National Fellow

Sarah Sklaw

C. Austin Buck Family National Fellow
B.A. Tulane University (2013) with Highest Honors
Dream Mentor:
Amy Offner
University of Pennsylvania
Fields of Interest:
Foreign Policy
Gender History
Human Rights
Immigration Policy
International Relations
Political Economy
Region: Latin America
The Cold War


Sarah Sklaw is a Ph.D. candidate in the History Department at NYU. Her dissertation project is titled “’Tell Your Mama to Surrender’: Gender, Revolution, and Development in Nicaragua, 1972-1995.” Sarah received her B.A. in history from Tulane University and worked on the Louisiana State Museum’s Colonial Documents collection. Sarah’s dissertation argues that gender relations and social reproduction were core components of development programs promoted by the U.S. and Sandinista governments which reshaped kinship relations to transform Central America’s political economy. Sarah also volunteers as an interpreter for asylum cases. Her work highlights the influence of U.S. intervention on Latin American migration.

Thesis Description:

‘Tell your Mama to Surrender’: Gender, Revolution, and Development in Nicaragua, 1972-1995
“‘Tell your Mama to Surrender’: Gender, Revolution, and Development in Nicaragua, 1972-1995,” reframes Cold War competitions over capitalism, socialism, deregulation, and the welfare state by analyzing how reproductive labor and household economies cut across debates about collective versus individual models of political economy during the late twentieth century. I reconstruct conflicts over development before (1972-1979), during (1979-1990), and after (1990-1995) the Sandinista Revolution to explain why imperial, revolutionary, and non-governmental development agencies used human resource development to restructure local, intimate relationships for economic ends. Analyzing human rights mobilization, nutrition programs for mothers and infants, women’s farming cooperatives, and economic sanctions, this project reveals how gender and kinship were political terrains where homemakers, community organizers, economists, and farmers negotiated the personal stakes of the global Cold War.

“‘Tell your Mama to Surrender’” is a multi-sited history of the Cold War and argues that developmentalists’ encounters with local networks and actors transformed universalized assumptions about family, markets, and the meaning of “the economy.” It challenges development chronologies that assume gender and family only emerged as concerns in the 1970s, as states turned from government-led modernization to privatized efforts to meet poor people’s basic needs. Human development programs in nutrition, education, agriculture, and health were already mainstays of postwar development, with origins in private precursors to the welfare state, such as missionary, charity, and social work. This project reconfigures historiographies of development by incorporating feminist scholarship that treats interventions in private spheres like sex, family structure, and child rearing as key components of state-building projects.

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