About Dr. Paola Vargas Arana and this TKS episode:
Dr Paola Vergas Arana is a British Academy Newton International Fellow at King’s College London. In this episode of The Know Show Podcast, she discusses her research that focuses on the transatlantic slave, and how this has influenced the culture of various countries in South America, namely Brazil and Colombia.
A brief synopsis:
Paola begins by outlining the culture of Colombia to be influenced by a plethora of different nationalities, as a result of European colonisation and imperialism. She makes clear the way this has fed into Colombian culture today, and how diverse it is, but points out the inequality, discrimination and both systematic and overt racism that still persists.
Paola also draws on her research that looks to create slave biographies, detailing experiences of slavery. She is a contributor to freedomnarratives.org, which recovers the life histories of Africans. Paola talks about men who were forced to work in caves to extract gold. In particular, she exposes how women were trafficked and raped, horrifically used as livestock for reproduction. She shows that there was a mass amount of resistance to this, and delves into a specific example of revolt in the mines in 1597. She shows that the resistance African communities created over years weakened the Spanish crown and its hold over resources, and how this has fed into contemporary culture today.
Importantly, Paola talks about the social impact she hopes her work will have. She is agitating and advocating for the introduction of African history into the Colombian curriculum, which ties into the overarching narratives of her work that look to recognise the value of African culture in the country.
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TKS take home points:
Throughout this episode, Paola remains very aware of her positionality, and we see how important this is for research to be accountable and hold an awareness of the subjects it studies. In this TKS episode, it allows us to be shown the realities of post-colonialism in Colombia, the inequalities that still persist, and the way culture is navigated within it.