Faculty Fanfare: Nahir Otaño Gracia

Image of Nahir Otano Gracia

UNM Assistant Professor of English Nahir Otaño Gracia has been named as one of 10 Mellon Emerging Faculty Leaders for 2023. Her work for the fellowship explores the construction of whiteness in medieval Arthurian texts.


“Earning a Mellon Emerging Faculty leader award means the world to me because it validates my commitments to responsible and critical research that centers Latin(e)x and Caribbean epistemologies and to anti-racist community building,”  said Otaño Gracia, who is trained as a medievalist.


According to the foundation, the award is tosupport junior faculty whose research focuses on contemporary American history, politics, culture, and society, and who are committed to the creation of an inclusive campus community for underrepresented students and scholars.” 


Otaño Gracia said her work conveys the critical role in studying the past in order to create, live in, and thrive in a better present.


“For this fellowship I have been working on finishing my book project The Other Faces of Arthur: Chivalric Whiteness in the Global North Atlantic which analyzes the construction of whiteness in medieval Arthurian texts, and helps shape my upcoming work on de-centering whiteness as knowledge,” she said.


“I concentrate on Arthurian literature written in English, Welsh, Old Norse Icelandic, Castilian, Catalan, Latin, and Old French among other languages to demonstrate that Arthuriana’s obsession with chivalry is about whiteness—a racial category that privileges dominance—by normalizing violence and marginalizing non-whiteness,” Otaño Gracia said. 


Writing the book “has made clear the interconnections between the cultures of the Global North Atlantic, and how these cultures created and shifted their borders throughout the middle ages,” she said. 


“Currently, as we see an increased use of force to close our borders in the U.S. (See also Fortress Europe) through the ideology that there are no real connections between English speakers and Spanish speakers, the North and South of the United States, the history of the United States and the histories of South and Central America,” Otaño Gracia said.


“This book demonstrates that all borders are constructions and that they are created through fear and anxiety.”


The book is under contract with Penn Press under the new RaceB4Race series.