Santa Arias (Ph.D. Wisconsin-Madison) is Professor and Head in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese. Her current teaching and research highlight the critical importance of space, place, and nature in cultural products produced under colonialism. She deploys a transoceanic perspective to study early modern Iberian colonial-imperial engagements (XV-XIX), focusing on historiography, geographical discourses, and visual representation. Her transdisciplinary critical approach and heavy reliance on archival research distinguish her training of students and her contributions to the advancement of scholarship in colonial studies.
She has published numerous essays in academic journals and edited volumes. Her books include Retórica, historia y polémica: Bartolomé de las Casas y la tradición intelectual renacentista (2001) and five co-edited volumes: Mapping Colonial Spanish America: Places and Commonplaces of Identity, Culture, and Experience (2002), Approaches to Teaching the Writings of Bartolomé de las Casas (2008), The Spatial Turn: Interdisciplinary Perspectives (2008), and Coloniality, Religion, and the Law in the Early Iberian World (2013) and The Routledge Companion to Colonial Latin America and the Caribbean (1492-1898) (2020). Her second monograph (in final stages), 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.
Also, she has begun work in the book project Entanglements from San Juan: The Imperial-Colonial Paradox of Enlightenment at a Caribbean Frontier. This project examines geographical thinking for economic development for Puerto Rico and the Caribbean under Bourbon rule. Her focus is on the Benedictine Friar Agustín Iñigo Abbad y Lasierra (Historia geográfica, civil y natural ), who provided detailed observations on geography, climate, and natural phenomena in a historical account that also served as a critique of Spain’s colonialism.