Justine Walden

Position title: Honorary Fellow (2021-2022)

Lecturer, Department of History, UW–Madison

Portrait image "selfie" of Justine Walden standing in a tree-lined street wearing green earrings and leather straps around her shoulders

Naming Race in the Renaissance and What Price Souls: Race and Religion from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic

I am currently working on two large-scale projects: “Naming Race in the Renaissance” treats of the ideologies of slavery, whiteness and blackness, and ‘razza’ (race) as these originated in Renaissance Italy in the fourteenth century and developed through the eighteenth. The project traces how a suite of concepts attached to and revolving around the term ‘race’ was routinely applied to Jews and Muslims before coming to be applied to Subsaharan Africans and how a Renaissance neoplatonist ontology undergirded and informed this suite of concepts. It argues that the conceptions about race that were forged in the Renaissance were decisive in shaping those deployed in Enlightenment-era Europe, the British Isles, and the Atlantic.

My second project, “What Price Souls: Race and Religion from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic,” looks at how a religious order that had cut its teeth in Mediterranean slaving environments intervened in matters of enslavement and assisted enslaved people in seventeenth-century Africa (Kongo-Angola), Brazil, and the Caribbean. The missionary order of Capuchins, which outstripped Jesuits in both size and influence and possessed outsize influence in Kongo-Angola, called for justice on behalf of black people across the Lusophone Atlantic at multiple points and at various levels, demanding in 1676 Havana that all black African slaves be freed and compensated for back wages. Using Capuchins as its point of departure, the monograph offers a reconsideration and overview of how early modern Catholics engaged with problems of enslavement, race, and antislavery in the early modern South Atlantic, examining specific nexuses of ideas that conditioned views of religion and enslavement such as the juridical concepts of natural law, just war, and ius gentium; views on capitalism and economic gain; and divergent attitudes toward social praxis—as, for example, the Catholic insistence that Central West Africans abandon the custom of polygyny in favor of monogamy.

Justine Walden Biography: After receiving my Ph.D. in History and Renaissance Studies at Yale University (2016), I served as a visiting Postdoctoral researcher on a digital mapping project at the University of Toronto. My first book (forthcoming, Brepols) looks at a series of exorcism manuscripts written by Florentine monks to understand religious change, politics, and why the persecution of groups like witches, Jews, and peasants spiked in late fifteenth-century Europe. My bachelor’s degree is in Philosophy from the University of California Berkeley; my MA is in American Civilization from the University of Pennsylvania.