Alumni Update: Ashleigh Dean Ikemoto (Ph.D., ’16)

Dr. Ashleigh Dean Ikemoto, a 2016 alum of the doctoral program, recently sent an update on her career trajectory since graduating from Emory. As she discusses below, Dean recently published her first book, Pedro de Alfaro & the Struggle for Power in the Globalized Pacific, 1565-1644 (Rowman & Littlefield, Lexington Books). The book derives from her dissertation, which was advised by Dr. Tonio Andrade. Enjoy Ashleigh’s update below!

“Since finishing my PhD, I taught at Monmouth College in New Jersey and at Gordon State College in Georgia before beginning at Georgia College in 2018. My doctoral research was on Spain’s frustrated attempts to conquer Ming Dynasty China. This year I published a book based on my dissertation. It examines the career of Pedro de Alfaro (d. 1580), a Spanish Franciscan whose illegal entry into China sparked a chain of events that contributed to the development of an interconnected Pacific economic and diplomatic maritime zone.

“I am still engaged in the field of early modern history and still teach East Asian history, but I currently spend most of my time working on food history. I teach courses on the historical methodology of foodways, Asian and Asian-American food, Jewish food, Mediterranean food, and the history of alcohol.

“Beginning in January 2023, I will be Co-Director of Georgia College’s Global Foodways Program, which provides an undergraduate certificate and opportunities for community outreach and study abroad. I have also done two research fellowships in pursuit of food-related research and pedagogy: one in Mongolia as a Henry Luce Foundation American Center for Mongolian Studies Field School participant in 2022, and one this past summer as a Brandeis University Schusterman Center for Israeli Studies Fellow in Israeli & the West Bank.

“My time at Emory prepared me to see history as a universally-applicable discipline, letting me branch out beyond my dissertation research and broadening my perspective as an educator.”

Are you an Emory History alumnus? Please send us updates on your life and work!

Johanna Luthman (PhD ’04) Publishes New Book with Oxford UP

Why would a woman falsely accuse her husband’s youthful step-grandmother of attempting to murder her with a poisoned enema? Dr. Johanna Luthman, Professor of History at the University of North Georgia, first learned of this accusation, which took place at the court of James I of England in 1618, while she was writing her dissertation at Emory. Now, she has explored the question fully in her new book, Family and Feuding at the Court of James I: The Lake and Cecil Scandals (Oxford UP). The sensational accusation was one of many levied between the families of Sir Thomas Lake, Secretary of State, and Thomas Cecil, Earl of Exeter, both members of the king’s Privy Council and at the pinnacle of power at the Jacobean court. The two families were joined by the marriage of Sir Thomas’s daughter Anne to Exeter’s grandson William Cecil, Lord Roos. The souring of that marriage led to a years-long feud between the families, which caused sensational scandals, political downfalls, international man-hunts, and lengthy trials where King James himself sat as a judge, a Biblical Solomon dispensing justice. This is the first detailed account of the Lake and Cecil feud. It provides a window into Jacobean society, politics, religion, medicine, ideas about gender and sexuality, and more.

Candido’s ‘Wealth, Property, and Land in Angola’ Wins ASA Book Prize

Congratulations to Dr. Mariana P. Candido, Winship Distinguished Professor of History, 2023-2026, and Professor of History, on receiving one of the most significant book prizes in African studies. The African Studies Association (ASA) awarded Candido’s most recent monograph, Wealth, Land, and Property in Angola: A History of Dispossession, Slavery, and Inequality (Cambridge UP), with the ASA Best Book Prize for 2022. The prize is given “to the author of the most important scholarly work in African studies published in English during the preceding year.” Cátia Antunes (Leiden University) writes that “Candido’s approach, insights and poignant arguments will ignite profuse discussions and challenge common views regarding Africa and Africans. Candido is a unique historian and perhaps the most accomplished Africanist of the 21st century.” Earlier in 2023, Candido was one of 26 scholars based in the U.S. to receive the prestigious Berlin Prize, which supports a research fellowship at the American Academy in Berlin. Read more about Wealth, Property, and Land in Angola below and browse past winners of the ASA Book Prize.

Exploring the multifaceted history of dispossession, consumption, and inequality in West Central Africa, Mariana P. Candido presents a bold revisionist history of Angola from the sixteenth century until the Berlin Conference of 1884–5. Synthesising disparate strands of scholarship, including the histories of slavery, land tenure, and gender in West Central Africa, Candido makes a significant contribution to ongoing historical debates. She demonstrates how ideas about dominion and land rights eventually came to inform the appropriation and enslavement of free people and their labour. By centring the experiences of West Central Africans, and especially African women, this book challenges dominant historical narratives, and shows that securing property was a gendered process. Drawing attention to how archives obscure African forms of knowledge and normalize conquest, Candido interrogates simplistic interpretations of ownership and pushes for the decolonization of African history.

