Q&A with Dr. Kaveh Yazdani

Today’s Post is a Q&A with a new member of the EMSWG. Dr. Kaveh Yazdani is an Assistant Professor at the Department of History. 

  1. Can you tell us a bit about your background (academic and otherwise)? Where are you from? Where else have you taught, researched, etc?

I was born in Tehran (Iran) and raised in Paris and Berlin. I studied history and philosophy at the Humboldt and Free Universities in Berlin, Germany. During my MA I got an Erasmus grant and went to Granada (Spain) as an exchange student for a year. I received my Master’s degree from Humboldt University in 2008 and a Ph.D degree from the University of Osnabrueck in 2014. For my dissertation, which focused on pre-colonial India, I conducted research in several Indian archives (i.e. in Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Chennai) for about six months between 2012 and 2013 and also spent several months doing research in Paris, London and Halle. In 2015, I obtained a postdoctoral fellowship at the International Institute of Social History (IISH) in Amsterdam. In late 2015, I was granted a 2-year postdoctoral research fellowship at the Centre for Indian Studies in Africa (CISA), University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa. In 2017, I was a Visiting Residential Fellow at the Warwick Institute of Advanced Study (UK). Between 2017 and 2020 I became a faculty member at the University of Bielefeld (Germany) and taught courses in economic and social history. In 2020, I was also Visiting Professor in Global Economic and Social History at the University of Vienna (Austria).


  1. Can you tell us about your previous works/projects?

In both my Master’s and doctoral theses, I grappled with the “great divergence” debate. I tried to find out why the Industrial Revolution took off in England and not in India. To be more precise, I enquired into the question why two of the most dynamic regions of 17th and 18th century South Asia, i.e. Gujarat (in northwestern India) and Mysore (in southern India), did not industrialize first, how “modern” they were in comparison to advanced parts of Europe and I further examined the impact of early colonial rule in India. The monograph was published by Brill in 2017 and is titled India, Modernity and the Great Divergence. Mysore and Gujarat (17th to 19th C.). In 2020, my former supervisor in Johannesburg and now friend Prof. Dilip Menon and I published an edited volume titled Capitalisms: Towards a Global History with Oxford University Press.


  1. What are your current projects?

I am currently working on a revised version of my first book that will be published with Primus Books in India. Unfortunately, the first edition of my book that was published by Brill costs $246 and is obviously inaccessible to most people. The new edition will hopefully allow a larger number of interested readers to purchase the book. Apart from that, I’m working on a monograph with my esteemed mentor Nasser Mohajer on the socio-economic relationships and connections between the Zoroastrians of Persia and Parsis of India between the 17th and early 20th centuries. I’m also working on a number of papers related to conceptual history, namely a Begriffsgeschichte/historical semantics of the terms capital, capitalist and capitalism as well as discourses on free and unfree labor between the 17th and early 20th centuries.


  1. What sparked your interest in pursuing your current project?

The book project on the Zoroastrians emanated from my interest in the spectacular rise of the Parsi community in India as the subcontinent’s leading 19th century capitalists and modernizers and a dearth of work on the socio-economic relationships between the Parsis and their coreligionists in Persia. My interest in capitalism goes back to when I still was a teenager and has a lot to do with my fascination with questions related to the multifaceted reasons behind inequality, asymmetrical global power relations and the underlying historical dimensions of the modern world. 


  1. What are your other interests? (As a scholar or otherwise—everyday preoccupations, hobbies, grand ambitions, etc.?) Do these other interests inform your research in some way and, if so, how?

I’m very much interested in theories of modernity and the periodization of global history in a longue durée perspective. I’m also closely following publications in the fields of Indian Ocean studies, comparisons and entanglements between the Mughals, Ottomans and Safavids as well as global labor history, especially works on labor relations that span from slavery to wage labor. Last but not least, I’m intrigued by works on the Persianate world spanning from East Africa to Northwestern China. I do have a number of diversions but, unfortunately, due to time constraints, I often only have enough time to follow the news and feuilleton, talk to my loved ones, watch movies or listen to music once in a while. Indeed, the sidelines I pursue help me to better understand the present continuities and ruptures of the historical processes that I study. But more importantly, along with the privilege of being able to visit new places in the course of doing research in archives or giving lectures and meeting new people, they give me strength, help me to get out of my bubble and connect to the world that I live in.

