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Esther Gabara, E. Blake Byrne Associate Professor

Esther Gabara

Please note: Esther has left the "Romance Studies" group at Duke University; some info here might not be up to date.

Esther Gabara works with art, literature, and visual culture from modern and contemporary Latin America. Her teaching in the departments of Romance Studies and Art, Art History & Visual Studies at Duke University covers visual theory, Latin American modernism, photography, Pop Art, Mexican feminism, and contemporary art and cultural production in the Americas. She was the faculty guest curator of the exhibition, Pop América, 1965-1975 (McNay Art Museum, San Antonio, TX; Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University, Durham, NC; Block Museum of Art at Northwestern University, Evanston, IL, 2018-2020), which was awarded the inaugural Sotheby’s Prize for curatorial innovation. She also edited and wrote for the bilingual exhibition catalogue, Pop América, 1965-1975 (Nasher Museum of Art/Duke University Press, 2018). Gabara is the author of two monographs: Errant Modernism: The Ethos of Photography in Mexico and Brazil (Duke University Press, 2008), and Non-Literary Fiction: Art of the Americas Under Neoliberalism (University of Chicago Press, forthcoming 2022). Other recent publications include essays for Un arte sin tutela: Salón Independiente en México, 1968-1971 (MUAC/UNAM), La Raza (Autry Museum of the American West), and Revolution and Ritual: The Photographs of Sara Castrejón, Graciela Iturbide, and Tatiana Parcero (Ruth Chandler Williamson Gallery/Getty Foundation).

Contact Info:
Office Location:  212 Language Center, Department of Romance Studies, Durham, NC 27708-0257
Office Phone:  (919) 660-3100
Email Address: send me a message

Office Hours:

Thursdays 3-5 pm and by appointment. 212 Languages 

Ph.D.Stanford University2001
M.A.Stanford University1997
B.A.University of Pennsylvania1993

Latin-American Studies
Caribbean Studies
Comparative Studies: Translation, Travel Narratives, Trans-Culturality
Modernity and Modernism
Globalization, Postmodernity, Contemporaneity
Film, Media and Visual Studies
Research Interests:

Current projects: "Non-Literary Fiction: Invention and Interventions in Contemporary American Visual Culture", "El triángulo museológico de las Bermudas: El Prado, el Museo de América y el Museo Nacional de Antropología”

Esther Gabara received her PhD from Stanford University in 2001. Her main area of specialization is the relationship between literature and visual culture in modern and contemporary Latin America. Her research has examined photography in the Americas in terms of its impact on theories of ethics and aesthetics, the formulation of non-mainstream modernisms, and questions of race and gender. Her book, Errant Modernism: The Ethos of Photography in Mexico and Brazil, was published by Duke University Press in 2008. Her teaching in the departments of Romance Studies and Art, Art History & Visual Studies at Duke University covers topics of Mexican visual culture and politics, Latin American modernisms, and contemporary urban cultural production in the Americas. She is currently working on a new book project on theories of fiction in contemporary artistic and popular visual culture, entitled "Non-Literary Fiction: Invention and Interventions in Contemporary American Visual Culture," and a research project concerning the contemporary articulation of the colonial relationship between Latin America and Spain through the prism of art, economics, and immigration.

Areas of Interest:

Latin America
Visual Culture
Gender Studies
Ethics and Aesthetics
Contemporary art
Theories of fiction


Latin America • Visual Culture • Gender Studies • Modernism • Ethics and Aesthetics • Contemporary art • Theories of fiction

Current Ph.D. Students   (Former Students)

  • Amanda L. Suhey  
  • Raul Ferrera-Balanquet  
  • Kency Cornejo  
  • Camila Maroja  
  • Alfredo Rivera  
Representative Publications   (More Publications)

