I am a Ph.D. Candidate in History at New York University, focusing on Spain and Colonial Latin America. My interests include environmental history, ethnogenesis in the Spanish Atlantic, and early modern Europe. My dissertation, Appealing Peru: Basque Identity and the Potosí Mines, will address the role of the Potosí mining community on Basque national identity. I will defend my dissertation on August 27th, 2018.

I hold a BA with Honors from Swarthmore College, where I was a Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellow. I am a native bilingual in Spanish and English and have lived and studied in Spain and Latin America. Before graduate school, I taught at a farm-based education program in upstate New York, and later taught middle and elementary school Spanish.

Research Description:

My dissertation, Appealing Peru: Basque Identity and the Potosí Mines, explores how migration to Potosí in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries shaped Basque collective identity. In Potosí, Basque-speakers from the separate provinces of Bizkaia and Gipuzkoa came to be commonly known as bascongados, and emerged as a unified community. I address how Basque-speakers on both sides of the Atlantic came to be identified not through their province of origin, but by their distinctive language, their knowledge of mining and sailing, and their close rapport with the Crown.I address how Basques fit into early modern categories of difference, and, significantly, how an emergent racial discourse was mobilized by Basques themselves to define their group identity. In this period, the Crown sought to categorize all Spaniards collectively as ‘whites’ (in contrast to Indians and Africans), and the idea of limpieza de sangre, or blood purity, which had been used since the fifteenth century to stigmatize Muslims and Jews, was used by the Inquisition more aggressively and in new contexts. I explore how Basque thinking was informed by these discourses, even as they sometimes felt uneasy and struggled against the groupings these notions created. By analyzing litigation from the Court of Appeals at the Archive of the Royal Chancellery in Valladolid, Spain, I uncover how Basque sentiment in Spain also changed in response to remittances from family members in Potosí. Other sources for this project include letters from bascongados and reports from royal officials in Potosí, as well as provincial council records.

Selected Fellowships:

  • Public Humanities Fellowship, New York Council for the Humanities (Fall 2016-Spring 2017)
  • Mellon Fellowship for Dissertation Research in Original Sources, Council on Library and Information Resources (Summer 2014-Spring 2015)
  • Bernadotte Schmitt Research Grant, American Historical Association (Summer 2014)
  • New York University McCracken Fellowship (2011-Present)

Contact information:

Emma Adelaida Otheguy
New York University
Department of History
53 Washington Square South, 4th Floor
New York, NY 10012

emma.otheguy [at] nyu [dot] edu

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