Mercedes Alcalá-Galán

Position title: Senior Open-Topic Fellow (2023-2027)

Professor, Department of Spanish & Portuguese, UW–Madison

Painted self portrait of Mercedes Alcalá-Galán in Baroque fashion with texts and color blocks swirling around the face.

Uncovering Black African Female Slavery in Early Modern Spain: Voices from the Archives and Portrayals in Art and Literature

By 1590, Black African slaves made up 10% of the population of Seville and various other Spanish cities; remarkably, 70% of them were women. Yet until recently, Spanish historiography insisted that Black slavery in Spain had been negligible compared to that of the colonies, and the few contemporary studies on this topic continue eluding the fact that, in Spain, Black slavery mainly concerned women. My project about unveiling the strong and nuanced presence of Black female slaves in Early Modern Spain taps into a wealth of understudied archival documents as well as many literary and visual representations.

Mercedes Alcalá Galán is Professor of Spanish at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. Her research is oriented primarily toward topics in poetics and gender studies with special emphasis on visual studies. She is the author of “Con esta carga nacemos las mujeres”: Discursos sobre el cuerpo femenino en la España de Cervantes (Iberoamericana/Vervuert, 2022); Escritura desatada: poéticas de la representación en Cervantes (Centro de Estudios Cervantinos); and La silva curiosa de Julián de Medrano. Estudio y edición critica. She is the guest editor of “Si ya por atrevido no sale con las manos en la cabeza”: el legado poético del “Persiles” cuatrocientos años después (eHumanista/Cervantes, 2016), and co-editor of the volume Sex and Gender in Cervantes in honor of Adrienne Martín (Kassel, Germany: Reichenberger, 2019). She is the current President of the Cervantes Society of America.