Collegiate Affiliation

My diverse scholarly interests shape my book projects and the courses I teach.  My first book, Suspect Relations: Sex, Race, and Resistance in Colonial North Carolina (Cornell University Press, 2002), explores racism in the 18th century.  It focuses on illicit sexual relationships in a growing slave society and shows that the way neighbors and court magistrates either punished or ignored these relationships made racial difference seem increasingly real.  My second book tells the life story of a fascinating character in the early United States: American Freethinker: Elihu Palmer and the Struggle for Religious Freedom in the New Nation (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2021).  Although I'm an early Americanist by training, my research and teaching include much 20th-century history as well.  My current book project is a hybrid family history/memoir about my father's German family in 20th-century Germany.  My courses include "Radical Ecology in the US," "Religion and the American Culture Wars," and "History through Memoir."  I love to teach, and in April 2011 I was honored to receive the Horace T. Morse - University of Minnesota Alumni Association Award for Outstanding Contributions to Undergraduate Education.  In 2011–12, I was a Fulbright scholar at the Heidelberg Center for American Studies, University of Heidelberg, Germany.

Educational Background & Specialties
Open Close

Educational Background

  • PhD: History, Duke University, 1994
  • MA: History, Duke University, 1989
  • BA (cum laude): Comparative Literature, Smith College, 1985


  • US social and intellectual history
  • Colonial and Revolutionary America
  • Women, gender, and sexuality in early America
  • Race and racial ideologies in early America
  • American Religious History
  • Cultural encounters in early America