Elizabeth Polcha


Elizabeth Polcha

Barra Postdoctoral Fellow


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

“Redacting Desire” conducts a feminist reading of eighteenth and nineteenth-century naturalist print culture by demonstrating how intimacy, domination, and sexual violence were entwined with scientific knowledge production in the Atlantic world. By foregrounding the centrality of African and Indigenous women in the work of colonial men of science, my research reveals the extent to which the development of natural history depended upon the active erasure of sexual exploitation in transatlantic naturalist writing. My project therefore argues more broadly that 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.


Return to Current Fellows Page