Dr. William C. Van Norman, Jr.

About me: I received my Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill in 2005 and my B.A. degrees (history and religious studies) from Arizona State University in 1997. I like to travel and have lived all over the US and visited nearly 40 states. I have spent considerable time in Cuba and Spain and visited several other countries as well. On the personal side: I have two wonderful daughters that live in North Carolina. I love music and especially like finding new groups and songs and sharing them with friends. Basketball is my favorite sport, NBA and NCAA, but I also am a fan of futbol especially la Liga (Spain). I like to cook and I am very adventurous when it comes to food. I've even been known to cook for my students on occasion. I can think of nothing better than discussing interesting ideas over a good meal and a bottle of wine with friends. In short, I am a complex person but I like simple pleasures. My interests are reflected in both what I research and what I teach. Welcome to my site. Explore. Enjoy.

Research and Scholarly Activity: I am currently working on revising my dissertation, "Shade Grown Slavery: Life and Labor on Cuban Coffee Plantations, 1790-1845," for publication. My work challenges much of the existing scholarship on slavery and the lives of slaves on Cuban plantations. I shift the focus away from the dominant commodity of sugar to a secondary crop and show that it was crucial during the boom years of plantation agriculture on the island. This was significant because there were distinct differences that grew out of the cultivation of a different crop that directly impacted the lives of the slaves who lived and worked on the plantations. I have also recently been invited to join the now-forming working group on Built Environment in the Atlantic World that will be located at the Fernand Braudel Center, SUNY Binghamton. Collectively we will be discussing and exploring how various constructed environments such as plantations shaped the experiences of people throughout the Atlantic World. I have published an article in The Americas (Oct. 2005) entitled "The Process of Cultural Change Among Cuban Bozales During the Nineteenth Century." This piece is a revision of my 1999 Master's Thesis and proposes a theoretical model for understanding how personal identifications of slaves were transformed through the middle passage and so-called seasoning process. I have also presented numerous papers at academic conferences over the last several years. Please consult my c.v. for a list of titles and conferences in which I have participated. My interests are wide even though my research may seem very narrowly focused. In my work I explore a number of different themes including race, gender, sexuality, ethnic identification, violent actions and their motivations, and cultural formation and its expression notably looking at religious practice, music and food. My interests are also reflected in the courses I teach. The list is above in the links but briefly I teach courses on Latin America and Slavery as well as World History. In those courses I focus on the above issues in a variety of ways by exploring the slave trade, gender relations in Latin America, revolutions and the lives of Afro-Latin Americans.