  1. Gabara, E, Errant Modernism: The Ethos of Photography in Mexico and Brazil, A John Hope Franklin Center Book (November, 2008), Duke University Press [ref=sr_1_1]
  2. Gabara, EL, Fighting It Out: Being Naco in the Global Lucha Libre, Mexico Issue, vol. 26 (2010), pp. 277-300, The Wolfsonian-Florida International University [html]
  3. Gabara, EL, Perspectives on Scale: From the Atomic to the Universal, in Art and Globalization, edited by Elkins, J; Kim, AS; Valiavicharska, Z (2010), pp. 200-204, Penn State Press [html]
  4. Gabara, E, Gestures, Practices, and Projects: [Latin] American Re-visions of Visual Culture and Performance Studies, E Misférica, vol. 7 no. 1 (2010) [e-misferica-71]
  5. Gabara, EL, Modernist Ethics: Really Engaging Popular Culture in Mexico and Brazil, in The Ethics of Latin American Literary Criticism: Reading Otherwise, edited by Zivin, EG (2007), pp. 63-104, Palgrave Macmillan [ref=sr_1_1]
  6. Gabara, EL, "Cannon and Camera": Photography and Colonialism in the Américas, Eln, vol. 44 no. 2 (Winter, 2006), pp. 45-64 [pdfviewer], [doi]
  7. Gabara, EL, Recycled Photographs: Moving Still Images of Mexico City, 1950/2000, in Double Exposure: Photography and Literature in Latin America, edited by Schwartz, M; Tierney-Tello, MB (2006), pp. 139-172, Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press [ref=sr_1_1]
  8. Gabara, EL, Facing Brazil: The Problem of Portraiture and a Modernist Sublime, Cr: the New Centennial Review, vol. 4 no. 2 (2004), pp. 33-76, Johns Hopkins University Press (Special issue entitled “Phosphorescent Memory: Visual Culture in the Americas”.) [html], [doi]
  9. Gabara, EL, ’Nunca olhei tão olhado em minha vida e está sublime’: O (auto)retrato e a fotografia na obra de Mário de Andrade, in A Historiografia Literária e as Técnicas de Escrita. Do Manuscrito ao Hipertexto, edited by Süssekind, F; Dias, T (2004), pp. 169-190, Vieira e Lent/ Edições Casa de Rui Barbosa
  10. Folgarait, L, Seeing Mexico Photographed: The Work of Horne, Casasola, Modotti, and Álvarez Bravo (Winter, 2011) [repository]
Selected Invited Talks

  1. Nostalgic Critique: Contemporary Photography as Non-literary Fiction, December 03, 2010, The Itinerant Languages of Photography. Princeton University, Princeton, NJ    
  2. Modernist Tourists in Mexico., October 14, 2010, Paul Strand in Mexico. Aperture Foundation, New York, New York    
  3. Gesture: Signs of the Body in Visual Studies, May 28, 2010, The 2010 Visual Culture Studies Conference. Institute for Modern and Contemporary Culture at University of Westminster, London, United Kingdom    
  4. “Drawn: The New Art of Making Fiction”, December 02, 2009, Centre for Latin American and Caribbean Studies, University of Manchester. Manchester, United Kingdom.    
  5. "Queer Surrealism: As peripheral surrealism", July 23, 2009, Surrealism and Non-Normative Sexualities. Seminar at The Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University. Cambridge, MA.    
  6. "The “Quasi-Corpus," Habeas Corpus, and Relative Democracy: The Cutting Intimacy of Non-Literary Fiction, April 13, 2009, Department of Romance Studies, Cornell University. Ithaca, New York.    
  7. "Misplaced Influence: Art Histories of and from Continental America", February 14, 2009, Courtauld Institute of Art, London, England [pdf]    
  8. “Errant Landscapes: Mário de Andrade Surveys Brazil”, April 14, 2008, University of California, Berkeley    
  9. “Juro que es mujer: El increíble archivo fotográfico de Conchita Jurado y don Carlos Balmori.”, October 11, 2007, Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana (UAM)-Cuajimalpa, Mexico City, Mexico.    
  10. "What Women Do to and in the Casasola Archive, and What it Means About Mexican Photography Today", May 25, 2005, El Museo del Barrio, New York, NY.    
Selected Conference Talks

  1. “Modernist Ethics: Really Engaging Popular Culture”, September 06, 2007, LASA (Latin American Studies Association) Convention    
  2. “Incarnating Fiction, Dissecting Violence: Artur Barrio’s Livro de Carne”, October 13, 2006, Brazilian Studies Association, Vanderbilt University    
  3. Obscuring Vision: Puerto Rican Marginality and Visual Culture, March 17, 2006, Latin American Studies Association. Puerto Rico.    
  4. Arte acción— Acción histórica— Acción textual, April 01, 2005, Carolina Conference on Romance Literatures, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill    
  5. Apprentice Tourist, Expert Modernist: Mário de Andrade and a (Brazilian) Theory of Modernism, February 20, 2004, College Arts Association Annual Conference. Seattle, WA    
  6. “Interdisciplinary Caribbean Studies.”, April 12, 2002, Annual Conference of the American Comparative Literature Association. Universidad de Rio Piedras, San Juan, Puerto Rico    
Conferences Organized

  • Panel co-organized: “Reconstituting the Politics of Art in Latin America: 1900- now.”, March 17, 2006  
  • Romancing the Humanities: New Theories for Romance Studies, Co-organizer, 2003-04  

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