Lauren Mehfoud

PhD Candidate
Office Hours:
Tues & Thurs 11:00am-12:00pm


Ph.D., Spanish, University of Virginia (expected 2023)

Dissertation: The Poetics of Prohibition: Drugs and Racial Politics in Latin America studies the racialized construction of drug prohibition discourses in Mexico and Colombia. Through the analysis of 20th and 21st-century literature, film, television, visual art, and archival sources, it examines the rhetorical strategies employed to transform plants into “drugs” and racialized subjects into “traffickers” and “addicts.” From opium prohibition and anti-Chinese campaigns in 1920s Mexico to the criminalization of Indigenous communities during Colombia’s 1970s marijuana boom, it considers how drug prohibition constituted part of racialized state formation projects. This critical analysis of the narrative foundations of the war on drugs makes an original contribution to scholarship on this topic, highlighting how racism became embedded in the language of drug prohibition in Latin America, and the strategies that writers and activists have used to challenge the discursive underpinnings of the war on drugs.

M.A., Spanish, University of Virginia (2019)

B.A. Spanish, Virginia Tech, summa cum laude (2016)

Research and Teaching Interests

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

· Drug War Narratives

· Race & Ethnicity Studies

· Film Studies

· Environmental Humanities

· Digital & Public Humanities

Peer-Reviewed Articles

“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.

Fellowships, Grants, & Awards

Buckner W. Clay Research Grant (2022)

Charles Gordon Reid Fellowship (2022)

Del Greco Essay Prize (2022)

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

Nominee, UVA Outstanding Graduate Teaching Award (2019)

Conference Presentations

“Uprooted: Cultivating New Drug War Narratives Through Documentary Film.” American Comparative Literature Association Annual Meeting, June 2022.

“El vicio asiático: Opium Prohibition and Anti-Chinese Racism in 20th-Century Mexico.” Latin American Studies Association Convention, May 2022.

“Slow Violence and the Illegal Drug Economy in Birds of Passage.” American Comparative Literature Association Annual Meeting, April 2021.

“Remembering Colombia’s Marijuana Boom: Ecological Trauma in Pájaros de verano.” Carolina Conference for Romance Studies, March 2021.

“Race and Gender as Signs of Misfortune in Sab.” Virginia Tech Undergraduate Research and Creative Scholarship Conference, February 2016.

Panels Organized

Chair and Organizer, “Drug Prohibition & Racial Politics in the Americas.” Latin American Studies Association Convention, May 2022.


Instructor of Record, University of Virginia

· SPAN 4040: Translation from Spanish to English (Spring 2021, Fall 2021)

· SPAN 2020: Advanced Intermediate Spanish (Fall 2019, Spring 2020)

· SPAN 1060: Accelerated Elementary Spanish (Fall 2018, Spring 2019)

· SPAN 2010: Intermediate Spanish (Fall 2017, Spring 2018, Summer 2018)