Current Research (Taylor Spence)

Current Research (Dr. Taylor Spence)


My work focuses on the origins, the cultures, and the legacies of North American colonialisms. I am particularly interested in the encounter between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples and the ways that these encounters informed understandin1877 Delegationgs of home and political belonging. Colonial systems are centrally concerned with exerting dominion and governance. What was the relationship between individual expressions of belonging (whether Indigenous or settler) and metropolitan claims of dominion? In projects that span the turning of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries I seek to draw out the expressions, receptions and resulting actions of the changing ideologies of North American colonialisms.


I am currently revising my book manuscript (forthcoming, Fall 2015, from the University Press of Virginia) called The Endless Commons: The Borderland of North American Empires and the Origins of American Expansion, 1783-1848. In this project I identify a unique space I call Cataraqui – “fort in the water” – a borderland that stretched from the mouth of the St. Lawrence River across Wabanaki, Haudenosaunee, and Anishnaabe homelands to the Great Lakes. This borderland opened up after the American Revolution when the Treaty of Paris cut a line across these Indigenous spaces and divided democracy from monarchy. Bringing together U.S., British and French Canadian, and Indigenous sources I tease out the larger significance of a series of rebellions, revolts, and one successful revolution that took place on either side of this border between 1837 and 1848 and which have never been fully explored nor understood as one borderland event. I show how Indigenous and non-Indigenous Cataraquians made their contribution to the broader global “Age of Revolution.”


In an article currently under review with the Journal of American History entitled “Excavating a Name, Deciphering a Life: Tipidutawiɳ of Santee Agency, Knox County, Nebraska” I employ innovative research techniques to bring to the light of day a person who had long been a cipher: the Dakota woman the Episcopal Church named “Scarlet House,” said to have been at the center of a notorious scandal between one of its missionaries Samuel D. Hinman and his bishop William H. Hare. No one had ever thought to find out who this Indigenous person was or what role – if any – she played in the alleged events in question. What I discovered changes dramatically our understandings of this event as well as reveals the intimate realities of United States colonialism in the Northern Great Plains of the late 19th century.


A second book project chronicles the never-before-told story of the “Jewish Agrarian Diaspora,” migrant Jews who settled in contested colonial spaces of so-called “pioneer states” – Australia, Argentina, Israel, Canada and the United States – in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.


In 2014 I will be the McColl Fellow at the American Geographical Society. I have been a Fulbright Fellow (1995), a Lauréat of the Association Internationale des Etudes Québécoises (2011), and a Filson Fellow (2013), and currently hold a Lecturership in American History at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia.


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