CENTRING RACE IN HISTORY: Antiquity to the Present

Speaker Biographies

Keynote Speakers

Wang Xianhua is Dean of the Institute for the Global History of Civilizations, and Professor at Shanghai International Studies University. He holds an MA in Hebrew Bible from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and a PhD in Assyriology from the University of Cambridge, UK. His PhD thesis is published as The Metamorphosis of Enlil in Early Mesopotamia by Ugarit-Verlag in Münster in the series Alter Orient und Altes Testament. Besides articles focused on the political and religious history of early Mesopotamia (ca. 3500-2000 BCE), he has published studies on the Hebrew Bible, Chinese classics, and social scientific approaches to world history. He was the chief investigator of the research projects ‘The Sargonic Transformation of Sumerian Polytheism’, funded by the Chinese National Humanities and Social Sciences Foundation, and ‘The Central Administration of the Sargonic Empire’, funded by the Chinese Ministry of Education. He has been a DAAD visiting student at Jena University in Germany in 2005, a Visiting Professor to Sun Yat-sen University in 2012, a visiting scholar to the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations at Harvard University in 2014, and a Neubauer Collegium Visiting Fellow at the University of Chicago in 2015-2016, where he contributed to the project Signs of Writing: The Cultural, Social, and Linguistic Contexts of the Worlds First Writing Systems headed by Professors Edward Louis Shaughnessy and Christopher Woods.

Geraldine Heng is Perceval Professor at the University of Texas in Austin, and Founder and Director of the Global Middle Ages Projects (G-MAP): www.globalmiddleages.org Her second book, The Invention of Race in the European Middle Ages (Cambridge University press, 2018) argues that the medieval period was not a pre-political, pre-racial era, and that religion then (and now)—as much as science, in later eras—was selectively deployed to identify differences among humans that were essentialized as absolute and fundamental, distributing positions and powers differentially to human groups in practices that we would today call acts of race.  Invention of Race won the 2019 PROSE prize in Global History, the 2019 Robert W. Hamilton Grand Prize, the 2019 Academy of American Religion prize in Historical Studies, and the 2020 Otto Gründler prize. A third, short book, England and the Jews: How Religion and Violence Created the First Racial State in the West (Cambridge, 2019) concentrates on medieval England as a case study in the racialization of Jews. Heng co-edits the University of Pennsylvania Press’s new book series, RaceB4Race: Critical Studies of the Premodern, and Cambridge University Press’s Elements series on The Global Middle Ages.  Her new title for Cambridge, The Global Middle Ages: An Introduction, will appear in 2021.  She is also the editor of a forthcoming volume in the Modern Language Association of America’s Options for Teaching series, entitled The Global Middle Ages.  Heng is currently researching and writing a fifth book, Early Globalities: The Interconnected World, 500-1500 CE.

Dr. Kennetta Hammond Perry serves as Director of the Stephen Lawrence Research Centre at De Montfort University where she is also a Reader in History. Prior to her appointment at De Montfort, she was an Associate Professor of History and Co-Director of the African & African American Studies Program at East Carolina University in the USA. Dr. Perry received B.A. degrees in History and Political Science at North Carolina Central University and obtained a PhD in Comparative Black History at Michigan State University. She has been awarded research fellowships with the Carter G. Woodson Institute for African & African American Studies at the University of Virginia; Duke University’s Department of History and the American Council of Learned Societies. Her research interests include Black British history, transnational race politics, Black women’s history, archives of Black Europe, and anti-racist movements for citizenship, recognition and social justice throughout the African Diaspora. She has published widely, including a book-length study on Afro-Caribbean migration to Britain following World War II titled, London Is The Place For Me: Black Britons, Citizenship and the Politics of Race (Oxford Press, 2016). Currently, she is researching histories of state-sanctioned racial violence and the relationship between the decline of the welfare state and the expansion of the carceral state in Britain during the second half of the twentieth century.

PKC Millins Inaugural Laureate

Satnam Virdee is Professor of Sociology and Founding Director of the University of Glasgow’s Centre for Research on Racism, Ethnicity and Nationalism (CRREN). Educated at the Universities of Westminster, Brunel and Warwick, Professor Virdee was a researcher at the Policy Studies Institute in London, and then Lecturer in Sociology at the University of Strathclyde before joining the University of Glasgow in 2001. A historical and political sociologist with substantive research interests in racism, class and social movements as well as theories and histories of the modern world, Professor Virdee is the author and editor of 8 books including Racism, Class and the Racialized Outsider (Palgrave, 2014). In 2016, he was a visiting scholar at the Havens Centre for Social Justice, University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA where he gave a series of lectures on ‘Race, Class and the Making of Postcolonial Britain’. In 2018, he delivered The Sociological Review Annual Lecture and in 2019, the plenary at the annual British Sociological Association Conference. Professor Virdee is currently working on a book manuscript provisionally entitled Racism and Capitalist Modernity.


