Elizabeth Polcha


Elizabeth Polcha

Barra Postdoctoral Fellow


“Redacting Desire: The Sexual Politics of Colonial Science in the Eighteenth-Century Atlantic World

“Redacting Desire” offers an alternate reading of eighteenth and nineteenth-century naturalist print culture by demonstrating how sexual violence, intimacy, and domination were entwined with scientific knowledge production in the Atlantic world.  I posit that the transatlantic printing and circulation of naturalist writing frequently involved the redaction of sexual, reproductive, and domestic relations between European men and women of color. Further, I argue that cross-racial sexual exploitation and domination were integral to the development of colonial science. My project therefore investigates more broadly how natural history and natural science—disciplines that became powerhouses for both state and colonial expansion in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries—commissioned, and even rewarded, sexual oppression. Each chapter considers modes of literary redaction, such as coded diaries and edited botanical manuscripts, as systems of knowledge creation within Enlightenment-era natural science.  Interdisciplinary in scope, this research illuminates how scientific writing contributed to the long-standing history of violence against women in the colonial Americas.




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