Image: “Missionary Brings Christianity to Native Americans” (1579) Courtesy of the John Carter Brown Library

My research aims to broaden our understanding of race by emphasizing its connection to religious discrimination. My dissertation, “Politics in the Time of Race”, traces the development of race in early modern Spain and Mexico. I focus on the policies and discourse of blood purity, which originally targeted Jewish and Muslim converts to Christianity, and analyze how they were redeployed in the Americas to target Indigenous and African peoples. I use this work to bring a historical perspective to contemporary debates over the relationship between racism and other forms of discrimination.

This project draws on archival research carried out in Spain and Mexico and has been supported by grants from the Browne Center for International Politics, the Department of Political Science at UPenn, and a Teece Fellowship.

Working Papers

“Mind the Gap: A Machiavellian Lesson in Anti-Racism” – This article uses Machiavelli to discuss how early modern notions of racial difference responded to a distinction between truth and appearances. I read Machiavelli through the work of Sylvia Wynter, who outlined an epistemic transformation in early modernity giving rise to both a secularized conception of humanity and a racialized understanding of difference. I situate Machiavelli within that epistemic transformation but argue that he stands out in one important way. Whereas race functioned to cover over the gap between truth and appearances, Machiavelli insisted upon the impossibility of bridging this gap. In this way, he offers us a theory of the subject that resists the possibility of racialization.

“Ungrateful Nations: The Politics of Jewish and Indigenous Refusal” – This article critiques the political value of gratitude, noting early modern references to ingratitude as a defining feature of Jewish and Indigenous peoples. I argue that demands for gratitude function as a way of conscripting people into political projects which they may otherwise oppose.