Donni Wang was born in Shanghai and grew up in California.  She has received a bachelor’s degree in Economics from University of California at Berkeley and a PhD in Classics from Stanford University.  Her academic research has been shaped by a focus on the intersection of ancient history and socio-political structure.  Her book Before the Market: The Political Economy of Olympianism discusses whether or not capitalism existed in ancient Greece and how economic reality responded to early Western democratic ideals.  Currently she lives in Berlin and works independently on projects that use historical narrative as a tool for social change. 

M. Lindsay Kaplan is Professor in the Department of English, Georgetown University, where she teaches courses on medieval and early modern literature and culture, focusing on law, gender, race and religious difference. Her publications include essays on slander, women and slander; Jewish law and female subjectivity in early modern English culture; gender, race and religion in early modern drama. She traces an intellectual history of theological hereditary inferiority in her most recent monograph, Figuring Racism in Medieval Christianity (Oxford, 2019); she is editor of a volume of essays on The Merchant of Venice, published in the Arden series, The State of Play (Bloomsbury, 2020). She also produced a contextual edition of Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice (Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2002); co-edited Feminist Readings in Early Modern England (Cambridge, 1996); and authored The Culture of Slander in Early Modern England (Cambridge, 1997). She is currently working on a book, Medieval Merchant of Venice, that uses the play to consider both the persistence of residual medieval Catholic ideas as well as emerging Reformation concepts of Jewish identity in early modern English culture.

Rob Waters is Lecturer in Modern British History at Queen Mary, University of London.His research is concerned with how global race politics and the struggles of decolonization have shaped the modern history of Britain. His first book, Thinking Black: Britain, 1964–1985 (University of California Press), looked at Black Power as a political and cultural force in Britain. Ideas of blackness mobilized through the rubric of a transnational Black Power were crucial in the conceptualization of what a postcolonial Britain might become, and held a significant place in the development of New Left politics in Britain. In Thinking Black, he charts black radical Britain’s wide cultural-political formation, tracing it across new institutions of black civil society and connecting it to decolonization and black liberation across the Atlantic world. The book shows how, from the mid-1960s to the mid-1980s, black radicalism defined what it meant to be black and what it meant to be radical in Britain. His current research focuses on the history of multiculturalism in London. As part of this project, he has created a digital map of black London in the late-twentieth century, charting some of the research: www.blacklondonhistories.org.uk.

James Renton is Professor of History and Director of the International Centre on Racism at Edge Hill University, UK. He is also Academic Advisor at MONITORacism magazine at the Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies, European University Institute. Most recently, Renton is editor with Anya Topolski of ‘Jean Bodin and the Sovereignty of Exclusion’, Political Theology (2020), and editor of Islamophobia and Surveillance: Genealogies of a Global Order (Routledge, 2019).


Tom Ashby is a PhD Candidate in Intellectual History at the European University Institute (EUI) in Florence, Italy. Currently he is working towards the submission of a doctoral thesis entitled ‘Algernon Sidney and the Old Cause in Europe, 1623-1683’, supervised by Professor Ann Thomson. He joined the Eighteenth-Century Translators Dictionary project as a research collaborator in 2020 and co-convened the EUI Intellectual History Working Group between 2017 and 2020. In 2018 he was a Visiting Researcher at the Institute for History, Leiden University. Tom came to the EUI after completing an MA in the History of Political Thought and Intellectual History at the University of London, jointly administered by University College London and Queen Mary University of London. Here he focussed on early modern European thought and was supervised by Professor Quentin Skinner. Prior to this he read History and Politics at Keble College, Oxford. He is from Devon, England. 

Fella Benabed is an associate professor at Badji Mokhtar – Annaba University (Algeria). She holds a Doctor’s Degree in literature with a thesis entitled “Native American Eco-narratives of Healing: A Study of Selected Novels”. She is also a US department of State alumna, taking part in the Study of the United States Institute on Contemporary American Literature, University of Louisville, Kentucky (USA) in 2011. Benabed is interested in the postcolonial, narrative, medical, and ecological approaches to literature. She is presently leading a research project entitled “Literature and Medicine: Nurturing Clinical Empathy and Holistic Care”, and has been selected for a Fulbright scholar fellowship on this topic of literature and medicine. The fellowship is scheduled in the spring of 2021 at Columbia University, USA. 