“Candido is a unique historian and perhaps the most accomplished Africanist of the 21st century.”

Cátia Antunes (Leiden University)

‘Patchwork Freedoms’ Wins Book Prize From American Society for Legal History


The American Society for Legal History has awarded Adriana Chira’s Patchwork Freedoms: Law, Slavery, and Race beyond Cuba’s Plantations (Cambridge UP, 2022) with the Peter Gonville Stein Book Award, awarded annually for the best book in non-US legal history written in English. The prize committee praised how Chira “integrates legal and social history by seamlessly weaving together legal and nonlegal sources to tell a story that is complex, nuanced, and locally grounded.” Patchwork Freedoms was released as part of Cambridge’s Afro-Latin America series. Patchwork Freedoms has already won three other awards: Honorable Mention, Best Book, Nineteenth Century Section, from the Latin American Studies Association; the 2023 Elsa Goveia Prize from the Association of Caribbean Historians; and the American Historical Association’s Rawley Prize. Read the full prize citation from the ASLH below.

Adriana Chira’s Patchwork Freedoms is a compelling account of the ways in which the free and semi-free black residents of eastern Cuba used law and custom to eke out their freedom over the course of the nineteenth century. Chira demonstrates how “day in and day out, enslaved people chipped away at enslavers’ authority locally, by negotiating the terms of their manumission and land access. They pulled one another out of plantation slavery gradually, yet consistently.” The committee was especially impressed by how Patchwork Freedoms integrates legal and social history by seamlessly weaving together legal and nonlegal sources to tell a story that is complex, nuanced, and locally grounded.

Yannakakis Interview, Making and Remaking History in Colonial Oaxaca, Airs on University and Community Radio

Dr. Yanna Yannakakis, Professor of History and Associate Department Chair, was recently interviewed by the Oaxaca-based university radio station Radio Pez en el SURCO (“Servicios Universitarios y Redes de Conocimientos en Oaxaca” [“University Services and Networks of Knowledge in Oaxaca”]). Titled “Oaxaca colonial, haciendo e rehaciendo historia colonial” (“Colonial Oaxaca, making and remaking history”), the interview draws on Yannakakis’ newest monograph, Since Time Immemorial: Native Custom and Law in Colonial Mexico (Duke UP, 2023). The interview was and will continue to be aired on the following Oaxaca university and community radio stations: Radio Universidad de Oaxaca (Sept 19, 2023); Radio Nanhdiá, Movimiento Radio, Estéreo Lluvia y Radio Aire Zapoteco Bëë Xhidza (September 23, 2023); Radio Nandiá (September 24, 2023); and Estéreo Dinastía Xhdca (September 25, 2023). You can also catch a recorded version on Spotify.

Andrade Receives NEH Public Scholars Fellowship

Congratulations to Dr. Tonio Andrade, Professor of History, on receiving an NEH Public Scholars Fellowship. Awarded for his project “The Dutch East India Company: A Global History,” the fellowship will support the writing of a book about the factors that enabled the Dutch East India Company to become the dominant maritime power in Asia: its financing, its military strength, and its use of trade and information networks. This NEH program supports projects that lead to the “creation and publication of well-researched nonfiction books in the humanities written for the broad public.”

Alum William S. Cossen Publishes `Making Catholic America` with Cornell UP

Dr. William S. Cossen, a former history major and 2008 graduate, recently published his first monograph. Titled Making Catholic America: Religious Nationalism in the Gilded Age and Progressive Era (Cornell UP), the book examines how white American Catholics worked to claim privileged and leading roles as model American citizens in the decades after the Civil War and before the Great Depression. Describing the book as “Superb,” Mark Noll (The University of Notre Dame) praises the book’s combination of “exceptionally deep archival research with wide reading in contemporary and historical accounts.” Gossen completed his PhD at the Pennsylvania State University in 2016. He is faculty at the Gwinnett School of Mathematics, Science, and Technology, the top-ranked public high school in Georgia and U.S. News & World Report’s ninth-best high school in the United States.

