Christian Pettersen joined Kenyon in 2023 after completing a Ph.D. in human geography from the University of Georgia. Pettersen is a political and legal geographer. His research focuses on the historical development of anti-impunity initiatives in Guatemala and Cambodia. In his current work he examines how the Guatemalan state welcomed and then expelled the United Nations-sponsored International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG). He looks to how the CICIG’s expulsion can provide clues to how exclusionary states maintain their power and to how human rights both expand and constrain transformative social practice in the 21st century.

At Kenyon, Pettersen teaches courses in International Studies and History. His classes are based on his research expertise and lived experience in Latin America and Southeast Asia, and by his commitments as an historically-driven interdisciplinary scholar.


2023 — Doctor of Philosophy from University of Georgia

2015 — Master of Arts from University of Georgia

2013 — Bachelor of Arts from University of Arizona

Courses Recently Taught

This seminar introduces first-year students to the study of history at Kenyon College by employing certain basic skills and methods to examine a particular theme in world history. Each section of the seminar is taught by a different instructor and has a different focus, but all of the sections emphasize close reading of primary sources, analysis of how scholars have interpreted those sources, comparison of case studies in different regions of the world, study of change over time, intensive writing assignments, and occasional guest lectures by other History faculty. In comparing cases from different times and places that are related to a common theme, the course and its instructor also model the dual skills of specialization and synthesis that students are expected to exercise in completing the field and distribution requirements of the History major.

Are revolutions ever as revolutionary as they promise to be? When is incremental change advocated over large-scale reform? And when is revolution seen as the only option? Are the promises of a charismatic leader just a way to manipulate the masses, or are the masses shaping their leaders? And what happens when things go awry? This course asks these questions in the context of contemporary Latin America. It examines the region’s history from independence at the beginning of the 19th century to redemocratization at the end of the 20th. The central and recurring theme of the course is the narrative of reform versus revolution and the (often unintended) consequences of each. Throughout the course, we encounter debates about nationhood, modernization, imperialism and sovereignty, often from the perspectives of historical figures like Ernesto "Çhe" Guevara and Frida Kahlo. In doing so, we can begin contextualizing the circumstances of men and women’s actions, the various possibilities of freedom they envisioned, and the factors leading to their decision to rebel, accommodate or find a third path. Prior study of Latin America, or study of Spanish, French or Portuguese are not needed. This class counts toward the modern and Europe/Americas requirement for the major, and the Americas field. No prerequisite.

This seminar examines how human rights have been articulated in distinct historical contexts in Latin America. We first review early notions of human rights and natural law as expressed during the Spanish conquest of the Caribbean and the Americas. Second, the seminar identifies the main tenets of human rights law and discourse, as comprehended in general terms since the establishment of the United Nations. Then we study how major concepts of human rights have been asserted in recent years in different countries across Latin America. This counts toward the modern and Europe/Americas requirements and the for the major. No prerequisite. Sophomore standing. Offered occasionally.

This course is designed for sophomores who plan to major in international studies. It explores the evolution of modern international society by examining the roles of industrialization, capitalism, nationalism, individualism and other elements of modernity in propelling and directing the flow of wealth, people and ideas between different regions of the world. In addition to studying general political and economic changes, the course considers various local and personal perspectives, giving life to otherwise abstract forces and complicating attempts to construct a single overarching narrative of "modernization," "Westernization" or "development." Among the issues to be examined are the causes and effects of international economic disparities, migration, cultural tensions and stresses on the environment. In surveying major viewpoints and illustrative cases within these themes, the course is meant to serve as an introduction to the international studies major, utilizing a variety of academic disciplines and providing a foundation for further study of relations between different nations and peoples of the world. As part of the course, students complete a research paper related to the geographic area where they plan to go for their off-campus experience. This interdisciplinary course does not count toward the completion of any diversification requirement. No prerequisite. Sophomore standing. Offered every year.