Benjamin Bland is a historian of race, nationalism, and extremism in the twentieth-century, focused chiefly but not exclusively on Britain. Having completed his PhD at Royal Holloway, University of London, he now teaches political theory and modern history at the University of Hertfordshire and at Queen Mary, University of London. He has published three articles to date: in Immigrants & MinoritiesPatterns of Prejudice, and Radical History Review. He is currently working on two further articles and a debut monograph, provisionally entitled “The Anti-Fascist Nation? Race, Memory, and Identity in Late Twentieth Century Britain”.  

Daphné Budasz is a PhD researcher in history at the European University Institute in Florence. Her research deals with gender dynamics and interracial sexual encounters in British East Africa at the end of the nineteenth– early twentieth century. It addresses the impact of Indian presence on racial and gender relations in colonial Kenya. She completed a BA in history at Lausanne University (Switzerland), a MA in history at Queen Mary University (United Kingdom) and a professional master degree in public history at Université Paris-Est Créteil (France). Prior to coming to the EUI, Daphné worked as a curator assistant for the House of European History in Brussels. In addition to her research, she is involved in several public history projects and is notably the co-founder of the Postcolonial Italy: Mapping Colonial Heritage.

Jonathan Dixon holds a PhD in History from the University of Cambridge (July 2020). His thesis explored the Prester John legend as a kind of proto-colonial myth, inspiring the conquests of the Portuguese Empire. He completed his undergraduate studies at Queen’s University Belfast before pursuing postgraduate studies at the University of Cambridge on a Newton Scholarship. He is interested in how geographical and religious ignorance and mythology led early modern Europeans to explore and colonise Africa, the Americas and Asia. His next project, funded by the Humboldt-Yale Network, will connect the Jesuit-native encounter in New France (1612-1763) to a more global discourse which imagined Native American and First Nation religious beliefs to be descended from a primordial age of primitive religion. He is currently working as a history teacher at Hampton School.

Kerice Doten-Snitker is a historical sociologist. Her research investigates the structural and processual roots of inequality and group-based exclusion. Presently, she is working on projects about medieval politics and ethnoreligious groups and about social processes spread new behavior. She brings a historical perspective to sociological debates about ethnic cleavages, political mobilization, and macro-level change in social policy. She will soon begin a postdoctoral position at Universidad Carlos III de Madrid in the Department of Social Science and the Carlos III-Juan March Institute.

Gretchen Head is currently Assistant Professor of Literature in the Humanities Division at Yale-NUS College in Singapore and Book Review Editor for the Journal of Arabic Literature. She holds a PhD in Arabic literature from the University of Pennsylvania and has been a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Comparative Literature at the University of California, Berkeley. She has published articles in the Journal of Arabic Literature, Alif: Journal of Comparative PoeticsPortal 9: Stories and Critical Writing about the City, The Global South and the Journal of North African Studies. She is coeditor (with Nizar F. Hermes) of The City in Arabic Literature: Classical and Modern Perspectives (Edinburgh University Press, 2018). Her current book project engages with a wide range of Arabic prose material, primarily from Morocco, from the 19th to 21st centuries, including travel narratives, historical chronicles, and dystopian satires, with an toward how North Africa has engaged with its neighbors across the desert. 

Ivan Kalmar is Professor of Anthropology at the University of Toronto. Over his career, much of his work has focused on the image of Jews and Muslims in western cultural history. He is the author of Early Orientalism: Imagined Islam and the Notion of Sublime Power (Routledge) and co-editor of the volume, Orientalism and the Jews (New England). He has recently guest-edited a special issue of Patterns of Prejudice, dealing with Islamophobia in the East of the European Union, and a special issue on Islamophobia in Germany: East/West, for the Journal of Contemporary European Studies. Currently he is conducting research on illiberalism in Central Europe under a five-year grant from Canada’s Social Science and Humanities Research Council. He is writing a book on this topic for Bristol University Press. 

Rebecca Kennedy is Associate Professor of Classics, Women’s and Gender Studies, and Environmental Studies at Denison University and is Director of the Denison Museum. She is author of Immigrant Women in Athens: Gender, Ethnicity, and Citizenship in the Classical City (Routledge USA; 2014) and Athena’s Justice: Athena, Athens and the Concept of Justice in Greek Tragedy, Lang Classical Series, Vol. 16 (Peter Lang, 2009). Professor Kennedy is currently writing a book for John Hopkins University Press on race in the classical antiquity and its contemporary legacy. 