Armstrong-Partida Article in Past and Present Wins Prize

Dr. Michelle Armstrong-Partida, Associate Professor, was recently recognized for an article the she published in Past & Present with her co-author, Dr. Susan McDonough, Associate Professor of History at the University of Maryland Baltimore County. Titled “Singlewomen in the Late Medieval Mediterranean,” their piece won the article of the month prize from the Mediterranean Seminar. The article challenges prevailing ideas about the supposed distinct marital patterns among mediaeval women in Northern and Southern Europe, offering a persuasive, archivally-rich reinterpretation that the prize evaluator described as “rigorous and thought-provoking” as well as “theoretically sophisticated.” Read the abstract from the article below, along with the full comments from the award evaluation.

This article challenges a long-entrenched model of two discrete marital regimes in northern and southern Europe. Demographer John Hajnal argued in 1965 that a distinctive north-western European Marriage Pattern emerged post-1700 when a large population of unmarried men and women married in their early to late twenties and formed their own household rather than join a multi-generational household. The corollary to this argument is that women in southern Europe married young and universally, and thus rarely entered into domestic service. Medievalists have embraced and repeated this paradigm, shaping assumptions about the Mediterranean as less developed or ‘less European’ than the north and ignoring the experience of women enslaved throughout the region.

Notaries and judicial officials in medieval Barcelona, Valencia, Mallorca, Marseille, Palermo, Venice, Famagusta and Crete recognized singlewomen owning property, buying, selling and manumitting enslaved people, appointing procurators, committing crimes and making wills. We reintegrate the experiences of singlewomen, both enslaved and free, into the daily life of the medieval Mediterranean. Understanding how these women made community, survived economically and participated in the legal and notarial cultures of their cities reframes our understanding of women’s options outside marriage in the medieval past.

Chira`s `Patchwork Freedoms` Wins Elsa Goveia Book Prize from ACH

The Association for Caribbean Historians has awarded Dr. Adriana Chira’s book Patchwork Freedoms: Law, Slavery, and Race beyond Cuba’s Plantations (Cambridge UP, 2022) with its Elsa Goveia Book Prize. Named for renowned Caribbean historian Elsa Goveia (1925-80), the biennial prize recognizes scholarly excellence in the field of Caribbean history. Patchwork Freedoms was released as part of Cambridge’s Afro-Latin America series. The following citation about Patchwork Freedoms was read at the ACH annual meeting in June 2023:

In Patchwork Freedoms: Law, Slavery, and Race beyond Cuba’s Plantations (Cambridge University Press, 2022), Adriana Chira probes an extensive but little-known archive of legal documents to analyze how Afro-descendent rural cultivators negotiated liberty and landholding rights in nineteenth-century Santiago de Cuba. Her meticulous research demonstrates how protracted struggles against local legal institutions blurred the lines between enslavement and freedom. Chira argues that it was these gradual, lengthy, community-based processes, coupled with the flexibility of customary law, rather than innovations from above, that allowed these landholders to carve out spaces of greater autonomy. Patchwork Freedoms is an important counterpoint to scholarship that emphasize freedoms gained through Atlantic and circum-Caribbean mobility or formal processes of abolition and emancipation. It is essential reading for scholars of Atlantic world slavery, legal regimes, and agrarian societies. 

New Books Series: Q&A with Yanna Yannakakis about `Since Time Immemorial`

Dr. Yanna Yannakakis, Associate Professor of History, recently published her second single-authored monograph, Since Time Immemorial: Native Custom and Law in Colonial Mexico, with Duke University Press. In the latest installment of our New Faculty Books series, Dr. Yannakakis offers a glimpse into the making of this book.

Books are produced over years if not decades. Give us a sense for the lifespan of this book, from initial idea to final edits.

Inspiration for this book came from different directions and over a long period of time. My interest in how Indigenous people in Latin America reconstituted their communities, social norms, and lifeways under Spanish colonial rule led me to graduate school, as did my engagement with Indigenous activists through the Central America solidarity movement. I began doctoral studies in History in the 1990’s when many Latin American nation-states reworked their constitutions to include official recognition of Indigenous customary law (norms rooted in longstanding cultural practices). At the time, this puzzled me since many of those same nation-states were simultaneously implementing neoliberal policies that undercut collective landholding and privatized public goods and resources. Those policies ran contrary to the interests of many Indigenous communities and peasant farmers.

