My research agenda explores the agency, sub­jec­tivity, and per­for­mance of Black dias­poric iden­tities in early modern Iberia (Por­tugal, Spain, and Valencia) and the Ibero-Atlantic world. Another way to put it: my work leaves a blue­print for past rebellion by black Africans and their descen­dants in the pre-Enlightenment Iberian world. As a scholar whose work remains firmly rooted in both Africana Studies and early modern Iberian Studies, I enlist the strategies, method­ologies, and insights of Black Studies into the service of Early Modern Studies and vice versa. I re-imagine the lives of early African dias­poric people via the global cir­cu­lation of material goods, visual culture, and ide­o­logical valences rep­re­sented in archival doc­u­ments and lit­er­ature from West-Central Africa, Iberia, and the Americas. And to that effect, my body of work pushes back on the mis­con­ception that the enslavement and sub­or­di­nation of black Africans in the early modern Iberian world stripped them of all their culture and her­itage. To achieve and to illus­trate this con­viction, I not only center early dias­poric African lives—enslaved and free—, but also excavate and tell their stories that have been buried, mis­un­der­stood, or oth­erwise dis­carded as insignif­icant to lit­erary canons and his­torical nar­ra­tives. What moti­vates my research and sus­tains my love for solving the mys­teries sur­rounding the con­tra­dic­torily complex Black lives in pre-Enlightenment Iberia man­i­fests in the method­ology of close reading, the analysis of material and visual cul­tures, and the arguing for the primacy of pol­itics— cus­tomary, intel­lectual, and juridical—in medi­ating the ear­liest con­tacts between sub-Saharan Africans and Europeans.

What I describe here has tran­spired in the momentum and tra­jectory of my pub­li­cation record on these topics. Moving forward, I am presently com­pleting two new books: my second mono­graph titled Cer­vantine Blackness and a co-edited volume with Chad Leahy, pub­lished by Rout­ledge, Porno­graphic Sen­si­bil­ities: Imag­ining Sex and the Vis­ceral in Pre­modern and Early Modern Spanish Cul­tural Pro­duction. Looking ahead to 2022, I have also been invited to serve as guest editor where I will curate special issues in the journals La corónica: A Journal of Medieval Lan­guages, Lit­er­a­tures & Cul­tures (“Black Timescapes: Tapes­tries of Africa in Pre­modern Iberia”) and Bul­letin of the Come­di­antes (“Black Per­for­mance in Early Modern Iberia).

I am a teacher-scholar-activist whose model of aca­demic engagement man­i­fests via antiracist teaching prac­tices, thereby posi­tioning me to serve as a teacher-scholar-participant in Bucknell University’s broader com­munity. In the coming pages, I will convey my ded­i­cation to this model of aca­demic engagement both inside and outside the classroom. While teaching the canon of early modern Spanish lit­erary and cul­tural studies, my courses maintain rigor with forward thinking approaches to the scholarly tra­di­tions of my field. The method­ological frame­works of my classes center the strategies of close reading, critical race studies, gender and sex­u­ality studies, material and visual analyses, as well as per­for­mance studies. In my upper-level seminar “Black Iberia”—formerly titled “The His­panic Black Atlantic: Then and Now”—I instill in my stu­dents the impor­tance of social justice, global awareness, and inter­dis­ci­plinary approaches to the Human­ities. On the first day of class, I can­didly tell my stu­dents one of the seminar’s primary goals: to be and to become just and humane adults— espe­cially for those who will serve as high-level board members and exec­u­tives on Fortune 500corporations and/or adju­dicate leg­is­lation and trials for our Nation’s high-ranking courts and legal insti­tu­tions. By framing my seminar as a higher edu­ca­tional space of ethical sen­si­tivity and ana­lytical rigor, I inspire my stu­dents to center their own con­struction of knowledge that man­i­fests beyond the mere reception of con­cepts and ideas. In a seminar such as this one, I emphasize that my ped­a­gogical imper­a­tives and ini­tia­tives center my interests in learning from and lis­tening to all my stu­dents. I con­tin­u­ously chal­lenge my stu­dents to reflect upon the ways in which Blackness dia­logues fluidly with, for example, gender and sex­u­ality; even ques­tions of acces­si­bility, dis­ability, and body image. What is more, I attend to his­torian Herman Bennett’s con­tention in African Kings and Black Slaves: Sov­er­eignty and Dis­pos­session in the Early Modern Atlantic (Uni­versity of Penn­syl­vania Press, 2019) that: “Stu­dents of the African- European encounter—whether his­to­rians of Africa, European expansion, Atlantic history, or the slave trade—display little nuance with regard to [earlier his­tories of power that reroute the nar­rative of the African diaspora beyond cul­tural iden­ti­fi­cation and the for­mation of the indi­vidual” (155). To this effect, my ped­a­gogical remixing of time, by placing the early modern past with our present twenty-first century alongside the study of popular culture, stu­dents in my seminar refine their grasp of and response to the complex ide­ologies and social systems that frame the process of learning itself.

With respect to the state of the field, as it per­tains to Medieval and Early Modern Studies and Con­tem­porary Critical Thought, I pose the fol­lowing questions:

  • What place does a sus­tained study of sub-Saharan Africans and their descen­dants have in the study our respective fields?
  • What might be the ide­o­logical and political investment in, perhaps, excluding the cen­trality of sub-Saharan African in the training of graduate and under­graduate students?
  • What can our 21st-century aes­theti­cized expres­sions and prac­tices of memo­ri­al­ization and popular culture teach us about the pre­modern and early modern pasts? I’m thinking about, for example, the icono­graphic image of Rosalía and Beyoncé’s new visual album Black is King as a decolonial project.
  • To reca­pit­ulate the variety of topics addressed in Miguel Ángel Rosales’s Gurumbé: can­ciones de tu memoria negra, how do we reckon with “nuestra memoria negra” in a global(ized) Iberian world?