Heather Merrill is a Professor of Africana Studies at Hamilton College, in Clinton N.Y. She is an ethnographer, social theorist of race, and anti-racist scholar of Africana Studies and Critical Human Geography specializing in the African Diaspora in Italy. She has conducted research on race, place, anti-blackness, and Black lived experience in Italy for over thirty years. Much of her field work has been carried out in Turin and Reggio Emilia. Her research examines Black geographies, including lived experiences among people of the African Diaspora in Italy in relation to systems of knowledge and power. In her most recent book, Black Spaces: African Diaspora in Italy, Merrill examines the legacies of Italian colonialism, and the everyday lived experiences of refugees, immigrants, and African Italians in their struggles for human rights, place, and belonging. Merrill’s first book, An Alliance of Women: Immigration and the Politics of Race explores the transformation of Italy into a country of immigration by focusing on the intersection of gender, race, and class in the country’s first women’s intercultural center, Alma Mater in Torino, which advanced the practice of Cultural Mediation.
Merrill’s co-edited volume, Spaces of Danger: Culture and Power in the Everyday (Merrill and Lisa Hoffman, 2015, University of Georgia) puts forward a theoretical and methodological direction for research built on the scholarship of the late Allan Pred, geographer and social theorist of urbanism, modernity, nationalism, economic restructuring, and the racialization of space. In Spaces of Danger, scholars in geography and anthropology build on Pred’s contributions to examine some of the most pressing social problems of the 21st century.
Merrill earned her PhD in Geography at University of California, Berkeley; her MA in Cultural Anthropology at the University of Chicago; and her BA in Philosophy at New York University.
She taught at Dickinson College in Carlisle, PA, where she was the first woman Executive Director of the Clarke Forum for Contemporary Issues. She was Distinguished Irwin Chair in Women’s Studies at Hamilton College for two years before moving to the department of Africana Studies.