Santa Arias teaches and conducts research in colonial/postcolonial studies. Her work focuses on the critical importance of space and place in cultural products produced under colonialism. She deploys a comparative perspective for the study of colonial global engagements with a particular interest in non-fiction, visual culture, and geographical discourses. Her commitment to interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary approaches distinguishes her training of students and contribution 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 four 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). Her second monograph, (forthcoming), 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.
She has under contract the co-edition of The Routledge Companion to Colonial Latin America and the Caribbean (1492-1898). In addition, she is working on the new project Entanglements from San Juan: The Imperial-Colonial Paradox of Enlightened Discourses on Nature and Improvement at the Caribbean Frontier. This book focuses on the territorial transformation of Puerto Rico and the Caribbean under Bourbon rule. In January 2017, she was appointed Chairperson of the KU Department of Spanish and Portuguese.
- Colonial Latin America
- Geographical thinking
- Visual culture
- Historical cartography
- Global colonialism
- Puerto Rico and the Caribbean
- Las Casas, the Caribbean, space and spatiality
- And globalism