Gema Kloppe-Santamaría

Professional black-and-white headshot of Dr. Gema Kloppe-Santamaria

Gema Kloppe-Santamaría

Assistant Professor

Latin America


Contact:

801 22nd St NW Washington DC 20052

Gema Kloppe-Santamaría (she/her/hers) is an Assistant Professor of Latin American History at George Washington University. Her work centers on questions of violence, crime, religion, and gender in twentieth and twentieth-first century Latin America, with a particular focus on Mexico and Central America.  

Her first monograph, In the Vortex of Violence: Lynching, Extralegal Justice, and the State in Post-Revolutionary Mexico (University of California Press, 2020), examines the uncharted history of lynching during the formative decades of the post-revolutionary period (1930-1960). Based on an array of previously untapped historical sources, the book argues that rather than signaling state absence, lynchings were triggered by the presence of state authorities that were perceived by communities as incapable or unwilling to provide the type of justice people deemed necessary to punish crimes and social transgressions. It further shows that religion, witchcraft, and mythical beliefs played a central role in shaping people’s understanding of lynching as a legitimate form of justice. Built in dialogue with scholars working on violence, crime, and vigilante justice in Latin America and the United States, the book offers key insights into the cultural, political, and historical reasons behind the ongoing presence of lynching in Mexico and several other Latin American countries.

Professor Kloppe-Santamaría is currently working on two new book projects. The first one, In the Name of Christ: Religious Violence and its Legitimacy in Mexico, seeks to examine why and under what historical conditions has religion contributed to legitimate the use of violence across different periods of time in 20th century Mexico. This project was supported by a 2020 Harry Frank Guggenheim Distinguished Scholar Award. Her second book project, Violence, Citizens and the State in Mexico and Central America (co-authored with David Carey Jr.) analyzes the multiple expressions of violence that have shaped these nation’s institutions, cultures, and societal relations from a comparative, historical, and transnational perspective. Violence, Citizens and the State in Mexico and Central America is under contract with University of New Mexico Press.

Professor Kloppe-Santamaría is a Global Fellow of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and the Mexico Institute, and a collaborator and member of Noria Research’s Mexico & Central America Program. Her popular writing can be found in Foreign Affairs Latinoamérica, Open Democracy, the International Peace Institute, and ReVista: Harvard Review of Latin America.  

She teaches classes on violence, crime, and drugs in Latin America; modern and colonial Latin America, and US-Latin American relations.


  • Latin America
  • Mexico and Central America
  • Violence, crime and (in)security
  • Religion, gender and culture

Peer-Reviewed Journal Articles

  • “Martyrs, Fanatics, and Pious Militants: Religious Violence and the Secular State in 1930s
    Mexico,” The Americas: A Quarterly Review of Latin American History, Special Issue:
    Forging a Catholic Nation amidst a Secular State, The Americas, Volume 79, Issue 2, April
    2022 , pp. 197 - 227
  • “Deadly Rumors: Lynching, Hearsay, and Hierarchies of Credibility in Mexico,” Journal of
    Social History
    , Special Section: Interpretative Challenges in the Archive: Rumor, Forgery,
    and Denunciation in Latin America and the Caribbean , Journal of Social History (vol. 55,
    Issue 1, 2021, pp. 85–104.
  • “Violence in Postrevolutionary Mexico,” Oxford Encyclopedia of Latin American
    History
    , published online August 31, 2021.
  • “Violence in Postrevolutionary Mexico,” Working Paper Series, Kellogg Institute for
    International Studies, No. 444, May 2021.
  • “The Lynching of the Impious: Violence, Politics, and Religion in Post-Revolutionary
    Mexico (1930s-1950s),” The Americas: A Quarterly Review of Latin American History  (Vol.
    77, no. 1, 2020), pp. 101-28.
  • “Lynching and the Politics of State Formation in Post-Revolutionary Puebla (1930s-
    1950s),” Journal of Latin American Studies (Vol. 51, no. 3, 2019), pp. 499-521.
  • “Determinants of Support for Extralegal Violence in Latin America and the Caribbean,” with
    José Miguel Cruz,  Latin American Research Review (vol. 54, no. 1, 2019), pp. 50-68.
  • “Maras y pandillas: límites de su transnacionalidad,” Revista Mexicana de Política
    Exterior
     No. 81, Las Fronteras de México. July- October, 2007.

