Areas of Expertise & Civic Involvements
Putnam is a historian of race, gender, and migration in the modern Americas. Her interest in grassroots social movements has led her into local civic organizing in Pittsburgh’s 11th Ward. She is UCIS Research Professor and Chair of the Department of History at the University of Pittsburgh and president of the Conference on Latin American History of the American Historical Association.
Argues that historians’ practice has been silently transformed by the advent of disintermediated digital search, in ways that open new opportunities but risk undercutting crucial disciplinary strengths.
Argues that key social and cultural movements—from Marcus Garvey’s UNIA to the precursors of reggae dance—arose from the clash of Afro-Caribbean labor migration with race-based anti-immigrant laws in the interwar Americas.
Explores the ways gender roles, kinship patterns, and intimate practice shaped labor migration to the Central American coastal regions where the United Fruit Company’s banana empire was born.