Introducing Professor Damian Pargas

The RIAS welcomes it latest staff member: Professor Damian Pargas. Professor Pargas serves as the Institute's Executive Director and holds the Raymond and Beverly Sackler Chair of History and Culture of the United States and the Americas at Leiden University.

Damian Pargas
'I am so happy to have the opportunity to work with my friends Giles, Dario, Cees, and Leontien to help give shape to the RIAS in its new form The RIAS has a unique opportunity to expand its role as a platform for research, conferences, education and public outreach regarding all aspects of American studies, and I am excited to be a part of it.

By way of introduction, my interest in the history and culture of North America is as broad as the North American experience itself, but in my research I have always been particularly fascinated by the history of slavery and its aftermath. Since the obtainment of my PhD at Leiden University in 2009, I have published widely on the social history of African-American slaves in the 19th-century US South. My first book, The Quarters and the Fields (2010), was a comparative study of slave family life that focused on the various boundaries and opportunities that enslaved people were confronted with to create families, raise children, and protect their family units from external threats. My second book, Slavery and Forced Migration in the Antebellum South (2014) examined how enslaved people experienced forced removal – what it was like for them to be sold away, have to leave their homes and families, and start a new life somewhere else where they didn't know anybody. I am currently working on a third book (which I hope will be out by 2020) that examines runaway slaves throughout North America, including the US North and South, as well as Canada and Mexico. I am especially interested in how runaway slaves navigated various ''spaces of freedom" in North America. This book will be based on an NWO VIDI project that I am supervising, titled "Beacons of Freedom: Slave Refugees in North America, 1800-1860."

Despite my primary focus on North American history, I thoroughly enjoy collaborating with non-Americanists as well, and I can often be found at conferences and events that at first glance may not look like "American history" events. The American experience is poorly understood in isolation, and I am convinced that the interests of our discipline are best served when we look across borders (both geographical and disciplinary) and engage in dialogue with colleagues who work on similar themes but in other contexts. The expertise housed within RIAS alone includes such global themes as human rights activism, diplomacy and international relations, empire, and slavery. Placing American themes in global or international contexts reveals similarities, differences, interconnectedness, and processes of divergence and convergence between the North American experience and other parts of the world. I look forward to helping to organize RIAS events that appeal to not only the thriving American studies community in The Netherlands, but to non-Americanists as well. The welcome mat is out.'

Please visit his staff page for more information.