Africana Studies


The Hamilton American studies faculty are active scholars and teachers. Their areas of expertise include 20th-century U.S. history, American modernism, reform and radical movements, the American left, 20th century American ballet and modern dance, and literature and film.

Shelley Haley, Ph.D., Professor of Classics and Africana Studies

Areas of Expertise: ancient Africa including ancient Egypt, Cleopatra, Latin pedagogy, Classica Africana, Roman social history focusing on constructs of race, gender, and sexuality; black feminist thought; and critical race feminism and African American women's intellectual history.
A member of the Hamilton faculty since 1989, Haley earned a Ph.D. in classical studies from the University of Michigan. She served a four-year term as chief reader for the AP Latin Exam. As of July 1, she was appointed as the chair of the AP Latin Exam Development Committee. More >>

An expert on Cleopatra, she has appeared on the BBC's TimeWatch segment on Cleopatra, and was interviewed for The Learning Channel's series, "Rome: Power & Glory." Haley was a contributor to the African American Women Writers Series, 1910-1940 (1995) and has published articles in classical journals such as Historia, Classical World and Classica et Mediaevalia.

Haley was a Distinguished Visiting Scholar at Washington University-St. Louis in 2002, and participated in the Oxford Round Table in 2003. She spent a month in South Africa in 1999, where she lectured on the classics as a foreign research fellow.

Haley has lectured nationally and internationally on the topic of increasing the representation of students of color in Latin, ancient Greek and classics classrooms. She has also lectured nationally and internationally on her research concerning the role of a classical education in the lives and careers of 19th century college-educated Black women. She published a chapter titled, "Lucian's 'Leaena and Clonarium'" Voyeurism or a Challenge to Assumptions?" in Nancy S. Rabinowitz and Lisa Auanger (eds.), Among Women: From the Homosocial to the Homoerotic in the Ancient World, Austin, TX: University of Texas  Press (2002).

Donald Carter, Ph.D., Professor of Africana Studies

Areas of Expertise: culture theory, racial formation, visual culture, diaspora, invisibility, and transnational cultural politics.
Donald Martin Carter came to Hamilton from the Department of Anthropology at Johns Hopkins University. Carter previously taught at Dickinson College and Stanford University. More >>

He received a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago and is author of States of Grace: Senegalese in Italy and the New European Immigration, published in 1997. His research interests include culture theory, racial formation, visual culture, Diaspora, invisibility and transnational cultural politics.

Heather Merrill, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Africana Studies

Areas of Expertise: human geography; place, race, identity and the social transformation of Europe in relation to the African diaspora; African diasporic identity and politics, refugees from the Horn of Africa and the emergence of Black Spaces in Italy.
Heather Merrill came to Hamilton College from Dickinson College where she taught from 2000-2009 and was executive director of the Clarke Forum for Contemporary Issues from 2006-2008. More >>

Merrill completed her doctoral work in human geography at the University of California, Berkeley, in 2000. She also has a master's degree in cultural anthropology from the University of Chicago, an M.A. in history and education from Teacher’s College, Columbia University and a bachelor's degree in philosophy from New York University. Her research examines place, race, identity and the social transformation of Europe in relation to the African Diaspora. A critical human geographer whose theoretical work is grounded in ethnography in Italy, her current research is focused on African diasporic identity and politics, refugees from the Horn of Africa and the emergence of Black Spaces in Italy. 

Merrill was the Distinguished Visiting Irwin Scholar in Women’s Studies at Hamilton from 2009-2011 and joined the Africana Studies department faculty in 2011. She is the author of An Alliance of Women: Immigration and the Politics of Race (University of Minnesota, 2006) and has published numerous articles in edited volumes and journals of geography.

Angel David Nieves, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Africana Studies

Areas of Expertise: race and the built environment, digital humanities, spatial humanitites, heritage preservation, urban histry, South Africa and Southern Africa, truth and reconciliation in post-conflict countries and diaspora studies.
Angel David Nieves currently co-directs Hamilton's Digital Humanities Initiative (DHi) an $800,000. Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Grant-funded project. More >>

Nieves taught in the School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation at the University of Maryland, College Park, from 2003-2008. Nieves completed his doctoral work in architectural history and Africana Studies at Cornell University in 2001.

His co-edited book, ‘We Shall Independent Be:’ African American Place-Making and the Struggle to Claim Space in the U.S. (2008), examines African American efforts to claim space in American society despite fierce resistance. Nieves has published essays in the Journal of Planning History; Places Journal: A Forum of Design for the Public Realm; Safundi: The Journal of South African and American Studies; and in several edited collections, most recently in Places of Pain and Shame: Dealing With Difficult Heritage (2009). He is also associate editor of Fire!!!: A Multimedia Journal of Black Studies, an online journal of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History. His digital research and scholarship have also been featured on MSNBC.com and in Newsweek.

Nieves’ scholarly work and community-based activism critically engages with issues of memory, heritage preservation, gender and nationalism at the intersections of race and the built environment in cities across the Global South. In 2010 he received The John R. Hatch Class of 1925 Excellence in Teaching Award.

Courtney Thompson, Ph.D., Visiting Assistant Professor of Africana Studies

Areas of Expertise: African American women's literary tradition, specifically political discourse.
Courtney L. Thompson is an interdisciplinary scholar whose work focuses on political discourse in black women’s writings. In particular, she is concerned with the relationship between black women’s progressive politics and democratic reform. More >>

Thompson earned her bachelor's degree in English from Hampton University and her master's and Ph.D. in American studies from Purdue University. She previously served as a visiting scholar at the University of Houston.

Thompson is currently working on her book manuscript, tentatively titled “We Are Fighting for Democracy”: Black Women Activists and the Pursuit of All Things Equal, 1920s-Present. The book reflects her broader research interests in the African American literary tradition, American political discourse, progressive movements and African American feminist theory.

She has taught courses on the African diaspora, African American women’s activism, black women writers, and black autobiography in the U.S.

Nigel Westmaas, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Africana Studies

Areas of Expertise: history, sociology and Africana studies.
Nigel Westmaas earned his master’s and Ph.D. from SUNY Binghamton and bachelor’s degree from the University of Guyana. He joined the Hamilton faculty in 2006. More >>

Westmaas has published articles in journals and magazines, including Against the Current, Small Axe, Emancipation Magazine, Caribbean Studies, Guyana Art Forum  and An Introductory Reader for Women’s Studies in Guyana. He is the co-editor of a UNESCO assisted booklet Guyanese Periodicals: 1796-1996. Westmaas also contributes guest articles to the Stabroek News, one of the national newspapers of Guyana.

His research work for and contributing introduction to the Marcus Garvey Universal Negro Improvement Association Papers, Caribbean series project was published by the University of California Press (2011). 

Westmaas' other research interests include the history of the newspaper press, pan-Africanism, and the rise and impact of political and social movements mainly in the Anglophone Caribbean.