Jason McGraw

Associate Professor, Department of History

Department of History

IU, IU Bloomington

Full Biography

The questions I ask in my research are informed by my study of the Atlantic World and the imbricated processes of slavery, emancipation, colonialism and capitalism that produced it. My current project examines black workers of the Caribbean coast of Colombia from the abolition of slavery in the 1850s to the rise of the trade union movement in the 1920s. Central to this story is the development of citizenship as a contested process, in which rarified elite ideas of constitutionality often came into conflict with working-class notions of popular participation. I look at three main realms for the development of citizenship: local politics, labor struggles, and popular religion. The goals of my project are to contribute to the largely unwritten history of Afro-Colombians after slavery; to examine the postemancipation process from the perspective of a society without a plantation economy; and finally to reveal how black workers were at the center of Colombian modernity. My future research projects take me in two very different directions. One study illuminates the longue durée of resistance to the Colombian and Venezuelan nation-states by the Wayúu people, the largest indigenous group in both countries. My other project looks at Jamaican popular music as the product of a tension between, on the one hand, a rising cultural nationalism after Jamaica’s independence and, on the other hand, an increasingly transnational culture created by working-class migration to postwar Britain. I try to explore these questions and issues through my teaching as well. I teach survey courses on Modern Latin American History, as well as more specialized courses on race and gender in the Americas, the African Diaspora and the Atlantic World. One of the courses I enjoy most is Latin American Popular Culture, which looks at food, film, music, festivals, television, and dance from the colonial era to the present. It is a course I am developing at the graduate level also.  Many of these courses first took form before coming to IU, when I taught at the University of Chicago and Rutgers University.

Honors and Awards

  • Mellon Prize Lectureship in Latin American History, University of Chicago
  • Mellon Dissertation-Year Fellowship
  • Fulbright Institute of International Education Scholarship
  • Andrew W. Mellon Fellowship in Humanistic Studies

Research Interests

  • Latin America and Caribbean
  • Slavery/emancipation/race
  • Popular culture


  • Ph.D. at University of Chicago, 2006
  • M.A. at University of Chicago, 2000
  • B.A. at Reed College, 1997

Courses Taught

  • Latin American Culture and Civilization II
  • The World in the Twentieth Century I
  • Latin American Popular Culture
  • Afro-Latin America
  • What is America?


  • “Purificar la nación: eugenesia, higiene y renovación moral-racial de la periferia del Caribe colombiano, 1900-1930,” Revista de Estudios Sociales 27 (Agosto, 2007), pp. 62-75.