Dr Oliver Charbonneau
- Lecturer in American History (History)
I am a historian of American foreign relations (broadly defined). My scholarship explores colonial empire as a constitutive force in the rise of U.S. global power during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. I am interested in the construction and structures of American colonialism(s); the permeable boundaries between the domestic and the imperial; the multifaceted experiences of colonised societies; the ways Americans learned from other empires; and the practice of colonial violence within U.S.-controlled territories.
My first book, Civilizational Imperatives: Americans, Moros, and the Colonial World, tells the story of U.S. rule in the Southern Philippines, following empire-builders and indigenous actors across four decades (1899-1942). It attends to a range of topics: the racialisation of Muslim Moro populations; the character of the civilising mission in Mindanao and the Sulu Archipelago; the reliance on fear and massacre in the daily life of the colony; and the pervasive transregional exchanges that patterned American governance. Articles and book chapters derived from the project have analysed Moro individuals and groups visiting the United States, the role of frontier vernaculars and practices in white settler colonialism on Mindanao, and the hybrid character of the U.S. colonial state in the Southern Philippines.
My next project takes an expansive view of the interconnected histories that shaped North American settler colonial expansion, Jim Crow segregation, and U.S. overseas empire. I am interested in how transnational / transimperial networks created architectures of racialised rule across disparate geographies. My initial research focuses on the annual Lake Mohonk Friends of the Indian and Other Dependent Peoples conferences held in Upstate New York between 1883 and 1916, which brought together policymakers, missionaries, military officers, businesspeople, and others engaged in “civilising” non-white societies. The conferences provide crucial evidence that deracinating and assimilationist programmes in the American West, the Pacific colonies, and the New South shared intellectual genealogies with one another and with European colonialisms.
Beyond my specialist training, I am interested in a variety of other areas including the role of frontiers in global history, comparative mass violence, digital history / digital humanities initiatives, and visual archives of empire. Anyone frustrated by perennial ill fortune in a fantasy baseball league is free to commiserate at my office (coffee provided).
I welcome students with research projects on the global and imperial dimensions of U.S. history. I am most comfortable supervising topics that fall within my period of study (1860s-1930s) but am happy to make exceptions where merited. Some themes might include:
- U.S. continental or overseas colonialism
- The impact of empire on American institutions
- State / settler violence in domestic or foreign contexts
- Industrial education and child removal programmes
- Inter-imperial relations / Transimperial exchanges / Imperial comparisons
- Indigenous experiences of / responses to settler colonial empire
- Imperial tourism and exhibitions
- Race-making in the Gilded Age and Progressive Era
- Labour regimes in imperial settings
- Moral reformers, missionaries, and educators in U.S. colonies
- The frontier as idea and practice
I am always delighted to hear about potential new projects, so please don’t hesitate to send a line!