Deepa Kumar is Professor of Journalism and Media Studies at Rutgers University. She is the recipient of the Dallas Smythe award for her engaged scholarship and the Georgina Smith award for her work on gender and race equity. She is affiliated faculty in the Depts of Women and Gender Studies and Sociology and with the Centers for Middle Eastern Studies and Race and Ethnicity. Her research centers on Islamophobia, empire, gender, race, neoliberalism, labor, social class, culture and media. Professor Kumar is the author of Outside the Box: Corporate Media, Globalization, and the UPS Strike (University of Illinois Press, 2007, paperback 2008) and Islamophobia and the Politics of Empire (Haymarket Books, 2012).

Susan Lape is Professor of Classics at the University of Southern California.  Her work centers on the cultural and political history of Athens and its reception in Republican Rome. Recent publications include: ‘The Precarity of Female Immigrants in Greco-Roman Comedy and Athenian culture’, in L’expérience de la mobilité de l’Antiquité à nos jours entre précarité et confiance (forthcoming), “The Precarity of Contracting Courtesans: Mobility and Sexual Laborers in Menander’s Dis Exapaton and Plautus’ Bacchides”, (forthcoming), Race and Citizen Identity in the Classical Athenian Democracy. She is currently working on two book projects, one dealing with precarity and vulnerability in Terence’s comedy, and one that investigates the causes and conditions that gave rise to and inhibited racial ideologies and racism in Greco-Roman antiquity. 

Lori De Lucia is currently a visiting researcher at the Boston University African Studies Center. She has a PhD in History from UCLA and a BA in Anthropology and African Studies from Boston University. Her current research looks at early modern slave trades in the Mediterranean, with a focus on enslaved West Africans in Sicily. She recently published a book chapter titled “The Space Between Borno and Palermo: Slavery and Its Boundaries in the Late Medieval Saharan-Mediterranean Region,” and is currently researching Hausa language archives and their potential contribution to early modern Mediterranean studies on race and slavery. She has also taught the Hausa language at Boston University and Harvard University and produced videos for the African Voices Project and the Boston University African Language Program. 

Denise Eileen McCoskey received a B.A. in Classics and Archaeology at Cornell University and earned a PhD in Classical Studies at Duke University.  She is currently a Professor of Classics and affiliate of Black World Studies at Miami University (Ohio).  Among a range of topics, McCoskey has written extensively on the meaning of race in classical antiquity, including her book Race: Antiquity & Its Legacy (2012).  McCoskey has also published a number of essays for wider audiences, including those for the website Eidolon:  “What Would James Baldwin Do?  Classics and the Dream of White Europe” (https://eidolon.pub/what-would-james-baldwin-do-a778947c04d5), “Bad to the Bone:  The Racist Application of DNA Science to Classical Antiquity” (https://eidolon.pub/bad-to-the-bone-617ca3e37347), and “Black Athena, White Power:  Are We Paying the Price for Classicists’ Response to Bernal?” (https://eidolon.pub/black-athena-white-power-6bd1899a46f2).  She recently served as the editor for a forthcoming volume entitled A Cultural History of Race in Antiquity (Bloomsbury), and is currently at work on a project exploring the role of eugenics in early twentieth-century American classical scholarship, which received funding from the NEH in its early stages. 

Ian Miller is lecturer in medical at Ulster University. He is the author of various monographs and articles on topics including the history of force-feeding, dietary change, history of psychology and food history. He is currently book reviews editor for Social History of Medicine.  

Nicholas Mithen is an intellectual historian of early modern Europe, and situates his research between the history of scholarship, the history of political thought and the history of religion and belief. He is mostly interested in how these fields relate to one another, and what early modern histories can tell us about the modern world. He is also interested in the history, anthropology, sociology and philosophy of historical thought, and recently has been working on the concept of moderation from an interdisciplinary perspective. Mithen is presently a Marie Sklodowska-Curie Research Fellow at Newcastle University. He came to Newcastle from working in higher education policy; before this he completed his PhD in History at the European University Institute in Florence, during which he held visiting positions at the Universities of Cambridge and Vienna, and a research fellowship at the Franckesche Stiftung zu Halle in Germany.  

Harith Bin Ramli is Lecturer in Theology and World Religions at Edge Hill University. He works primarily on the history of early Islamic thought, and has published on the formation of Sufism, Islamic theology and law, with a focus on the evolution of Sunni traditions. He also works in the field of curriculum development for Islamic Studies in secondary education. 

Jan Rybak is a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of York, Department of Politics. He studied history at the University of Salzburg and holds a PhD in History and Civilization from the European University Institute. He previously worked as a lecturer in history at the University of Salzburg and held visiting fellowships at POLIN and the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw, as well as at New York University and the University of Illinois at UrbanaChampaign. A revised version of his dissertation, ‘Everyday Zionism in East-Central Europe, 1914–1920: Nation-Building in War and Revolution’ will be published by Oxford University Press in 2021.

