Dr. Emily Colbert Cairns

Contact Information:

Room 106
(401) 341-2234


B.A. in Spanish and mathematics, Hamilton College (2006)
M.A. in Spanish, University of California Irvine (2008)
Ph.D. in Spanish, University of California Irvine (2012)

Research Interests:

My research focuses on marginalized groups in the early modern Atlantic World (roughly 1500-1700). Literature, historical records and the visual arts inform my research into the role of women, crypto-Jews and conversas in Spain and the Americas. I have published on converso and crypto-Jewish identity in the early modern period in eHumanista, Chasqui, Cervantes Journal and Hispanófila. My book, "Esther in Early Modern Iberia and the Sephardic Diaspora: Queen of Conversas," was published by Palgrave McMillan in 2017. I am a co-editor with Brian M. Phillips of "Confined Women: Emparedadas, Malcasadas and the Walls of Female Space in Inquisitorial Spain" (Hispanic Issues Online). I am currently working on a monograph on breastfeeding practices in the early modern world.

Personal Statement:

I enjoy sharing my research on others in the early modern world with my students. In reading texts from this period hundreds of years ago, we see that many of the themes about identity, religious practice and the treatment of women have meaning and parallels today. Some of my recent advanced courses include Early Modern Women and #EarlyModernMeToo.

It is exciting to live and work in Newport alongside the Touro Synagogue, where much of my research resonates with the colonial Sephardic Jewish population. In intermediate language courses, I take language learning outside the classroom and into the community. In a recent course, Intermediate Spanish Through Civic Engagement, our class collaborated with Rogers High School to run a language exchange program for college students learning Spanish and Hispanic high school students working on their English language skills.