Q&A with Dr. Santiago Muñoz-Arbeláez

Today’s Post is a Q&A with a new member of the EMSWG. Dr. Santiago Muñoz-Arbeláez  is an Assistant Professor at the Department of History and the Department of Literatures, Cultures and Languages. 

1. Can you tell us a bit about your background (academic and otherwise)? Where are you from? Where else have you taught, researched, etc?

I was born and raised in Bogotá, Colombia. I went to college at Los Andes University in Bogotá, where I majored in history and minored in Geography and Anthropology. The department of History at Los Andes is a true gem. There I had the chance to learn from a diverse and innovative faculty in areas like environmental history, the history of science, and colonial and modern Latin America. I cultivated an interest in indigenous history and the early modern Spanish empire, which has continued to guide my work.

In 2011, I moved to New Haven, CT, to work on my Ph.D. in History, which I took from Yale University in 2018. I was strongly influenced by the faculty in the History Department in areas like Latin American, Atlantic, Native American, Borderlands, and Early Modern History, but also by the incredible Agrarian Studies program led by James C. Scott. In 2017, I began a position as Assistant Professor of History at Los Andes University, where I taught for three years before coming to UConn.

As a student of the Spanish empire in South America, my research has taken me to archives and research libraries in Spain, the United Kingdom, Colombia, and the United States.

2. Can you tell us about your previous works/projects?

My research to date has examined how the indigenous peoples of South America engaged in the creation and contestation of the Spanish empire in South America in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. My first book, published in Spanish under the title Costumbres en disputa: los Muiscas y el imperio español en Ubaque, siglo XVI, revisits the encomienda as a global, transcultural institution that took shape in the daily encounters between Indigenous peoples (in this case the Muisca  of the northern Andes) and the Spanish settlers in the 16th century.

I have also published widely on the history of Colombia’s map, from the earliest Indigenous and European depictions of the New World to the early 20th century.

3. What are your current projects?

I am currently at work converting my dissertation into a book. This project is a history of the making of a centralized polity, an entity of imperial governance termed the “New Kingdom of Granada”, amidst the diverse ethnic groups and landscapes of northern South America (present-day Colombia). At the time of the conquest, this area was composed of a patchwork of very different groups and landscapes with no cultural or political unity. In my research I ask how the Spanish imperial state sought to extend its rule upon the mountainous landscapes of the New Kingdom of Granada and convert the diverse Indian groups into catholic, tribute-paying vassals from the Spanish invasion in 1530s to 1650.

I also have several ongoing projects in public history and digital humanities. In 2015, I cofounded Neogranadina—a Colombian non-profit organization devoted to making digitization and digital tools available to local archives and community groups in Latin America. In 2021, I will launch Colonial Landscapes: Redrawing Andean Territories in the 17th Century—a digital history project that explores the transformation of indigenous homelands into colonial landscapes through the analysis of a 17th-century painting of the Bogota savannah.

I am looking forward to collaborating with students and faculty at UConn in areas like: Native American and Indigenous history; early modern history; the history of books, maps, and textual artifacts; agrarian and environmental history; and digital and public history.

4. What sparked your interest in pursuing your current project?

I believe that revisiting the history of early modern empires (and the modern world) from the point of view of Native American peoples is essential to our current world. And the new voices and stories that emerge must be narrated in formats that are available to different audiences. This conviction has motivated my current projects and those I envision for the future.

5. What are your other interests? (As a scholar or otherwise—everyday preoccupations, hobbies, grand ambitions, etc.?) Do these other interests inform your research in some way and, if so, how?