Brian Sandberg is a Professor of History at Northern Illinois University who works on religion, violence, gender, and political culture during the European Wars of Religion. He authored a monograph entitled, Warrior Pursuits: Noble Culture and Civil Conflict in Early Modern France (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2010). Sandberg has held fellowships from the Institut d’Études Avancées de Paris, the Fulbright Scholar Program, the Institute for Research in the Humanities (University of Wisconsin-Madison), the National Endowment for the Humanities (at the Medici Archive Project), and the European University Institute. He has published an interpretive essay, War and Conflict in the Early Modern World, 1500-1700 (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2016) and a collective volume, The Grand Ducal Medici and their Archive (1537-1743), edited by Alessio Assonitis and Brian Sandberg (Turnhout: Brepols, 2016). He recently served a term as Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Affairs in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at NIU, and is currently working on several research projects, including a monograph on A Virile Courage: Gender and Violence in the French Wars of Religion 1562-1629.

Erika Tritle is Assistant Professor of Religion at Coastal Carolina University, having recently completed a 20-month Fulbright postdoctoral fellowship with the Center for the Study of Conversion and Inter-Religious Encounters at Ben Gurion University of the Negev. She received a PhD in History of Christianity from the University of Chicago Divinity School, where she worked with David Nirenberg and Willemien Otten. She is especially interested in Christian thinking about Jews and Judaism and has focused thus far on debates in fifteenth-century Spain. The material for this paper proposal comes from questions with which she is grappling as part of the book project based on her dissertation, To the Jew First and to the Greek: Alonso de Cartagena and the Problem of Jewish Flesh in Fifteenth-Century Spain. The book manuscript will include attention to the concepts of blood and flesh in the fifteenth-century converso debate while also engaging contemporary scholarship on race.

Justine Walden is an Honorary Fellow at the Institute for Research in the Humanities at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a Lecturer in the Department of History at the same.  She received her Ph.D. in Early Modern History from Yale University in 2016. Her scholarly work revolves around understanding the ways in which early modern Europeans made sense of human difference, particularly as this related to justifications for race and enslavement. Walden is particularly interested in how as Mediterranean states justified enslavement on the basis of religious difference between 1550 and 1570, in Kongo, West Central Africa, where the population had largely been Catholic since about 1450, European markers of difference slid toward the somatic. More simply, she is interested in how during the early modern period, justifications for enslavement based upon religion shifted to those based upon pigmentation. Walden’s published scholarly work has looked at how late medieval mendicants crafted exclusionary discourses in relation to peasants, Jews and witches; at Christian-Jewish relations in Florence; at property ownership in Renaissance Florence; at the enslavement of Muslims in the Mediterranean; at shifting justifications for enslavement in the early modern Atlantic; at a transnational group of Catholic missionaries who protested the enslavement of Africans in 1685; and at the manner in which racist ideals grew out of antiJudaism.   

Yair Wallach is Senior Lecturer in Israeli Studies at SOAS, University of London, where he is also the head of the SOAS Centre for Jewish Studies. He is a cultural and social historian of modern Palestine/Israel, who has published articles in Hebrew, Arabic and English on urban and visual culture, and on Jewish-Arab relations. His book, A City in Fragments: Urban Text in Modern Jerusalem, which was published by Stanford University Press in 2020, looks at Arabic and Hebrew street texts (inscriptions, banners, graffiti and other media) in modern Jerusalem. 
Dr. Wallach is currently (2020-2022) a Leverhulme Research Fellow, and his project “The Arab Ashkenazi” looks at Jewish Ashkenazi acculturation in the Arab Levant. Wallach has also published articles in Haaretz, the Guardian, and other media. 

Claire Weeda is a cultural historian whose main fields of interest include the organic politics of ethnic stereotyping, negotiations of public health and the body from 1100-1600. She has published in various international journals on ethnic stereotypes, religion, medicine and socio-cultural indexation, including History Compass and The Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences. She co-edited Imagining Communities: Historical Reflections on the Process of Community Formation (AUP, 2018) and Policing the Urban Environment in Premodern Europe (AUP, 2019) with Carole Rawcliffe. The revised version of her award-winning dissertation about the construction and employment of images of ethnic character in western Europe, c. 950-1250, will be published in 2021. She is currently Assistant Professor of Medieval History at Leiden University and a postdoc researcher in the ERC-funded project Healthscaping Urban Europe.