Sarah Sklaw

  • Fellowship year:2021-2022
  • University: New York University
  • Dissertation Topic/Category: Central America
  • Dissertation Title: "Tell your Mama to Surrender": Gender, Revolution, and Development in Nicaragua, 1974- 1992
  • “‘Tell your Mama to Surrender’: Gender, Revolution, and Development in Nicaragua, 1974-1992,” reframes Cold War competition over capitalism, socialism, deregulation, and the welfare state by analyzing how reproductive labor and household economies cut across contests over collective versus individual models of political economy. Development was a galvanizing force in the global Cold War because it promised to liberate nations subject to formal and informal empire from their dependency on outside powers. However, historians have paid less attention to development’s influence on relations of dependency, patronage, and obligation within developing states. My work argues that development was also a key space where workers, researchers, and homemakers articulated their own visions of social welfare, labor, markets, and family dynamics. Centering the everyday experiences of agricultural workers, union activists, and demobilized soldiers I argue that gender and kinship were political terrains where homemakers, community organizers, economists, and farmers negotiated the personal stakes of the global Cold War.

    My historical interventions help us understand the changing nature of U.S. foreign policy during the late Cold War. I apply gender and kinship analyses to human rights mobilization, nutrition programs for mothers and infants, women’s farming cooperatives, and economic sanctions to reveal how Nicaraguans negotiated international and domestic development projects. My transnational, multi-sited history of the Cold War argues that developmentalists’ encounters with local networks and actors transformed universalized assumptions about family, markets, and the meaning of “the economy.” In “‘Tell your Mama to Surrender,’” I use oral histories, institutional archives from USAID and the Ford Foundation, internal documents from the Sandinista ministries of agriculture, housing, and industry, Nicaraguan periodicals, and United Nations records to expose striking continuities in gendered divisions of labor across political ideologies.