Arlene Diaz

Associate Professor, Department of History

Department of History

IU; IU Bloomington

Full Biography

As a Latin American historian, I am particularly interested in understanding gender relations and their relationship to broader issues of politics, law, and race in slave and post-slavery societies such as those of Venezuela and the Caribbean. More specifically, my research seeks to understand the ways in which Latin American women responded to the limitations imposed on their lives by a pervasive patriarchal social and political culture, racial prejudice, and poverty from the late eighteenth to the early twentieth centuries. My scholarship has been guided by the need to understand women in their own terms. Understanding the logic of their lives is essential to explaining the particularities of family organizations and forms of political struggle in Latin America. In my book, Female Citizens, Patriarchs, and the Law in Caracas, Venezuela, 1786-1904, I examine the debates over the meaning and responsibilities of gender relations that transpired between ordinary people and the official culture during the process of state formation in Caracas, Venezuela between 1786 and 1904. I analyze the interactions between competing constructions of femininity and masculinity in the government, the court, and the household during a period when liberalism—an ideology that supported the autonomous individual, equality and liberty—became increasingly entrenched in Caracas society. Currently, I am investigating discourses of equality among elites and common people in nineteenth-century Venezuela.

Honors and Awards

  • IUB Mellon Innovating International Research, Teaching and Collaboration Short Term Faculty Fellowship grant (November 2015)
  • IUB Collaborative Research and Creative Activity Funding grant (July 2015)
  • IUB New Frontiers Exploratory Travel Fellowship (2015)
  • IUB Institute of Advance Studies Individual Research Award (2015)
  • Trustee Teaching Award (2013)

Research Interests

  • Spanish-Cuban-American War
  • Citizenship
  • Race and Gender in Latin America
  • Caribbean History


  • B.A. at Universidad de Puerto Rico, Río Piedras, 1987
  • M.A. at University of Minnesota, 1997
  • Ph.D. at University of Minnesota, 1997

Courses Taught


  • Gender in Latin American History
  • Citizenship
  • Race and Gender in Latin America
  • Caribbean History


  • Latin American Culture and Civilization I
  • History of Cuba and Puerto Rico
  • To be a Man in Latin America
  • Slavery in Latin America



  • Female Citizens, Patriarchs, and the Law in Caracas, Venezuela, 1786-1904. Lincoln: The University of Nebraska Press, 2004.


  • “Vicenta Ochoa, Dead Many Times: Gender, Politics, and a Death Sentence in Early Republican Caracas, Venezuela” in Katherine Bliss and William French, eds., Gender and Sexuality in Latin America, 1760-Present (to be published by Scholarly Resources, Spring 2006).
  • “Women, Order, and Progress in Guzmán Blanco’s Venezuela, 1870-1888.” in Ricardo D. Salvatore, Carlos Aguirre and Gilbert Joseph, eds., Crime, and Punishment in Latin America: Law and Society since Colonial Times, 56-82. Durham: Duke University Press, 2001.
  • “Gender Conflicts in the Courts of the Early Venezuelan Republic, Caracas, 1811-1840” Crime, Histoire & Sociétés / Crime, History & Societies 2, no. 2 (1998): 35-53.
  • “'Necesidad hizo parir mulatas': liberalismo, nacionalidad e ideas sobre las mujeres en la Cuba del siglo XIX.” In Pilar Gonzalbo (ed.), Familia, género y mentalidades en América Latina, 199-226. Río Piedras: Editorial de la Universidad de Puerto Rico, 1997.
  • “Occupational Class and Female-Headed Households in Santiago Maior do Iguape, Brazil, 1835,” Journal of Family History 16, no.3 (Fall, 1991): 299-313. Co-author: Jeff Stewart.