Heather Kopelson smiling and standing outside.

Heather Miyano Kopelson

Associate Professor


  • PhD, University of Iowa, 2008

Research Areas

  • United States History
  • Latin American History
  • Gender and Women’s History
  • History of Race
  • Religious History


Research Interests

  • History of race, gender, and religion in the early Americas
  • Indigenous studies
  • History of transatlantic slavery
  • History of the African diaspora
  • Performance studies
  • Material culture history
  • Sensory history

Current Projects

  • My second book-length project is provisionally titled Speaking Objects: Indigenous Women and the Material of Dance in the Americas, 1500-1700. Objects created by Indigenous women throughout the Americas added aural and visual spectacle to ritual movement and dance. Dance and music were central to many important rituals in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, whether that significance was spiritual, political, martial, diplomatic, or some combination thereof. Women’s skilled labor was thus essential to reproducing culture and tending spiritual connections with other-than-human beings, even when women were not the main performers. Each chapter will examine the cultural history of a particular material (feather, turtle, metal, gourd, and seashell) used to add sound to dancing as a way of rediscovering the foundational and generative nature of Indigenous women’s cultural, spiritual, and political actions.

Courses Taught

  • HY 103 American Civilization to 1877
  • HY 306 (Special Topics Courses) History of Disability in the U.S.; Women and Gender in the African Diaspora: Colonial North America and the Caribbean
  • HY 308 Colonial America
  • HY 327 Women in Early America
  • HY 332 Native American History
  • HY 335 (May Interim) Handmade Nation: Knitting and History
  • HY 432 Beyond Pocahontas: Gender and Native American/European Contact, 1600-1750
  • HY 601 (Graduate) Literature of American History to 1877
  • HY 607 (Graduate) U.S. Women’s and Gender History
  • HY 665 (Graduate) Writing Seminar

Awards and Honors

  • Center for Historic American Visual Culture Short-term Fellowship, American Antiquarian Society (2014-2015)
  • Society of Mayflower Descendants in the State of Illinois Fellowship, Newberry Library (2014-2015)
  • Election to non-resident membership, Colonial Society of Massachusetts (2014)
  • John Murrin Prize, Best Article in Early American Studies (2013)
  • Research Fellow, Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity in America, Brown University (2007-2008)
  • Carpenter Fellow in Early American Religious Studies, McNeil Center for Early American Studies, University of Pennsylvania (2006-2007)
  • W. M. Keck and Andrew W. Mellon Foundations Fellowship, The Huntington Library (2005-2006)
  • W. B. H. Dowse Fellowship, Massachusetts Historical Society (2004-2005)
  • Research Grant, New England Regional Fellowship Consortium (2004-2005)
  • John Nicholas Brown Center for the Study of American Civilization Research Fellowship, Brown University (2003)

Selected Publications



  • “Sinning Property: The Legal Transformation of Abominable Sex in Early Bermuda,” William and Mary Quarterly, vol. 70, no. 3 (July 2013): 459-96.
    • Finalist for the 2013 Mary Maples Dunn Prize.
  • “‘One Indian and a Negroe, the first thes Ilands ever had’: Imagining the Archive in Early Bermuda,” Early American Studies, vol. 11, no. 2 (Spring 2013): 272-313.
    • Winner of the John Murrin Prize for Best Article, 2013.
  • “Finding Nunnacôquis: A Tale of Online Catalogs, Marginalia, and Native Women’s Linguistic Knowledge,” Common-place: the journal of early American life vol. 18, no. 2 (2018).


  • “Women, Gender, Families, and States,” Cambridge History of America and the World, vol. 1: 1492-1815, eds. Eliga Gould, Paul Mapp, and Carla Pestana. (Cambridge University Press: forthcoming). 
  • “Hannah Manena McKenney, Late-Sixteenth- and Early Seventeenth-Century Bermuda and New Providence, Bahamas,” in Freedom in Degrees: A Collective Biography of Black Women and Emancipation in the Americas, eds. Erica Ball, Tatiana Seijas, and Terri Snyder. (Cambridge University Press: forthcoming).
  •  “Confessional Spatiality in the Puritan Atlantic,” in Religious Spaces in the Atlantic World, ed. John Corrigan (University of South Carolina Press, 2017), 267-284.