Agnes Lugo-Ortiz

Associate Professor of Latin American Literature
Wieboldt 214
Office Hours: By appointment
PhD, Princeton University, 1990
Research Interests: Nineteenth-century Latin American literatures and Caribbean cultural histories

My areas of specialty are Latin American Literatures of the Nineteenth Century and Caribbean Cultural Histories, with a focus on the relationships between culture and politics, slavery, racial formations and visuality, and on the epistemologies and power dynamics that underwrite the construction of archives. I situate these inquiries within a broader transatlantic context, understood as a historical crucible of the cultures of modernity. In my early work, I explored how literature partook in the articulation of discourses of national identity in the Spanish-speaking Caribbean, the aesthetic forms activated to advance specific anti-colonial projects, and the place of gender and desire as structural elements of those endeavors. This was the subject of my first book, Identidades imaginadas. Biografía y nacionalidad en el horizonte de la Guerra (Cuba, 1860-1898), and of multiple essays about the colonial question in Puerto Rico, centuries-long frontier of imperial disputes. In my work, I am also attentive to the role of diasporic communities in the reconfiguration of cultural geographies and national subjectivities. This interest crystallized in my decades-long affiliation with the Recovering the U.S. Hispanic Literary Heritage Project, an initiative devoted to constructing the literary archive of Spanish-speaking populations in what has become the United States (before the 1960s), and in several scholarly collections produced under its auspices, among them Herencia and En otra voz.

In my current book project, “The Plantation Gaze: Slavery and Visual Culture in Colonial Cuba (1727–1886),” I continue my core interests in the production of alternative archives by examining how the development of a modern visual culture on the island was imbricated, in counterintuitive ways, with the demands of the slaveholding plantation, and its implications for contemporary discussions of the scopic regimes of modernity. The idea of “visual culture” here is not restricted to aestheticized objects of fine art but encompasses a wide array of optical experiences manifested in artifacts that range from accounts of religious and semi-theatrical events staged on plantations; the visual and performative dimensions of slave codes, catechisms, and slave narratives; medico-anthropological treatises and their anatomical or (proto)ethnographical imagery; as well as objects of material culture. In this sense, my explorations are geared towards historicizing the complicities between visuality and racialized enslaved domination in the modern world within a complex set of frameworks and are representative of my general outlook on the production of knowledge both in research and teaching: transdisciplinary, theoretically informed, and politically and ethically aware. 

Akin to this work, I co-edited with Angela Rosenthal the volume Slave Portraiture in the Atlantic World; co-founded in 2016, with Cécile Fromont and Larissa Brewer-García, the Working Group on Slavery and Visual Culture; and, most recently, co-curated with Isabela Fraga the digital exhibit Palimpsests: Visual Idioms of Enslavement in the Nineteenth-Century and Their Afterlives. I am also co-founder and co-editor of the digital journal Categoría Cinco. Revista de Política y Cultura, a forum committed to anti-colonial projects in Puerto Rico.

Selected Publications

Books and Edited Volumes

  • “The Plantation Gaze: Slavery and Visual Culture in Colonial Cuba (1727–1886)” (in preparation).
  • “Visual Regimes of Enslavement and Their Afterlives.” Co-edited with Larissa Brewer-García, Cécile Fromont, and Allyson Nadia Field (in preparation).
  • The Routledge Companion to Nineteenth-Century Latin America. Co-edited with Graciela Montaldo (Forthcoming 2024).
  • Slave Portraiture in the Atlantic World. Co-edited with Angela Rosenthal. Cambridge/NY: Cambridge University Press, 2013. Paperback edition: 2016.
  • Identidades imaginadas: Biografía y nacionalidad en el horizonte de la guerra (Cuba 1860-1898). Río Piedras: Editorial de la Universidad de Puerto Rico, Serie Caribe, 1999.

Articles and Chapters

Awards, Honors, and Professional Experience

  • Latin American Studies Association, Prize for Best Essay in Nineteenth-century Studies
  • Premio Alejandro Tapia y Rivera, University of Puerto Rico
  • Franke Residential Fellowship, The Franke Institute for the Humanities, University of Chicago
  • Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute/Oakley Humanities Center Residential Fellowship at Williams College
  • Ford Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship for Minority Scholars
  • Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellowship
  • Executive Board, Project on Afro-Latin American Art, Harvard University and Getty Foundation
  • Editorial Board, Publications of the Modern Language Association (PMLA)
  • Editorial Board, “Re-Encountering Colonialisms in the Americas," University of New England Press
  • Advisory Board, Hemispheric Institute of Performance and Politics
  • Advisory Board, Recovering the US Hispanic Literary Heritage Project
  • Professor Lugo-Ortiz has also taught at Northwestern University and Dartmouth College.

Recent Courses in RLL

  • SPAN 21905 Latin American Literatures and Cultures: Colonial and 19th-Century (Spring 2024)
  • SPAN 22701/ 32701 Poesía, Nación Y Ciudadanía en el Siglo XIX Hispanoamericano (Spring 2012)
  • SPAN 27401/37401 Literaturas del Caribe Hispánico en el Siglo XX (Autumn 2015, Autumn 2020)
  • SPAN 30060 Literatura y Formación Nacional en Hispanoamérica (Siglo XIX)
  • SPAN 33444 Fin-de-siglo, Modernización, Cultura, Exilio: El caso de José Martí (Spring 2020)
  • SPAN 33710 Text/Image/Territory in Nineteenth-Century Latin America (Autumn 2016, Spring 2019)
  • SPAN 37520 Sonoridad, Literatura y Música en el Caribe Contemporáneo (Spring 2017)
  • SPAN 43000 Imperialismo, Nación y Cultura en el Caribe Hispánico (el siglo XX) (Autumn 2023)
  • SPAN 44000 Cultura Visual y Esclavitud en Iberoamérica (Spring 2023)
  • SPAN 49350 Literatura e Ideas en el Caribe Hispánico: El Siglo XIX (Spring 2021)


Affiliated Departments and Centers: Center for Latin American Studies, Center for the Study of Gender and Sexuality, Center for the Study of Race, Politics, and Culture