Santa Arias

College of Liberal Arts & Sciences - Spanish & Portuguese
Primary office:
Wescoe Hall
Room 2618
University of Kansas
1445 Jayhawk Boulevard
Lawrence, KS 66045-7590


Santa Arias received her PhD from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She joined the faculty in Spanish and Portuguese in 2008 and also holds a courtesy appointment in Latin American and Caribbean Studies. Her research and teaching interests are in the areas of colonial/postcolonial studies, global coloniality, and the new emerging field of Geo-Humanities. 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 on issues of identity, nature and culture, and spatiality. Her commitment to interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary approaches distinguishes her training of students and contribution to the advancement of scholarship in Hispanic 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 & Portuguese and served through June 2019.


Professor Arias teaches courses on colonialism from a global perspective with a focus on Latin America and the Caribbean (XVI-XIX centuries).

Teaching Interests

  • Latin-America
  • Colonial and Postcolonial Approaches
  • Decolonization
  • Geohumanities
  • XVI-XIX Spanish Globalism

Research Interests

  • Geo-histories
  • Colonialism and Imperialism
  • Natural Histories
  • Bartolomé
  • De las Casas, Tropicality
  • Puerto Rico and the Caribbean

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