Sponsored Working Group

Race and the Early Modern World

This working group draws upon the strengths of scholars across the Rutgers campuses and across disciplinary boundaries whose work entails an investigation of racial difference in the early modern world, read variously as somatic, religious, national, and ethnic difference, and as mutually constitutive with social hierarchies such as class and caste. In thinking through connections between early modern racial formations and our contemporary historical moment, this working group will also seek to communicate the relevance of early modern studies to our debates about race and racism in the world today. Fostering publications, projects, and public events including interdisciplinary symposia on race, this working group aims to promote and build on the energy and radical thinking of recent scholarship on race in the early modern world, bringing it to a wider audience, facilitating interdisciplinary work and anticipating new directions in the field. It is our intention that participants will engage the topic of race and the early modern world from a wide variety of theoretical, critical, archival, and pedagogical perspectives. Questions of interest include: How do we define race in the early modern world? To what extent do the forms and features of early modern social difference relate to modern understandings and experiences of race and racism? How do disciplinary boundaries limit our approaches to thinking and speaking about race and other forms of difference? What are the advantages and pitfalls of using critical race theory in discussions of race in the early modern world? What are our aims (aspirations) in studying the way racial difference works in the early modern world? What possibilities for teaching students about race in the early modern world emerge from an assessment of documentary, literary, material, visual and other sources?



This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ​(Ph.D. Columbia University 2011) is Associate Professor of English at Rutgers University-Newark, where she teaches Shakespeare, Renaissance drama, and early modern women’s travel writing. She is the author of ​Shakespeare and the Cultivation of Difference: Race and Conduct in the Early Modern World (​ Routledge). She is co-editor, with Bernadette Andrea of ​Travel and Travail: Early Modern Women, English Drama, and the Wider World (​ University of Nebraska Press). Her research has been supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Folger Shakespeare Library, the Ford Foundation, and The John Carter Brown Library. She is a member of the executive board of the ongoing conference series and professional network Race Before Race.




Early Modern Race Ana Laguna Photo 1 200 200 80 c Patricia AkhimieAna Laguna ​(Ph.D. Purdue 2002) is Associate Professor of Spanish at Rutgers University-Camden. Her research delves into the complex interwoven relationships of literature, politics, and the visual arts in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Spanish culture, exploring in particular how literature reflects prominent artistic and socio-political anxieties. She writes numerous articles appearing in journals such as ​Hispanic Review​ and ​Modern Language Notes, and has contributed chapters to several academic books as well. She is the author of ​Cervantes and the Pictorial Imagination ​(Lewisburg, PA: Bucknell University Press, 2009) and the co-editor of the volume ​Goodbye Eros: Recasting Forms and Norms of Love in the Age of Cervantes ​(Toronto University Press 2020). Her work has been awarded fellowships, among others, by the National Endowment for the Humanities, The Program for Cultural Cooperation Between the Ministry of Culture of Spain and United States Universities.



TurnerHeadshot2 Patricia AkhimieHenry Turner ​(Ph.D. Columbia University 2000) was a member of the Folger weekend seminar on “Race and Gender in Early Modern Studies” led by Ayanna Thompson and Kim Coles in 2017-18, which the Race and the Early Modern World Working Group at the Rutgers Center for Cultural Analysis, and this symposium, both seek to extend. He is Professor of English Literature, former Director for the Center for Cultural Analysis, and is currently Associate Vice Chancellor for Research in the Humanities and the Arts at Rutgers University-New Brunswick. His primary research and teaching areas are in Renaissance Drama, especially William Shakespeare and Ben Jonson, in critical theory and philosophy, and in early modern intellectual history, especially literary theory and early scientific thought, the history of political economy, law, colonization, and the State, cartography, and theories of space in early modern mathematics, poetry, and theater. Prof. Turner is the author of ​The Corporate Commonwealth ​(UChicago P, 2016), ​Shakespeare’s Double Helix (​ Continuum Press, 2008​), The English Renaissance Stage: Geometry, Poetics and the Practical Spatial Arts​ (Oxford UP, 2006), and editor of ​Early Modern Theatricality (​ Oxford UP, 2013) and ​The Culture of Capital: Property, Cities, and Knowledge in Early Modern England (​ Routledge, 2002). He is also editing Ben Jonson’s ​Poetaster​ for the forthcoming ​Routledge Anthology of Early Modern Drama​, ed. Jeremy Lopez. Along with Mary Thomas Crane, he edits the book series “Alembics: Penn Studies in Literature and Science” (UPENN Press).​ ​He has received grants from the American Council of Learned Societies, the National Humanities Center, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the UW-Madison Vilas Foundation, the Whiting Foundation, and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. He is currently co-writing a book about the emergence of an early modern “world” imaginary in the theater of Shakespeare and his contemporaries, with particular attention to how “race” emerges as a modern category of individualized identity that supplants earlier communal or corporate affiliations.


Sylvester Cruz

Sylvester Cruz is the graduate student coordinator of the Race and the Early Modern World working group, and has been a doctoral student at Rutgers - New Brunswick since 2018. He is a third culture adult, having been raised as a dual citizen of both the United States and the Republic of South Africa, and earned his undergraduate degree from the University of California at Santa Cruz. His research interests include the history of education from antiquity into the early modern period, the history of dramatic form, and the historical experience of emotion.




Mercado Mayte 

Mayte Green-Mercado (Ph.D. The University of Chicago 2012) is Assistant Professor of History at Rutgers University-Newark, where she teaches courses the history of Islamic civilization, Mediterranean history, medieval and early modern Iberian history, race in the pre-modern Mediterranean, and migration, displacement, and refugees in the Mediterranean. She is the director of the Middle East and Islamic Studies Minor, and co-director of the Mediterranean Displacements Project at Rutgers- Newark. She is the author of Visions of Deliverance. Moriscos and the Politics of Prophecy in the Early Modern Mediterranean (Cornell University Press, 2019). In 2018 she edited a special issue titled “Speaking the End Times, Early Modern Politics and Religion from Iberia to Central Asia,” in the Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient. She has written articles and book chapters on apocalypticism in Iberia and the Mediterranean in the early modern period, the forced conversion of Muslims in Spain, and on ethnic groups in Renaissance Spain. She is currently working on a monograph on Morisco migration and displacement in the sixteenth-century Mediterranean.