Audrey J McClish

Settler Colonialism and American Political Development: A Congressional Analysis

What are the legacies of settler colonialism on American political development? Scholars understand settler colonialism as a “structure, not an event,” yet little attention has been devoted to understanding how settler colonialism has impacted the formation of the American state. To this end, this SURF-SMART project seeks to answer the question: How much legislative activity has been devoted to territory governance in the United States and how has this changed over time? To investigate this question, my graduate mentor and I will be constructing an original dataset tracking congressional activity from 1789 to 1947 using data from legislative journal indices. Afterwards, I will analyze this data by visualizing it as a stacked area chart that can make visible the changing proportion of legislative topics–such as westward expansion, public lands management, and “Indian removal”–over time. This analysis will provide the baseline, descriptive information needed to characterize the extent to which early governmental activities in the United States can be said to be settler-colonial.

Message to Sponsor

Thank you very much for funding this study. We hope this important research will increase the understanding of settler-colonialism's impact on American political structure and contribute to efforts to make our political system more equitable and just. We appreciate your generosity in giving us the resources to carry out this research.
  • Major: Political Economy
  • Sponsor: Johnson Fund
  • Mentor: Mary Shi