Lauren Mehfoud

PhD Candidate
New Cabell Hall 436
Office Hours:
No office hours


Predoctoral Fellow, Jefferson Scholars Foundation, University of Virginia (2023-2024)

PhD, Spanish, University of Virginia (scheduled May 2024)

Dissertation: The Poetics of Prohibition: Drugs, Culture, and Racial Politics in Latin America studies the discursive relationship between drug prohibition and racial state formation in 20th-and 21st-century Mexico and Colombia. Each chapter zooms in on a key moment in the development of antidrug policy in these countries, ranging from opium prohibition and anti-Chinese campaigns in 1920s Mexico to the criminalization and displacement of Indigenous Wayuu communities during Colombia’s 1970s marijuana boom. Through the analysis of literature, film, television, visual art, and archival sources, I examine the rhetorical strategies employed to transform plants into “drugs” and racialized subjects into “traffickers” and “addicts,” as well as how activists, writers, and filmmakers have contested these discursive constructions. This critical analysis of the narrative foundations of the “war on drugs” makes an original contribution, illuminating how antidrug discourses have constructed national identities, produced racial difference, and facilitated environmental exploitation across Latin America.

MA, Spanish, University of Virginia (2019)

BA, Spanish, Virginia Tech, Summa Cum Laude (2016)

Research & Teaching Interests

20th- and 21st-Century Latin American Literary and Cultural Studies

Race and Ethnicity Studies

Environmental Humanities

Film Studies

Digital and Public Humanities

Peer-Reviewed Articles

“Indigenising Colombia’s Marijuana Boom: Race and Settler Colonialism in Pájaros de verano.” Journal of Latin American Cultural Studies, vol. 23, no. 1, 2023, pp. 39-56.

“Unmasking the Narco: Irony in Juan Pablo Villalobos’ Fiesta en la madriguera.” Revista de literatura mexicana contemporánea, vol. 25, no.78, 2019, pp. 77-90.

Public Scholarship

“1940s Mexico Has a Lesson for How the U.S. Can Tackle Drug Addiction.” The Washington Post. 20 June 2023.

Fellowships, Grants, & Awards

Jefferson Predoctoral Fellowship (2023-2024)

Buckner W. Clay Research Grant (2022)

Del Greco Essay Prize (2022)

Charles Gordon Reid Fellowship (2022)

Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences Summer Research Award (2020, 2021)

Nominee, Outstanding Graduate Teaching Award, University of Virginia (2019)

Professional Service

Editorial Assistant, Global South Studies: A Collective Publication with The Global South

Committee Member, SIP Graduate Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee (2021-2023)


Instructor of Record, University of Virginia (2017-2023)

SPAN 4040: Translation from Spanish to English

SPAN 2020: Advanced Intermediate Spanish

SPAN 2010: Intermediate Spanish

SPAN 1060: Accelerated Elementary Spanish