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Damian Pargas new Professor of American History

As of 1 August 2017, Damian Pargas is the new Raymond and Beverly Sackler Professor of History and Culture of the United States and the Americas.

Damian defended his PhD in Leiden in 2009 and has been working at the Institute for History as a university lecturer. He succeeds Professor Adam Fairclough who retired last year. Fairclough held the chair from 2005 to 2016. The Institute congratulates Damian Pargas with his appointment! 

Introduction

My interest in the history and culture of North America is as broad as the North American experience itself, but in my research I have always been particularly fascinated by the history of slavery and its aftermath. Since the obtainment of my PhD at Leiden University in 2009, I have published widely on the social history of African-American slaves in the 19th-century US South. My first book, The Quarters and the Fields (2010), was a comparative study of slave family life that focused on the various boundaries and opportunities that enslaved people were confronted with to create families, raise children, and protect their family units from external threats. My second book, Slavery and Forced Migration in the Antebellum South (2014) examined how enslaved people experienced forced removal—what it was like for them to be sold away, have to leave their homes and families, and start a new life somewhere else where they didn’t know anybody. I am currently working on a third book (which I hope will be out by 2020) that examines runaway slaves throughout North America, including the US North and South, as well as Canada and Mexico. I am especially interested in how runaway slaves navigated various “spaces of freedom” in North America. This book will be based on an NWO VIDI project that I am supervising, titled “Beacons of Freedom: Slave Refugees in North America, 1800-1860.”

Despite my primary focus on North American history, I thoroughly enjoy collaborating with non-Americanists as well, and I can often be found at conferences and events that at first glance may not look like “American history” events. The American experience is poorly understood in isolation, and I am convinced that the interests of our discipline are best served when we look across borders (both geographical and disciplinary) and engage in dialogue with colleagues who work on similar themes but in other contexts. I have therefore worked quite a bit with scholars who are specialized in slavery in other parts of the world, for example. I have co-edited two books on global slavery (both forthcoming), am the founder and chief editor of the Journal of Global Slavery as well as a series editor of the Brill book series Studies in Global Slavery, and I am a founding member of the Leiden Slavery Studies Association. I often go out of my way to present my research at conferences that are not exclusively about America. Innumerable themes from North American history lend themselves to such cross-pollination. Placing American themes in global or international contexts reveals similarities, differences, interconnectedness, and processes of divergence and convergence between the North American experience and other parts of the world.

I thoroughly look forward to further contributing to the Institute for History’s excellent track record and developing new research projects in the years to come. I am also enthusiastic about teaching new courses on North American history to both undergraduate and graduate students.

Finally, I am especially excited about the opportunity to help solidify and give shape Leiden’s partnership with the new Roosevelt Institute for American Studies in Middelburg. The future of American studies at Leiden University looks promising indeed, and I am happy to be a part of it.