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Dr. Heather Vrana Joins UF History

Published: July 19th, 2017

Category: Feature, History Department News

The History Department is pleased to welcome Dr. Heather Vrana, formerly of Southern Connecticut State University, as an assistant professor beginning in Fall 2017.  Dr. Vrana received her Ph.D from Indiana University in 2013 and is the author of This City Belongs to You: A History of Student Activism in Guatemala, 1944-1996 (University of California Press, 2017), Anti-Colonial Texts from Central American Student Movements, 1929-1983 (Edinburgh University Press, 2017), and numerous articles and reviews. She is a member of the Tepoztlán Collective and co-director of Revisiting the Guatemalan Revolution, an edited volume and multi-media digital history and memory project. She continues to collaborate with youth social justice movements in Guatemala.

Her new research, The Idea of Disability and the Making of Modern Central America, is a history of disability across the twentieth century, from the expansion of the asylum system at the turn of the century to the reframing of disability as a human rights concern in the 1980s. Tracking these changes reveals how a range of governmental and civil bodies understood the disabled body as a touchstone for modernization. This history is adjacent to, but largely neglected within, the analytical frames of the histories of medicine, public health, science, and human rights. It is imperative to understand the disability histories of Guatemala, Nicaragua, and El Salvador because of their distinct histories of race; shared history of dictatorship, neocolonialism, and revolution; and divergent histories of civil war and post-war politics.

In general, Dr. Vrana’s research interests include student and social movements, Central America, social class, race, disability and history of medicine, nationalisms, youth politics and culture, and popular culture. Dr. Vrana learned Spanish in a Northern Virginia high school from a Puerto Rican nationalist and three children of refugees from internal conflicts in Central America and Peru. These language lessons came with a political education.

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