Bethel Saler, an associate professor at Haverford College, explores the intersections of culture, politics and comparative colonialism in 18th and 19th century North America. Her first book, The Settlers' Empire: Colonialism and State Formation in America's Old Northwest (2015) examines the federal government's first formal experiment in western territory and state making as a dual colonial venture--of temporary governance over western settlers and permanent colonial rule over the Native inhabitants. Further, this early story of western state formation was fundamentally about governing the intimate and interior lives of both Native and newcomers including regulation of sexuality, gender and family, hierarchical constructions of race, and Christian conversion. In her current book project, "The Fantastic Republic: North Africa and the American Imagination, 1774-1830," she explores American fictional and factual encounters with the Islamic states of North Africa as a window into the central place of imagination in American politics and diplomacy.
This lecture looks at early Americans' encounters with Islam and more particularly the Islamic North African states of Algiers, Tunis, and Tripoli to explore the foundational place of imagination and print culture for brokering the diplomatic vulnerability, political factionalism, ideological contradictions and fantastic aspirations of a nascent early American Republic.