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Ruth Hill

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

Professor Hill researches and teaches the critical histories of science, race, and class from the early modern period to the 20th century, with a particular emphasis on the transamerican and transatlantic engagements of the social and life sciences.  

After completing her undergraduate studies at Northwestern University, she was awarded a Fulbright scholarship to study early 20th-century Latin American literature.  She then pursued graduate studies at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor (M.A., Ph.D.), specializing in the interplay of rhetoric, poetics, and the new science across several languages and cultures (France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Peru, Mexico) in the 17th through 19th centuries. She began her professional career at Columbia University and thereafter spent sixteen years at the University of Virginia, in the Department of Spanish and the American Studies Program. She has also held visiting positions at the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Massachusetts. She came to Vanderbilt in Fall 2012.

Professor Hill has authored some thirty articles; two books, Hierarchy, Commerce, and Fraud in Bourbon Spanish America (Vanderbilt, 2005) and Sceptres and Sciences in the Spains (Liverpool, 2000); and a special issue of the Journal of Spanish Cultural Studies entitled Categories and Crossings: Critical Race Studies and the Spanish World (2009).  More recently, she has published essays and lectured widely on race in the Americas, with a special emphasis on the exchanges between husbandry, animal husbandry, and discourses of blanqueamiento or whitening in South America and the American South.  Her current projects include a comparative monograph on Aryanism in the 19th-century United States and Latin America tentatively titled “Aztecs, Incas, and Other White Men: A Hemispheric History of Hate.”  Her research on race has been supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities (John Carter Brown Library NEH Fellowship) and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (“Conflicting Identities,” Hispanic Baroque Project,

She serves on the editorial board of several journals and is a member of the American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies, the American Studies Association, the Modern Languages Association, and the American Historical Association.