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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 third 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.

Her fourth 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.

In 2023 she was a Research Fellow at All Soul's College, Oxford University.

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: Megan Griffiths (Ph.D.), Isra Henson (M.A.), Alanna Loucks (Ph.D. co-supervisor), Naomi Makowska (Ph.D., co-supervisor), Iman Mansour (Ph.D., co-supervisor), Emily Nagy (M.A.).

Selected Publications



  • "El rescate: Una ausencia presente," Autoctoní(Chile), (julio 2025), forthcoming.
  • "Notes to a Former Self: Slavery's Time in Sixteenth-Century Indigenous Women's Freedom Suits," In, Women in Exile in Early Modern Europe and the Americas, Edited by Linda Levy Peck and Adrianna E. Bakos, Manchester: University of Manchester Press, 2024, 89-103.
  • "Indigenous Freedom Suits, Epistemological Mobility, and the Deep Archive," Slavery & Abolition, 44:3 (September 2023), 519-37.
  • "Why Indigenous Slavery Continued in Spanish America after the New Laws of 1542," The Americas, 80:3 (July 2023), 395-432.
  • "In the Tethered Shadow: Native American Slavery, African-Descent Slavery and the Disappearance of the Past," The William and Mary Quarterly, 80:2 (April 2023), 355-88.
  • "Indigenous War Captives and Mobility-Oriented Punishments: An Atlantic-Mediterranean Perspective," Atlantic Studies, 20:2 (April 2023), 1-30, DOI: 10.1080/14788810.2023.2202138
  • “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: Indigenous Slavery's Archive and the Making of the Early Modern World”
Awards and recognition

Research Fellow, All Souls College, Oxford University, Hillary Term 2023.

Honorable Mention for 2021 Robertson Prize, Conference on Latin American History, for “Indigenous Slavery’s Archive in Seventeenth-Century Chile,” Hispanic American Historical Review, 101:1 (February 2021), 1-30 (lead article).

Fellow, Division 1 of Academy (Arts and Science), The Royal Society of Canada, inducted in fall 2020. 

Queen’s University, Excellence in Research Award, 2019.

Social Science and Humanities Research Council, Insight Grant, April 2018-2023.

John Carter Brown Library Fellowship, Inter-Americas Fellow, Reed Foundation, Sept. 2014-June 2015.

Journal of Women’s History biennial article prize for “The Intimacies of Bondage,” May 2014.

Bruce Mansfield Prize for the best article (“Reading the Body”) published in the Journal of Religious History in 2009 and 2010.

Queen’s University, Advisory Research Committee Grant, 2009.

National Endowment for the Humanities, July 2008-June 2009.

American Council of Learned Societies/Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Library of Congress Fellowship in International Studies, Jan.-March 2005.

Fulbright Commission, International Lecture-Research Award, Lima, Peru, Aug-Dec. 2004.

American Philosophical Society, Franklin Research Grant, Sept.-Dec. 2001.

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