Assistant Professor of History and International Affairs
Gema Kloppe-Santamaría (she/her/hers) is an Assistant Professor of Latin American History and International Affairs 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.