Department: Department of History
6265 Bunche Hall
Los Angeles, CA 90095-1473
Keywords: Latin America, African Diaspora, Black Atlantic
Lauren (a.k.a. Robin) Derby's research interests include the Caribbean (esp. the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Puerto Rico and Cuba), Latin American political regimes, authoritarianism, state terror, U.S. imperialism, popular religion, and cultural history. Her dissertation focused on public culture and daily life during one of the longest dictatorships in Latin America, the regime of Rafael Trujillo in the Dominican Republic (1930-61). The study examined the culture of consent forged by the regime via forms of symbolic patronage and exchange, from official oratory, gifts and rumors to state rites and monuments, as well as state efforts to reshape the citizenry through ritual and urban reform. The analysis relates official projects -- such as the rebuilding of the capital city and the execution of a year long national pageant -- to their reception by various public sectors. Moreover, it interpreted local representations of the dictator through popular idioms of gender, race, honor, patronage and religion. In contrast to the literature that portrays the excessive state ceremony of the Trujillo regime as insignificant window dressing in relation to state terror, it demonstrates how public ritual played a critical role in establishing a new mestizo state elite and civic identity. The research combined archival material with oral histories as well as the analysis of novels, scrapbooks, memoirs, gossip and official propaganda.
Robin has been awarded grants from Fulbright, Fulbright-Hays, the MacArthur Foundation, the Newcombe Foundation, and the Social Science Research Council. Before coming to UCLA, she taught courses in social theory, Latin American history, and historical methods at the University of Chicago for five years. Students have worked with her on various topics in modern Caribbean history, U.S. foreign policy, ideologies of race, state violence, populist and authoritarian regimes in Latin America, and issues of memory and self-fashioning in oral narrative.