Nara Milanich

Associate Professor

Department of History, Barnard College

Nara Milanich, Associate Professor of History, joined the faculty of Barnard in 2004. Her scholarly interests include modern Latin America, Chile, and the comparative histories of family, childhood, and gender, and law and social inequality.

Professor Milanich teaches such courses as "Inequalities: Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Latin American History and Society," "Women and Gender in Latin American History," and the survey course, "Modern Latin American History." Graduate offerings include the seminar for first-year PhD students in historiography and a course on law and legality in Latin America.  Professor Milanich has also taught in and directed the Masters in Latin American Studies (MARSLAC) based in the Institute for Latin American Studies at Columbia.

Her research and scholarship have been supported by the Fulbright Commission for Educational Exchange, the Social Science Research Council, and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Professor Milanich writes and publishes in both Spanish and English.

Current Research

I am working on a book project entitled The Birth of Uncertainty: A Global History of the Paternity Test.

For centuries, Western legal tradition relied on the assumption “pater semper incertus est” (“the father is always uncertain”). But beginning in the early twentieth century, scientists began a quest for a biological marker of paternity that could unambiguously link a child to his or her progenitor. Prior to the advent of DNA testing, researchers from the U.S. to Brazil, Italy to Egypt, experimented with an array of techniques for fixing genealogical identity, including fingerprinting, dental evidence, biometrics, and blood typing. This talk traces the reception of paternity science in law and social practice, showing how its consequences for men, women, and children differed across national contexts; how paternity science, which coincided with the rise of eugenics, was deeply racialized from its inception; and how these new technologies migrated from family law into immigration law. While global histories of family and childhood have emphasized cross-cultural convergence towards “modern” norms and values over the twentieth century, the history of paternity suggests patterns of divergence and variation.

Academic Focus: 

Latin American history

Awards & Honors: 

Winner of the Grace Abbott Book Award from the Society for the History of Children and Youth (2009) for Children of Fate.

Professional Affiliations: 

Professor Milanich serves on the Editorial Board of the Hispanic American Historical Review



The Chile Reader: History, Culture, Politics (co-edited with Elizabeth Quay Hutchison, Thomas Miller Klubock, and Peter Winn) (Duke University Press, forthcoming fall 2013)

Children of Fate: Childhood, Class, and the State in Chile, 1850-1930 (Duke University Press, 2009)

Selected Recent Articles/Book Chapters

“Latin American Childhoods and the Concept of Modernity,” Routledge History of Children in the Western World, Paula Fass, ed, Routledge, 2012.

“Women, Children, and Domestic Labor in Nineteenth-Century Chile,” Hispanic American Historical Review 91:1, February 2011, 29-62.

“Degrees of Bondage: Children’s Tutelary Servitude in Modern Latin America,” in Child Slaves in the Modern World, vol 2, Joseph Miller, Gwyn Campbell, and Sue Miers, eds. Ohio State University Press, 2011.

“Family Matters: The Historiography of Latin American Families,” in Oxford Handbook of Latin American History, José Moya, ed., Oxford University Press, 2010, 382-406.

“Women, Gender, and Family in Latin America, 1800-2000,” in A Companion to Latin American History, Thomas Holloway, ed., Blackwell, 2008, 461-479.

“Whither Family History? A Road Map from Latin America,” American Historical Review 112:2, April 2007, 439-458.




B.A., Brown University, 1994
M.A., Ph.D., Yale University, 2002

Related Web Sites: 


In the News

History professor quoted in top Chilean newspaper on 250th anniversary of a child welfare institution in Santiago.