I am a very committed rock climber. Though right now my greatest ambition is to be able to actually arrive in Storrs, CT—a seemingly simple task that has proven unachievable in the pandemic world. (While I formally began my position as Assistant Professor of History and Spanish in January 2020, I am teaching virtually from Tenjo, a rural area in the outskirts of Bogotá.)

Works in Progress Writing Group: Réme Bohlin

Réme Bohlin


Last semester, in the fall of 2020, I had the opportunity to share an early draft of my dissertation chapter with the Works in Progress Writing Group. The chapter, “The Rhetoric of Ownership in Shakespeare Pedagogy,” is the second chapter in my dissertation which focuses on approaches to teaching Shakespeare. 

In “The Rhetoric of Ownership in Shakespeare Pedagogy,” I take as a point of departure Ayanna Thompson and Laura Turchi’s observation that “the rhetoric of ownership is ubiquitous in rationales for the teaching of Shakespeare.”1 I analyze the frequent use of this rhetoric in Shakespeare pedagogy, and ultimately offer a critique. I argue that the rhetoric of ownership often stands as an ambiguous and rarely defined  learning objective. What does it mean to “own” Shakespeare? The rhetoric of ownership also, I argue, perpetuates problematic arguments about Shakespeare’s so-called universality.   

We had  productive discussion in the Works in Progress Writing Group. We talked about the ways that the rhetoric of ownership seems to cross political boundaries, with both liberal and conservative commentators asserting that students should “own” Shakespeare; we noted the unique use of the rhetoric of ownership with Shakespeare (are students asked to “own” Donne, or Milton, or Beaumont and Fletcher?); and finally we discussed other ways to rhetorically acknowledge or encourage student agency in the study of Shakespeare.

I am grateful to the Works in Progress Writing Group for hosting me, and to the faculty and graduate students who thoughtfully read and responded to my work.    


1. Thompson, Ayanna, and Laura Turchi. Teaching Shakespeare with Purpose: A Student-Centered Approach. London: Bloomsbury Arden Shakespeare, 2016, 55.

Upcoming Events: Talk by Professor James Rice, “‘Early Modern’ and ‘Indigenous’ Histories”

The Early Modern Studies Working Group has a few exciting events in the next few weeks.

On March 7th, we are please to announce that Professor James Rice will be giving a talk titled “‘Early Modern’ and ‘Indigenous’ Histories.” The talk begins at 1pm and will be preceded by a lunch at 12:15. The talk will explore the intertwining questions of periodization, theories of historical causation, and identity. The ways in which scholars have traditionally periodized the ‘Early Modern’ match up with certain important turning points in Native American history, and that’s not a coincidence. Yet any attempt at marking the beginning and end dates of the Early Modern also serves to elide important continuities in Indigenous histories – elisions with significant consequences for the politics of today.

Professor Rice is the chair at the Tufts History Department and the Walter S. Dickson Professor of English and American History. His major publications are Tales from a Revolution: Bacon’s Rebellion and the Transformation of Early America (2012) and Nature and History in Potomac (2009). Currently, the Early Modern Cross Cultural Interactions Reading Group is reading Tales from a Revolution on Tuesday’s between 12-1 in the UCHI conference room. All are welcome to join.

On February 21st we will be holding our first transcribathon meeting in the UCHI conference room at 11am. As always, we will be transcribing John Ward’s diary along with a guest transcription. All are welcome.

Scandal and Murder in the Folger Archives

This post comes from the Early Modern Studies Working Group’s Co-Coordinator, Melissa Rohrer. Melissa is a PhD Candidate in the English Department.

