her PhD dissertation, which won multiple institutional and national prizes including the nation’s highest honour for doctoral dissertations, awarded by the Council of Graduate Schools. Her second book, a narrative history of Guatemala, is under contract with Hill & Wang, an imprint of Farrar, Straus, and Giroux. In addition to her academic work, she periodically serves as an expert witness on behalf of undocumented Central American immigrants facing deportation.
Professor Weld offers courses in modern and colonial Latin American history, US-Latin American relations, and historical methods.