Dan-el Padilla Peralta

Undocumented and (briefly) homeless as a child, Dan-el Padilla Peralta was inspired by his high school teachers to study Classics at Princeton University, where he graduated as the salutatorian of his class. He continued his studies at Oxford (MPhil in Greek and Roman History) and Stanford (PhD in Classics). After two years at Columbia’s Society of Fellows, Dan-el returned to Princeton as an assistant professor in the Classics Department and is affiliated with the university’s Program in Latino Studies. His 2015 memoir Undocumented: A Dominican Boy’s Odyssey from Homeless Shelter to Ivy League (Penguin) received an Alex Award from the American Library Association; more recently he has written short pieces for the Guardian, Matter, Voxand the NYT. He is now plugging away at a second book on the religious world of the Roman Republic (under contract with Princeton University Press); other projects in progress include a co-edited volume on appropriation in Roman culture, two article-length explorations of classical reception in the 19th and 20th-century Hispanophone Caribbean, and a study of forms of citizenship ancient and modern. Dan-el teaches in Columbia’s Justice-in-Education Initiative and in the Freedom and Citizenship Seminar out of a firm belief in the importance of humanistic learning to the promotion of social justice. He also sits on the editorial board of the public-facing Classics journal Eidolon, to which he has contributed articles on Greco-Roman receptions in hip-hop and the interplay between ancient xenophobia and modern anti-immigrant politics. 

Professor Padilla's College Courses

At Princeton:

  • Citizenships Ancient and Modern(SA): Recent developments in the United States and throughout the world have exposed fault lines in how communities design and regulate forms of citizenship. But current debates over the assignment, withholding, or deprivation of citizen status have a long and violent history. In this course we will attempt to map a history of citizenship from the ancient Mediterranean world to the 21st century. Questions to be tackled include: who/what is a citizen? (How) are exclusion and marginalization wired into the historical legacies and present-day practices of citizenship?
  • The Roman RepublicWe will study the contexts, causes, and consequences of one small city-state's rise to world empire, through analysis of primary sources in translation and discussion of recent archaeological findings. Emphasis is on the development of Roman society, the growth and transformation of republican government, and the Republic's afterlives in modern politics and culture.
  • Problems in Latin Literature - The Culture of the Roman Middle Republic: The course studies the history and culture of the Roman Republic from the Gallic sack to the funeral of L. Aemilius Paullus, an event marked by the first performance of Terence's Adelphoe. We study constitutional developments, the organization of Italy, overseas empire, and religion.