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Nancy E. van Deusen


Nancy E. van Deusen is a historian of colonial Andean, Latin American, and early modern Atlantic World history. She specializes in the histories of slavery in the Iberian world, and gender relations and female Catholic spirituality in colonial Peru. Her book, Global Indios: The Indigenous Struggle for Justice in Sixteenth-Century Spain (Duke University Press, 2015), examines slaves labeled as indios who pressed for their freedom in Spanish courts in the sixteenth century. By expanding the significations of the category indio/a, the book asks readers to think globally about a construct that has informed the foundations of colonial Latin American scholarship.

Another recent monograph, Embodying the Sacred (Duke University Press, 2017) captures the vibrant confessional world of seventeenth-century Lima and explores the textured sense of pious women’s lives: including their positionality vis-à-vis self and others, and their engagement with sacred objects, including written texts, the body in ecstasy, and relics.

She now turns her attention again toward indigenous slavery. A five-year SSHRC Insight Grant will aid in the researching and drafting of “The Disappearance of the Past: Native American Slavery and the Making of the Early Modern World,” a book that will answer the question of why the ubiquitous practice of Native American slavery in the western hemisphere and beyond has disappeared from our narratives about the past. She takes an ethnographic approach to “slavery’s archive,” to show how erasures, re-inscriptions, and taxonomies have helped to create this monumental absence.

She is the recipient of the 2019 Queen's University Excellence in Research Award. In recognition of her research achievements, Professor van Deusen was elected to the Royal Society of Canada in 2020.

She welcomes students working on all aspects of colonial Latin American or early modern Iberian history, from a local and/or global perspective. She is particularly interested in supervising projects that inform her own research interests on the history of the production of knowledge (including the history of Indigenous slavery, archives, and the law), and the histories of gender and spirituality. 

Principal Fields for Graduate Supervision: Early Modern Global, Atlantic World, and Iberian History, 1450-1800; Colonial Latin America; pre-1800 Andes, critical histories of the production of knowledge; historical theory; archives and history; Indigenous slavery; legal regimes of bondage, race and gender history; female Catholic spiritualty, healing and magic, the Inquisition and Inquisitorial practices, material religious culture. 

Current Graduate Students: Jamie Bonar (Ph.D., co-supervisor), Megan Griffiths (Ph.D.), Jasmine Hafso (M.A.), Alanna Loucks (Ph.D. co-supervisor), Naomi Makowska (Ph.D., co-supervisor), Iman Mansour (Ph.D., co-supervisor).

Selected Publications


  • “Indigenous Slavery’s Archive in Seventeenth-Century Chile,” Hispanic American Historical Review, 101:1 (February 2021), 1-33. Honorable Mention Winner of the Conference on Latin American History James Alexander Robinson Article Prize. 
  • "Indigenous Slavery from Out on the Edge," Ethnohistory, 67:4 (2020), 603-19. 
  • “Oralidad y la transmisión de conocimientos legales entre indios esclavos y manumisos en la Castilla del siglo XVI,” Historia (Chile), 52:1 (enero-junio 2019), 169-95.
  • “Passing in Sixteenth-Century Castile,” Colonial Latin American Review, 26: 1 (April 2017), 85-103.
  • “Holograms of the Voiceless: Indian Slavery and Servitude in Early Colonial Lima,” In, To Be Indio in Colonial Spanish America, Edited by Mónica Díaz, University of New Mexico Press, 2017, 55-92.
  • “In So Celestial a Language: Text as Body, Relics as Text,” In, Women’s Negotiations and Textual Agency in Latin America, 1500-1799, Edited by Mónica Díaz and Rocío Quispe-Agnoli, Routledge Press, 2017, 62-81.
  • “Indios on the Move in the Sixteenth-Century Iberian World,” Journal of Global History, 10:3 (November 2015), 387-409.
  • “Coming to Castile with Cortés: Indigenous 'Servitude' in the Sixteenth Century,” Ethnohistory, 62:1 (March 2015), 285-308.
  • "Seeing Indios in Sixteenth-Century Castile," The William and Mary Quarterly, 69:2 (April 2012), 211-240.
  • "The Intimacies of Bondage: Female Indigenous Servants and Slaves and their Spanish Masters, 1492-1555," Journal of Women's History, 24:1 (2012), 13-43. Winner of the best article prize published in the Journal of Women’s History in 2011 and 2012.
  • "God Lives among the Pots and Pans: Donadas (Religious Servants) in Seventeenth-Century Lima." In Africans to Spanish America: New Directions. Edited by Sherwin Bryant, Rachel O'Toole, and Ben Vinson III. University of Illinois Press, 2012, 136-60.
  • "Diasporas, Intimacy and Bondage in Lima, Peru, 1535-1555," Colonial Latin American Review, 19:2 (August 2010), 247-77.
  • "Reading the Body: Mystical Theology and Spiritual Appropriation in Early Seventeenth-Century Lima," Journal of Religious History, 33: 1 (spring 2009), 1-27. Winner of the Bruce Mansfield Prize for the best article published in the Journal of Religious History in 2009 and 2010.
  • "Circuits of Knowledge among Lay and Religious Women in Early Seventeenth-Century Peru." In Gender, Race, and Religion in the Colonization of the Americas. ed. Nora E. Jaffary. Ashgate Press, 2007, 137-151.
  • "Recent Approaches to the Study of Gender Relations among Native Andeans under Colonial Rule." In New World: First Nations: Native Peoples of Mesoamerica and the Andes under Colonial Rule, eds. David Cahill and Blanca Tovias de Plaisted. Sussex Academic Press, 2006, 144-166.

Current Projects

  • “The Disappearance of the Past: Native American Slavery and the Making of the Early Modern World”

Department of History, Queen's University

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Kingston ON K7L 3N6




Queen's University is situated on traditional Haudenosaunee and Anishinaabe territory.