Peer-Reviewed Book Chapters:

  • “Representation, Refusal and Remembrance: Lynching and Extralegal Violence in Mexico
    and the United States (1890s-1930s),” in Sonia Hernández and John Morán González (eds),
    Reverberations of Racial Violence: Critical Reflections on Borderlands History (University
    of Texas Press, 2021).
  • “‘The darkest and most shameful page in the university’s history’: Mobs, Riots, and Student
    Violence in 1960s-1970s Puebla,” in Jaime M. Pensado and Enrique C. Ochoa (eds.) México
    Beyond 1968 Revolutionaries, Radicals, and Repression During the Global Sixties and
    Subversive Seventies
     (University of Arizona Press, September 2018), pp. 215-235.
  • “Lynching, Religion and Politics in Twentieth-Century Puebla,” in Michael Pfeifer
    (ed.) Global Lynching and Collective Violence. Volume II (University of Illinois Press, Fall
    2017).
  • “Legitimating Lynching: Public Opinion and Extralegal Violence in Mexico,” in Gema
    Santamaría and David Carey Jr. (eds.) Violence and Crime in Latin America:
    Representations and Politics
     (University of Oklahoma Press, Spring 2017).
  • “Breaking the Vicious Cycle: Criminal Violence in U.S. – Latin American Relations,” in
    Jorge Dominguez and Rafael Fernández de Castro, Contemporary U.S. Latin American
    Relations: Cooperation or Conflict in the 21st Century?
    , Routledge, 2016.
  • “Lynching, Criminality and Racialized Subjects in Mexico,” in Luz Huertas, Bonnie Lucero,
    and Gregory J. Swedbert (eds.) Voices of Crime: Constructing and Contesting Social Control
    in Modern Latin America
     (University of Arizona Press, 2016).
  • “Authorizing Death: Memory Politics and States of Exception in Contemporary El Salvador”
    in Yifat Gutman, Amy Sodaro y Adam Brown (eds.), Memory and the Future: Transnational
    Politics, Ethics and Society
    , Palgrave-Macmillan, New York, 2010.

Edited Volumes

  • Human Security and Chronic Violence in Mexico: New Perspectives and Proposals from
    Below
    , edited with Alexandra Abello-Colak (Editorial Porrúa, México, 2019)
  • Violence and Crime in Latin America: Representations and Politics, edited with David Carey
    Jr. (University of Oklahoma Press, 2017).
  • Violencia y crimen en América Latina (Spanish Edition), edited with David Carey Jr.
    (Libreria CIDE, 2021)

Ph.D. New School for Social Research, 2016

  • 2022 Latin American Studies Association, Mexico Section, Best Article in Social Sciences for article "Deadly Rumors: Lynching, Hearsay, and Hierarchies of Credibility in Mexico," in Journal of Social History (Vol. 55, No. 1)
  • 2022 Best Book in Social Sciences Honorable Mention, Latin American Studies Association Mexico Section for In the Vortex of Violence: Lynching, Extralegal Justice and the State in Post- Revolutionary Mexico (University of California Press, 2020)
  • 2022 Maria Elena Martinez Book Prize Honorable Mention, The Conference on Latin American History (CLAH) for In the Vortex of Violence: Lynching, Extralegal Justice and the State in Post-Revolutionary Mexico (University of California Press, 2020)
  • 2021 Mellon Emerging Faculty Leaders Award, Institute for Citizens & Scholars
  • 2021 Sujack Family Award for Excellence in Faculty Research, Loyola University Chicago
  • 2021 Peggy Rockefeller Visiting Scholar, David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies (DRCLAS), Harvard University (declined)
  • 2021 Latin American Studies Association, Mexico Section, Best Article in the Humanities Award, for article “The Lynching of the Impious: Violence, Politics, and Religion in Postrevolutionary Mexico (1930s–1950s)”
  • 2020 The Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation Research Grant for the project “In the Name of Christ: Religious Violence and its Legitimacy in Mexico (1920-2020)”
  • 2020 NECLAS Best Article Award, New England Council of Latin American Studies, for the article “Lynching and the Politics of State Formation in Post-Revolutionary Puebla.”