In October of 2018, I visited the Folger Shakespeare Library with generous funding from the UConn Early Modern Studies Working Group and the University of Connecticut Humanities Institute. My dissertation investigates how playwrights of the early modern period adapted notorious true events for the stage—events such as true crimes and scandals. I already had access to the plays which adapted these events, so I my trip to the Folger was centered largely on learning more about how these events were understood, circulated, and commented upon, both at the time of their unfolding and in the centuries after they transpired. Continue reading

Announcing The Early Moderns Works in Progress Writing Group

The Early Modern Works in Progress Writing Group—part of the UCHI-sponsored Early Modern Working Group and Folger Consortium Committee—brings together faculty members and graduate students with interests in early modern / Renaissance literatures, art, and history.  Our purpose is to support and promote the research of Early Modern Community members by providing them an occasion to present work in progress and receive constructive feedback and criticism on that work.  We also seek to foster an intellectual, interdisciplinary community, particularly in the hopes of bringing together graduate students and faculty members from UConn’s main and satellite campuses.


The Group meets once or twice each semester at times announced in September and January respectively.  Presenters are chosen each semester by members of the subcommittee who solicit nominations from the community at large.  Presenters will typically be UConn faculty members and graduate dissertators working on any aspect of early modern / Renaissance cultures.


Presenters are expected to send their work in progress (no published or “accepted” essays will be workshopped) to the group committee chair no later than two weeks prior the scheduled event.  The chair will disseminate the essay to all group members, who will read the work in advance of the meeting.  On the day of the 90-minute workshop, community members will gather to discuss the essay in a lively, collegial conversational format—with the primary goal of helping the presenter to refine the essay for eventual publication submission.  Essays should be between 15 and 30 pages of double-spaced prose.


We hope to see you at our meetings!

Folger Research Report: “My Experience in the Folger Orientation to Research Methods and Agendas Skills Course, Summer 2019”

Kristen Vitale is one of the Early Modern Studies Working Group’s New Co-coordinators and received a travel grant last spring to conduct research at the Folger Library This past July I participated in the Folger Orientation to Research Methods and Agendas Skills Course. The Library hosted twenty-six scholars from around the world to develop “a set of research-oriented literacies,” navigate the archive, and enhance our understanding of early modern book history. I left the Folger with thorough knowledge of the promised objectives and so much more. I now have a better grasp on my intended thesis project, refined paleographic proficiency, and a range of research skills that will aid in developing my ever-looming dissertation. I also gained a number of professional and personal relationships which formed with such ease that I, along with many others, viewed our meetings as pure serendipity.

Continue reading

Q&A with Katie Beene

Today’s Post is a Q&A with a new member of the EMSWG. Katie is a first year history PhD student who specializes in early modern Irish history.
1. Where are you from originally?
I am originally from a town called Evans, GA, it is just outside of Augusta, GA. For the past seven years I have been living in Villa Rica, GA, just outside of Atlanta, GA.
2. Where else have you gone to school?
I started school at the University of Georgia but switched to Georgia Southern University because it offered a degree in Hotel and Restaurant Management. I graduate from Georgia Southern in 2011 and worked in the restaurant industry for several years before coming back to school. I then went to Georgia State University for an undergraduate in history and religious studies. After I graduated with my BA in history I continued at Georgia State and earned my MA in Early Modern European History in December of 2018.

Continue reading

Report from the Folger: Enslaved and Freedwomen; Creators of the Atlantic Economy

Ricardo Raúl Salazar Rey is an Assistant Professor at the Stamford Campus of UCONN. He visited the Folger with funding from the Early Modern Studies Group.

Since the Renaissance of the 12th century (the real one), one of the exhilarating drivers of human innovation has been the collective learning enabled by conferences/universities/libraries, where scholars gather to discuss and sharpen their ideas. However, as a nontraditional, single parent, early career academic at a regional campus, the requirements to find, apply, and attend such academic gatherings can be a bit daunting. When my eagle-eyed mentor Mark Healey pointed out that Jennifer L. Morgan, one of my academic heroes, would be directing a yearlong colloquium on Finance, Race, and Gender in the Early Modern Atlantic World at the Folger Institute, I really wanted to participate. However, with time running out to finish my application I got stuck. In what would become a theme, the UCONN liaison Brendan Kane and others kindly reached out and helped me to understand what/how I could contribute and shepherded me through the process. Continue reading