Robin Mitchell is an associate professor of history at the California State University Channel Islands. She is a 19th century French historian, specializing in discourses about race, gender, and sexuality. Much of her work focuses on the white colonial fantasies, scandals, and crime imposed upon Black women’s bodies and voices when they are in metropolitan French spaces.
At Harvard Radcliffe Institute, Mitchell is working on (re)constructing the life of Suzanne Simone Baptiste (Madame Toussaint Louverture) for her next projects, which will take the two forms: a standalone illustrated graphic (re)imaging and an academic manuscript chapter. She investigates how to (re)envision a Black presence in France, when so much effort has gone into making her seem invisible. In the larger work, Mitchell explores how certain tropes about Black women emerge in France, responding to both the presence of particular Black women and the convulsive changes in French culture and society. These tropes would take on a life of their own, circulating and being redeployed, either slightly altered or fully resurrected in new historical contexts.
She received her doctorate in late modern European history from the University of California, Berkeley, with a designated emphasis in women, gender, and sexuality. Mitchell has published numerous published journal articles, and her first book, Vénus Noire: Black Women and Colonial Fantasies in Nineteenth-Century France (University of Georgia Press, 2020), was named by the African American Intellectual History Society to its “The Best Black History Books of 2020.”