I am a historian of colonialism, language, law, and religious conversion in colonial Latin America, with a special emphasis on the New Kingdom of Granada (the region broadly corresponding to modern-day Colombia). This region occupied a peculiar place in Spanish America, and my work takes advantage of its distinctive perspective to explore important themes in early modern history.
My first book, Mestizos heraldos de Dios, was concerned with emerging ideas of race and difference in the early modern world by exploring a controversy over the ordination of men of mixed indigenous and European descent, mestizos, to the Catholic priesthood in late 16th-century New Granada against the backdrop of similar debates at the time in other regions of Spanish America, East and West Africa, India, and Japan.
My second book, La legislación de la arquidiócesis de Santafé, co-edited with Natalie Cobo, is the first critical edition of all the legislation issued by the Catholic Church in colonial Santafé (modern-day Bogotá) during the colonial period.
As part of my work as an historian, I co-founded Neogranadina, a Colombian non-profit foundation devoted to preserving the holdings of endangered archives and libraries in Latin America through digitisation, making the results available and accesible online for free, and developing digital humanities and public history projects to bring them to new audiences. With the help of UCSB graduate and undergraduate students, we have made thousands of colonial materials from Colombian archives available online for the first time. You can access them here.
Research and Teaching Interests:
- Religious conversion and colonialism.
- Languages in colonial contexts.
- Race and identity in the early modern world.
- The history of law and normativity.
I am currently preparing a monograph concerning the profound transformations undergone by indigenous communities in the central highlands of New Granada — known as the Muisca — in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries as a result of the efforts of the colonial administration to convert them to Catholic Christianity, in the broader context of the construction of Spanish colonial rule in the area and the transformation of Roman Catholicism in the early modern period.
I am also engaged in collaborative projects concerning early modern legal history, religious social institutions, and indigenous languages.
Co-edited with Natalie Cobo, La legislación de la arquidiócesis de Santafé en el periodo colonial [The legislation of the archdiocese of Santafé in the colonial period] (Bogotá, Colombia: Instituto Colombiano de Antropología e Historia, 2018).
Mestizos Heraldos de Dios: la ordenación de sacerdotes descendientes de españoles e indígenas en el Nuevo Reino de Granada y la racialización de la diferencia, c.1573-1590 [Mestizo Heralds of God: the ordination of priests descended from Spaniards and Indians and the racialization of difference] (Bogotá, Colombia: Instituto Colombiano de Antropología e Historia, 2012).
- HIST2B: World History, 1000-1700
Survey of the peoples, cultures, and social, economic, and political systems that have characterized the world’s major civilizations in Europe, Asia, Africa, the Americas, and Oceania from 1000 to 1700 CE.
- HIST151A: Latin American history, 1492-1800
A general survey of the social, economic, institutional, and intellectual history of colonial Spanish America (1492-1800), with comparisons to colonial Brazil.
- HIST151R: Undergraduate Research Seminar in Latin American History
A research seminar in Latin American history. Students will conduct historical research in a seminar context, using both primary and secondary source materials, to produce an original and substantial research paper. Topics addressed: defining a research problem, identifying an original topic, conducting research, citing sources, and presenting results. Intensive writing required.
- HIST154LA: Andean History: pre-Hispanic and colonial periods
The history of the Andean region broadly defined from pre-Columbian times to the colonial period. Topics include the Incas and their predecessors; indigenous societies in the Northern and Southern Andes; the formation and development of colonial societies; religion; the economy; and global connections.
- HIST156A: History of Mexico: pre-Hispanic and colonial periods
The history of colonial New Spain, from California to Central America and from the Philippines to the Caribbean. Topics include pre-Columbian societies, including the Aztecs; the formation and development of colonial societies; religion; the economy; and global connections.
- HIST150CL: Language and colonialism in the Atlantic World (formerly “Comparative colonialism and language”).
All colonial projects had to face the problem of linguistic differences, but the ways in which they did so were far from uniform and are very revealing of their different ambitions, ideological foundations, and local circumstances. This course explores the history of colonialism comparatively from the perspective of language, from the early modern period to the twentieth century, in Latin America, Africa, and Southeast Asia.