Rebecca Herman is a historian of the Americas concerned with the social, political, and environmental history of the twentieth century.
Her first book, Cooperating with the Colossus, was published by Oxford University Press in 2022. The book reconstructs a contentious U.S. military basing project advanced in Latin America during World War II. Despite widespread acclaim for Pan-American unity with the Allied cause, defense construction incited local conflicts across the region - over labor rights, racial discrimination, sex, and criminal jurisdiction. Anchored in the wartime experiences of Brazil, Cuba, and Panama, the book moves between the American foreign ministries and the cantinas, courtrooms, plazas, and brothels where the wartime alliance took shape to examine the fraught relationship between cooperation and sovereignty in the Americas.
Herman is currently working on a book about Antarctica in the 1970s and 80s, when speculation about minerals in Antarctica strained the Antarctic Treaty System and stimulated a number of alternative visions for the future of the continent. During those years, the Argentine and Chilean military governments colonized the Antarctic peninsula with civilian settlements in an effort to shore up their long-held claims to sovereignty, leaders of the Non-Aligned Movement insisted that Antarctica belonged to the “global commons,” like the deep seabeds and outer space, while a rising environmental movement fought to declare the Antarctic a protected "World Park." Herman's book-in-progress reconstructs this period of uncertainty about Antarctica's future through the stories of the soldiers and scientists, military wives and children, artists, writers, and activists who traveled South in growing numbers. By bringing the high politics of Antarctic governance together with the intimate stories of the people who executed it, Herman aims to write a book that renders complicated matters of environmental governance and global inequality intelligible and compelling to a broad readership.
Beyond the academy, Herman uses other formats for storytelling to make sense of the world. She is a lifelong fiction-writer and, prior to entering academia, she spent several years in Argentina, with shorter stints in Bolivia, Brazil, and Boston, working on assorted documentary and translation projects.
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)
"Greenpeace Goes South: The Promise and Pitfalls of Global Environmentalism in Argentina," Environmental History Volume 29:1 (forthcoming January 2024)
"Antarctica & Colonialism: A Historian's Reflections," Antarctica & Colonialism, eds. Peder Roberts and Alejandra Mancilla (Manchester University Press, forthcoming 2024)
"Latin America and the Guts of Global History" The American Historical Review Volume 128, Issue 1 (March 2023) in the "Forum On Transnational and International History."
"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 Contingency” Diplomatic History Vol 45, Issue 3 (June 2021): 510-516.
"The Global Politics of Anti-Racism: A View from the Canal Zone" American 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 1961" Gender & History Volume 24, Issue 1 (April 2012): 93-111.
PhD, History, University of California, Berkeley
MA, History, University of California, Berkeley
BA, Literature & History, Spanish, Duke University
Associate Professor, History Department, University of California, Berkeley (2023 - present)
Assistant Professor, History Department, University of California, Berkeley (2015 - 2023)
Assistant Professor, Jackson School for International Studies, University of Washington (2014 - 2015)
Select Fellowships, Awards & Honors
2023 Tonous & Warda Johns Family Book Award, Pacific Coast Branch of the American Historical Association
2023 Pacific Coast Branch Award, Honorable Mention, Pacific Coast Branch of the American Historical Association
2023-2024 Social Science Matrix Faculty Fellow, UC Berkeley
2022 Humanities Research Fellowship, UC Berkeley
2021 Stuart L. Bernath Scholarly Article Prize, Honorable Mention (for "The Global Politics of Anti-Racism: A View from the Canal Zone in the AHR)
2019 Hellman Junior Faculty Fellowship, UC Berkeley
2018 Humanities Research Fellowship, UC Berkeley
2015 Lewis Hanke Postdoctoral Award, Honorable Mention, Conference on Latin American History
2014 William Appleman Williams Junior Faculty Award, Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations
2012 Visiting Research Fellow, Fundação Getulio Vargas
2012 Aviation and Space Writers Award, Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum
2012 International Dissertation Research Fellowship, Social Science Research Council
2012 CLIR-Mellon Fellowship for Research in Original Sources, Council on Library and Information Resources
2012 Stuart L. Bernath Dissertation Research Fellowship, Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations
2012 Marshall Baruch Fellowship, George C. Marshall Foundation
2010 Foreign Language and Area Studies Fellowship, Rio de Janeiro
2008 Lewis Hine Documentary Fellow, Duke Center for Documentary Studies
Modern Latin America; the US in the World; Environmental politics; International & Global history