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Ruth Hill

Andrew W. Mellon Chair in the Humanities, Professor of Spanish

Ruth Hill (Ph.D., University of Michigan) is Professor of Spanish and Andrew W. Mellon Chair in the Humanities at Vanderbilt University.

After two years (1994-1996) as a tenure-track assistant professor of Spanish at Columbia University, Professor Hill moved to the University of Virginia-Charlottesville, where she taught in Spanish and American Studies for sixteen years (1996-2012). She came to Vanderbilt in Fall 2012. Professor Hill teaches courses in the history of early modern science, critical race studies, and Latin American, Latinx, and American literature and culture. Since 1996, she has directed numerous Ph.D. dissertations on Iberia and the Americas, from the sixteenth to the 21st centuries, covering the fields of Atlantic history and literature, history of religion, history of natural history, critical science studies, critical race studies, literature (novels, short stories, drama, colonial chronicles), legal history, and rhetoric. She is the author of Sceptres and Sciences in the Spains (2000), Hierarchy, Commerce, and Fraud in Bourbon Spanish America (2005), and dozens of essays. A former Fulbright Scholar, Professor Hill has received grants and fellowships from numerous institutions, including the John Carter Brown Library and the National Endowment for the Humanities. In addition, she has been appointed to government-funded international research teams from Madrid to Montreal.

Professor Hill’s research and teaching frequently adopt a longue durée approach in order to understand ruptures as well as continuities in social and intellectual concepts, practices, and the ways in which we talk about them. She has written pioneering studies and essays in the history of science and the history of race in the Spanish world.

Her current book, Reckoning with Race in the New World, shall appear in the Writing the Early Americas series published by the University of Virginia Press. It tackles the trans-Atlantic and trans-American origins and development of human racial categories, finding their scientific roots in animal and plant breeding practices and their religious roots in disputes over mixed-race persons, in moral theology and canon law, triggered by interracial unions from the sixteenth century forward.

Her next book, on which she has lectured widely since 2005, is a study of Aryanism and white supremacist movements in North and South America, across several disciplines (geology, anthropology, eugenics, museum studies, paleontology, linguistics, literature, and law), in the period spanning from 1850 to the present. It is tentatively titled, Incas, Aztecs, and Other White Men.