I am interested in the intellectual ideas of White polygenists, Black anti-polygenists and nationalists, and that which can be found in the dissection of Roger Taney's Dred Scott opinion (1857). My research period is primarily between 1830-1860 in the United States, a time of intellectual upheaval with the rise of Jacksonian democracy, empirical science, and immediate abolitionism. In this, my research explores the concepts of belonging and the exclusive nature of American equality, often drawing upon the social construction of the human community (in addition to the American polity) and the treatment of animals during this time as a perpetual specimen of 'the other'. Primarily, I look for instances where the figures in the above movements glide from sufficiency to necessity when it comes to belonging in the community for respect and rights, and where otherness is treated as inferiority. This topic is transdisciplinary, drawing from fields such as intellectual history, the history of science, jurisprudence, animal studies, and American literature, among others.
My current research was precipitated by a Master Thesis that examined the concept of personhood in the emancipation-by-residency freedom suites of the Missouri Supreme Court, arguing that the Court ignored (if not diminished) the natural personhood of the enslaved in substance while recognizing their legal personhood in procedure and practice; this lack of personhood in the jurisprudence, with emancipation-by-residency being grounded entirely in comity instead, enabled the Court to later undermine the previous "Golden Age" caselaw and eviscerate this basis of liberation in Missouri with the state Dred Scott decision of 1852.
Do “Animals” Have Histor(ies)? Can/Should Humans Know Them? A Heuristic Reframing of Animal-Human Relationships, Journal of Animal Ethics 12, no.2 (Fall 2022): 148-157
Conferences and Presentations
Oct 2022 (University of Leicester) - British American Nineteenth Century Historians (BrANCH) Annual Conference - Josiah Nott's American School: Animals, Race and Line-Drawing "Human" in the 1850s United States
Jul 2022 (Queen's University Belfast) - British Society for the History of Science Annual Conference - When Men Were Monkeys… Almost: American Polygenism and the Human-Animal Divide on the Eve of Darwinism in the Mid-19th Century
Mar 2022 (University of Oxford) - Rothermere American Institute Postgraduate Member Symposium - Employing the Conception of Animals to Investigate Antiliberal Trends from Dred Scott to the Fourteenth Amendment
Feb 2022 (University of Oxford - Oxford University American History Seminar - "not we, the horses and cattle:" The Slide From Sufficiency to Necessity in Frederick Douglass's Response to Polygenist Sentiments
Nov 2021 (University of Oxford) - Oxford University Animal Ethics Society - Do “Animals” Have Histor(ies) and Can/Should Humans Interpret Them?
Oct 2021 (University of Warwick) - British American Nineteenth Century Historians (BrANCH) Annual Conference - Rust Underneath the Golden Age of Freedom Suits: How the Missouri Supreme Court’s Emancipation-by-Residency Jurisprudence Turned Away from Personhood and Paved the Way for Dred Scott
Apr 2021 (University of Oxford [Virtual]) - American History Graduate Seminar - Rust Underneath: How the Missouri Supreme Court's Turn Toward Comity and Away From Personhood During the Golden Age of Freedom Suits Paved the Way for Dred Scott
Apr 2021 (Emmanuel College [Virtual]) - New England Historical Association Spring Conference - Rust Underneath: How the Missouri Supreme Court's Turn Toward Comity and Away From Personhood During the Golden Age of Freedom Suits Paved the Way for Dred Scott
Mar 2021 (University of Oxford [Virtual]) -- Oxford University Animal Ethics Society -- Frederick Douglass on Dred Scott: How a Critique of a Slave Case Might Inform Discussions of Animal Rights
Jan 2021 (McGill University [Virtual]) - Animal & Environmental Law Mini-Conference - How the Historical Case of Dred Scott Casts New Light on Animal Rights... and Vice Versa