Vanessa Castañeda Assistant Professor of Afro-Latin American Studies
- Ph.D., Tulane University
- M.A., New York University
- B.A., University of North Carolina at Charlotte
I earned my Ph.D. in Latin American Studies from Tulane University in 2021 and I was the Guarini Dean’s Postdoctoral Fellow in Afro-Latin American Studies at Dartmouth College from 2021-2023. My research centers on the baianas de acarajé, predominantly older, working-class Black women who are street vendors in Salvador, Brazil, that sell typical regional foods with culinary origins in West Africa. They also have come to exist as central icons of the African heritage tourism and cultural figures of regional and national Brazilian identity. Using interdisciplinary methodologies, including archival research and twenty months of community-based ethnographic fieldwork with the National Association of Baianas (ABAM), my work reconceptualizes the baianas as political agents of Black feminism for self and collective liberation. I show how the women have mastered navigating their mobility in accessing multiple spaces of power, both figuratively and spatially. My research has been supported by the Brazilian Studies Association (BRASA) Initiative Scholarship, the Tinker Foundation, and the US Fulbright Program.
I am also currently a Future of Food Fellow with the Society for the Anthropology of Food and Nutrition (SAFN) with the American Anthropological Association (AAA). My teaching has focused on the histories and cultures of the African diaspora in Latin America, food & identity across the Afro-Americas, and race across the hemisphere. I employ an interdisciplinary approach that centers diversity, social justice, and empathy.
As a first-generation student, I am very committed to mentorship and educational equity, and was the founder of the Undocumented Student Support Committee at Tulane University.
“Mucamas or Baianas?: Black Female Empowerment and Cultural Representation in Bahia” in The Latin Americanist Annals Issue (Vol 65, No. 1, March 2021), pp. 9-34.
Mapping Diaspora: African American Roots Tourism in Brazil. (UNC Press, 2018) by Patricia de Santana Pinho published in The Latin Americanist (Vol 63, No. 4, Dec 2019).
Palm Oil Diaspora: Afro-Brazilian Landscapes and Economies on Bahia’s Dendê Coast. (Cambridge University Press, 2021) by Case Watkins in Afro-Ásia (No. 66, Feb 2023).
Case study for “A Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Approach to Graduate Student Access and Outcomes” co-authored with Briana Mohan, Nicole Caridad Ralston, and Linett Luna Tovar in A Practitioner’s Guide to Supporting Graduate and Professional Students, edited by Valerie A. Shepard and April Perry, 162-165. New York: Routledge, 2022.