Rebecca Herman

Assistant Professor

Rebecca Herman's work explores twentieth-century Latin American social, political, and environmental history in a global context, probing the intersections between grand narratives and local history. 

Her first book, Cooperating with the Colossus, was published by Oxford University Press in September 2022. It reconstructs a contentious U.S. military basing project advanced in Latin America during World War II under the banner of inter-American cooperation in hemisphere defense. Despite widespread acclaim for Pan-American unity with the Allied cause, defense construction incited local conflicts that belied the wartime rhetoric of fraternal cooperation in a fight for democracy. Grounded in the experiences of communities surrounding U.S. bases in Brazil, Cuba, and Panama, Cooperating with the Colossus examines conflicts over labor rights, racial discrimination, sex, and criminal jurisdiction. The stakes of these fights were greater than the narrow technical questions of legal authority around which they pivoted. They tapped into matters of increasing importance in Latin American political contests in the 1930s and 40s, including the consecration of social rights, the role of the state in ensuring social welfare, the relationship between race and citizenship, and the propriety of the “modern woman.” Leaders in Latin America leveraged U.S. basing demands into unprecedented military assistance and development aid, while refusing any formal diminution of their nations’ sovereignty; but the improvisation of ad hoc systems of governance on the ground reveal the more discreet means by which hierarchy persisted despite professions of sovereign equality on the global stage.

Herman's current research takes her fascination with conflicts over sovereignty into the field of environmental history. Her new book project explores various environmental issues through which international politics, environmental activism, nationalism, and economic development came to a head in the Americas in the 1970s and 80s, including the future of Antarctic governance, the disposal of nuclear waste, industrial pollution, and deforestation.

Prior to entering academia, Herman spent several years in Argentina, with shorter stints in Chile, Bolivia, and Brazil. In Buenos Aires, she worked with Memoria Abierta, a civil association of human rights organizations, and as a freelance translator and documentarian. Before joining the faculty at Berkeley, she was Assistant Professor of International Studies and Latin American Studies at the University of Washington, Seattle. She has received fellowships and awards from the Mellon Foundation, the Smithsonian Institution, the Social Science Research Council, the Council on Library and Information Resources, the Society of Historians of American Foreign Relations, the Conference on Latin American History, and the Center for Documentary Studies, among others.

Herman earned her Ph.D. in History at UC Berkeley and her B.A. in Literature, History, and Spanish at Duke University.


Cooperating with the Colossus: A Social and Political History of US Military Bases in World War II Latin America (New York: Oxford University Press, September 2022)

"Latin America and the Guts of Global History" The American Historical Review, forthcoming 2023.

"Antarctica & Colonialism: A Historian's Reflections," Antarctica & Colonialism, eds. Peder Roberts and Alejandra Mancilla (Manchester University Press, forthcoming 2023)

"Social Peace in a Time of War: Labor Justice and Foreign Policy in World War II Brazil" in The Entangled Labor Histories of Brazil and the United States, ed. Fernando Teixeira da Silva, Alexandre Fortes, Thomas D. Rogers, and Gillian McGillivray (Lexington Books, 2023)

Latin America and US Global Governance” in Cambridge History of America in the World, Volume 3, ed. Mark Bradley, Brooke Blower, Andrew Preston (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2021).

Covid-19: A Crash Course in ContingencyDiplomatic History Vol 45, Issue 3 (June 2021): 510-516.

"The Global Politics of Anti-Racism: A View from the Canal ZoneAmerican Historical Review Volume 125, Issue 2 (April 2020): 460-486.

"A Paz Social em tempo de guerra: Justiça do Trabalho e política externa no Brasil na Segunda Guerra Mundial" in Trabalho & Labor: Histórias Compartilhadas Brasil e Estados Unidos Século XX, ed. Fernando Teixiera da Silva e Alexandre Fortes (Editora Sagga, 2020).

"An Army of Educators: Gender, Revolution and the Cuban Literacy Campaign of 1961Gender & History Volume 24, Issue 1 (April 2012): 93-111.


PhD, University of California, Berkeley

MA, University of California, Berkeley

BA, Duke University


Modern Latin America, especially Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Cuba, and Panama; U.S.-Latin American Relations; Latin America in the World; US in the World; Environmental history; International history

Rebecca Herman profile photo


2307 Dwinelle Hall

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