In my research and teaching, I explore the relation between theater—understood simultaneously as a medium, a practice, an industry, an institution, a social force, and a vibrant malleable set of literary forms—and the social, political, and cultural struggles of early modernity. At the core of those struggles and of my interests lay crucial processes of racial, gender, and identity formation, which I study within a framework that is comparative, transnational, and often transhistorical. My work is thus at the intersection of early modern literary studies, critical race studies, theater and performance studies, and comparative literature.
In my book, Scripts of Blackness: Early Modern Performance Culture and the Making of Race (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2022), I dissect the stagecraft used in early modern theater to represent and racialize Africans and Afro-descendants across borders in early modern England, France, and Spain. At the end of the 16th century, in a context of global expansion, what I call the racial matrix produced a new paradigm: the word race started referring to phenotypical differences for which skin color quickly became a shorthand. Scripts of Blackness explores how that long-reaching epistemological shift was brought about, how it slowly infiltrated people’s everyday reading of human bodies, and how the racialization of blackness was absorbed into early modern European popular cultures. Theater, located within a larger performance culture that permeated everyday life, is a privileged site for analyzing the operations of this epistemological shift. Scripts of Blackness argues that, from the beginning of the 16th century to the beginning of the 18th century, the cosmetic, vocal, and kinetic techniques of racial impersonation used by white actors, amateurs, and enthusiasts to represent black characters effected ideological work by fostering new habits of mind among spectators across Europe.
I am the co-editor, with Lia Markey, of the forthcoming RaceB4Race® volume Seeing Race Before Race: Visual Culture and the Racial Matrix in the Pre-modern World (ACMRS Press, Spring 2023, Open Access), which asks art historians and cultural historians to think together about the racializing regimes operative in premodern visual culture (from 1300 to 1800) through the lens of Critical Race Theory. I am also the guest editor of a forthcoming 2023 special issue of Shakespeare Quarterly on Shakespeare studies and early modern critical race studies, and I am currently at work on a new monograph tentatively entitled Early Modernity in Black and Brown, which expands my theorization of the racial matrix by focusing on the historican and representational juxtapositions, frictions, and solidarities, between Black people and Jewish, Muslim, Romani, Indigenous, and South/East Asian people in early modernity. I greatly enjoy collaborating with theatre makers and visual artists. I am a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Research Board, and co-curator of the forthcoming “Race Before Race” exhibition at the Newberry Library (Fall 2023).
Refereed Journal Articles
“‘Read it for restoratives’: Pericles and the Romance of Whiteness.” Early Theatre 26.1. (Forthcoming, Spring 2023)
“Black Roma: Afro-Romani Connections in Early Modern Drama.” Renaissance Quarterly 75.4 (Forthcoming, Winter 2023).
“Le corps de la nation: Eros, théâtre, et racialisation au Grand-Siècle.” Thaêtre. Chantier #6: Baroque is burning! (2022). Web.
“Rewriting the Grand Siècle: Blackface in Early Modern France and the Historiography of Race.” Literature Compass 18.10 (2021). Web.
“‘Come Aloft, Jack-Little-Ape’: Race and Dance in The Spanish Gypsie.” English Literary Renaissance 51.1 (2021). 121-151.
“‘Everyone Breeds in His Own Image’: Staging the Aethiopica across the Channel,” Renaissance Drama 44: 2 (2016). 157-186.
“Aaron’s Roots: Spaniards, Englishmen, and Blackamoors in Titus Andronicus,” Early Theatre 19: 2 (2016). 59-80.
“Race and Ethnicity: Conceptual Knots in Early Modern Culture,” The Cultural History of Race in the Reformation and Enlightenment, 1550-1760 (Vol. 4), Nicholas Hudson ed., Marius Turda general ed., 111-126. London: Bloomsbury Press, 2021.
“Race, Capitalism, and Globalization in Titus Andronicus,” The Cambridge Companion to Shakespeare and Race, edited by Ayanna Thompson, 158-174. Cambridge University Press, 2021.
“Off the Record: Contrapuntal Theatre History,” The Companion to Theatre and Performance Historiography, Tracy C. Davis and Peter Marx, eds., 229-248. New York: Routledge, 2020.
“The African Ambassadors’ Travels: Playing Black in Late Seventeenth Century France and Spain,” Transnational Connections in Early Modern Theatre, edited by M.A. Katritzky and Pavel Drábek, 73-85. Manchester University Press, 2020.
“Theater of the Mothers: Three Political Plays by Marie Ndiaye,” Women Mobilizing Memory: Arts of Intervention, edited by Soledad Falabella, Marianne Hirsch, Jean E. Howard, Banu Karaca, 363-380. New York: Columbia University Press, 2019.
You can find some of my publications here.
Fall 2019, Spring 2021 Representations of Islam in Early Modern England.
Spring 2021: Black Shakespeare
Fall 2021: Shakespeare I: Histories and Comedies
Fall 2021: Early Modern Critical Race Studies