Against this backdrop of events in the present, through my doctoral research, I encountered legal cases in which Indigenous communities in colonial Mexico haggled with one another over land, labor, and resources, justifying their claims in Spanish colonial courts through recourse to ancient custom. These cases raised questions for me about the relationship between colonial history and contemporary realities. Did the customs of the colonial past bear any relation to pre-Hispanic practices or to customary laws of the present? What exactly was Indigenous custom, what were its origins, and who did it serve in different historical moments? How were claims to Native customary law supported and justified? Why did Indigenous litigants argue with one another over custom? What were the long-term effects of customary claims to land, labor, and self-governance by Indigenous communities?

Over the years, starting in the late 1990’s, I kept a file of references to custom that I found in the colonial archives, even though Indigenous custom was not the focus of my dissertation or first book. Meanwhile, I finished my degree, got a job, earned tenure, and my research went in new directions. I was fascinated by translation in colonial legal settings, so I dove into Indigenous language materials produced by the Catholic Church and court records produced by Native authorities in Mexico’s Indigenous languages. I thought I would write a book about law, religion, and translation in cross-cultural context. But I kept circling back to my initial interests and discovered that much of my work on translation could be harnessed to a broader project on Indigenous custom and law, and in the end, this turned out to be true. So the lifespan of this book has been long, and the path of researching and writing it, jagged and circuitous. A number of fellowships provided space to research and write shorter pieces and develop my ideas. I wrote most of the book during the pandemic from May 2020-July 2021 when I had a sabbatical. For some reason, the moment of the pandemic catalyzed all of the work I had done along the way. It was not a straight line from initial idea to book, but I would not have changed the process one bit. All of the years of research on language, law, and translation enriched the final product.

What was the research process like?

So much of the research that nourished this book was collaborative. My interest in Indigenous languages and colonial translation led to a fruitful interdisciplinary collaboration with a socio-linguist and old friend, which resulted in several co-authored articles and chapters and a community-engaged public humanities project in Oaxaca (Mexico), my primary research site. I also worked collaboratively with colleagues at Emory’s Center for Digital Studies (ECDS) and with a talented and dedicated group of graduate research assistants to produce a digital humanities website on law, imperial space, and Indigenous social networks in colonial Mexico, a project that also nourished the book. Alongside my collaborative work, I continued to collect material from archives, libraries, and special collections in the United States, Europe, and Mexico. Serendipity played a role in my research process as well. A few years ago, the judicial archive in Oaxaca began to catalog and make available the notarial records for one of the regions that figures centrally in my book. This was a great boon to the project because it allowed me to research the workings of Indigenous custom at a very local and granular level. And as I discovered new sources, I returned to some older, well known sources — like Mesoamerican pictographic codices and maps – with fresh questions generated by the archives. In sum, my research process was like a spiral of discovery and re-discovery, of pushing beyond my disciplinary boundaries and returning again to the nuts and bolts of history. It also entailed working collaboratively with colleagues and most importantly, with Indigenous communities whose histories feature centrally in my work.

Are you partial to a particular chapter or section?

Each chapter represents a phase in my long and varied research trajectory, so it is hard to decide which I like best. I wrote the last three chapters (five, six, and seven) first, so in many ways they feel like the beating heart of the book. Those chapters draw from notarial and legal records produced in Oaxaca, some of which were written in Indigenous languages and others in Spanish. They treat the most fundamental aspects of customary law and practice in Indigenous communities: self-governance, land tenure, and labor. In each of these chapters, I feature legal cases that unfolded over a long period of time, which allows me to narrate local histories in a sustained way and bring them to life with detailed storytelling. Because of my longstanding connection to Oaxaca, those chapters feel most immediate to me and resonate with my understanding of the region. My interdisciplinary engagement comes to the fore most fully in chapter two, which focuses on language and translation, and chapter three, which engages the Codex Mendoza, one of the most iconic pictographic texts of Mexico’s early colonial period.

How does this project align with your broad research agenda?

In my research, I have worked to complicate overly simplistic understandings of colonial Indigenous histories, which were complex and not given to neat oppositions. Through my research, I have learned that in the context of colonial violence and exploitation, Indigenous individuals and communities developed strategies to protect and pursue varied interests and to secure rights to land and semi-autonomous self-governance. Some of those strategies can be characterized as resistance, others as negotiation, and others as learning to work within colonial systems and institutions, the most important and powerful of which were colonial law and Christianity. Native people adapted these institutions to their needs and objectives and wove them into the fabric of their forms of self-governance, social relations, and everyday lives. Custom – a European juridical category imported by Spanish administrators to the Americas – provides an ideal means through which to explore this process and analyze how Indigenous peoples made legal claims based on the practices of the past to generate new rights for the future.