The Southern Strategies of Early Modern Empires (circa 1444–1800)

Project Directors: Ben Ehlers (History), Elizabeth Wright (Romance Languages)

This Andrew W. Mellon Foundation grant-funded project is part of the Global Studies of the American South research category in the Willson Center’s expanded Global Georgia Initiative.

The Early Modern Studies Group brings together faculty from across Franklin College for a three-year program of lectures, workshops, and debates that will ponder The Southern Strategies of Early Modern Empires (circa 1444-1800). Taking diverse disciplinary perspectives, we will examine and debate the momentous changes of emerging modernity that engendered what we construe as the American South—the emergent Atlantic slave trade, cultural exchanges between Europeans and Amerindians, and ultramarine imperialism. Mellon funding enables us to bring leading scholars from around the world to UGA present works in progress. Our research team will also mentor graduate students to devise innovative dissertation topics and seek outside funding. Not least, we will engage the wider Georgia community in events that illustrate the global contexts of the American South.

Our framework of empires’ southern strategies engages a range of scholarly works that transcend the traditional organization of disciplines along the lines of modern nation-states and their official languages. We come together recognizing that scholars of the humanities have made great strides in transcending national and linguistic boundaries of traditional academic departments to examine an Atlantic world that was always, already a global south, with such works as Paul Gilroy’s classic Black Atlantic (1993) leading the way. But our activities are inspired by our shared realization that much work remains to be done to adapt courses and fields of academic study to reflect the global interconnections and entanglements that made the American South. Members of our research cluster are: Frances Teague, from Theater and Film studies; Sujata Iyengar, Jason Payton, and Miriam Jacobson from English; Benjamin Ehlers, from History; plus Dana Bultman, Alberto Villate, Richard Gordon, Jonathan Haddad, Paola DeSanto, and Elizabeth Wright, from Romance Languages.