Personal profile

Personal profile

I study the history of Brazil and Latin America with special interest in race, culture, slavery, labor, and gender.  While most of my previous work has focused on the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, my current project is rooted in the colonial era, where I am exploring the afterlives and cultural, spiritual, physical, and monetary inheritances of Palmares, one of history’s largest and longest-standing fugitive slave settlements, and its iconic leader, Zumbi.  An early meditation on the project appeared in 2017 in the American Historical Review and won the Vanderwood and Kimberly S. Hanger article prizes.  I also wrote about its contemporary political significance in Z-Cultural.  The project builds on my longstanding interest in different forms of property and ownership while deepening and broadening my engagement with the history and scholarship of Africa and its diaspora.

My first book, Making Samba: A New History of Race and Music in Brazil, was published by Duke University Press in 2013 and awarded Honorable Mention for the Bryce Wood Book Prize (Latin American Studies Association) and the Woody Guthrie Award (International Association for the Study of Popular Music).  In 2020, I published a second book about Gilberto Gil's genre-defying album Refazenda with Bloomsbury's 33 1/3 Series.

My work has also appeared in scholarly venues such as Hispanic American Historical Review, Luso-Brazilian Review, A Contracorriente, Journal of Latin American Studies, and in edited volumes published in the U.S. and Brazil.

I believe in the value of engaged scholarship.  Towards that end, I have written in venues such as New York MagazineRebootIllinoisNotches, and Public Seminar, and have appeared on Al-Jazeera to provide commentary and news analysis about Brazil.  I also prioritize exchange and collaboration with scholars in Latin America and am proud to have co-authored with Brazilian scholars several pieces, including an essay about race, gender, and monuments and an animated short about Palmares for TED-Ed.

Before coming to Illinois I was Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in Latin American Studies at Wesleyan University and then Assistant Professor of Latin American Cultural Studies and Director of the Center for Brazilian Studies at Columbia University.  I am currently co-editor of the Luso-Brazilian Review.


B.A. Washington University (MO) (Magna Cum Laude, 2000); Ph.D., University of Wisconsin-Madison (2008)

Honors & Awards

2023 Brazilian Studies Association Best Article Prize for "Making Their Own Mahatma"                                                                                                   2022 National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Research Stipend
2022 Center for Advanced Study (UIUC) Associate                      
2017-2022  Conrad Humanities Scholar
2018 Vanderwood Prize for "Fatal Differences"                                        
2018 Kimberly S. Hanger Article Prize for "Fatal Differences"
2014 Honorable Mention, Bryce Wood Book Prize for Making Samba
2014 Honorable Mention, Woody Guthrie Award for Making Samba
2009 New England Council of Latin American Studies Best Dissertation Prize
2004 Fulbright-Hays

Office Address

446H Gregory Hall
810 S. Wright Street
Urbana, IL 61801

Office Phone



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