The Great Power of Small Nations: A Book Panel

Endorsed by the Western History Association

Thursday, March 30, 2023, 11:00 AM - 12:30 PM

Type: Roundtable Discussion

Tags: Gender; Native Americans and Indigenous Peoples; Slavery


The session will focus on Prof. Elizabeth N. Ellis' book, The Great Power of Small Nations: Indigenous Diplomacy in the Gulf South (Fall 2022, Penn Press), which follows the complex diplomacy of smaller Native nations in the Gulf South as they weather enslavement, empires, war, and the dawn of the United States’ settler invasion – all while maintaining themselves as nations on their homelands and waters.

Session Participants

Chair: Emilie Connolly, Brandeis University
Emilie Connolly is an Assistant Professor at Brandeis University. She is a historian of the 19th-century United States, with a focus on the history of political economy, colonialism, and the Indigenous peoples of North America.

She is currently at work on a book manuscript, provisionally titled Empire's Succession: Trusteeship, Capitalism, and Native Dispossession in the United States, under contract with Princeton University Press. The project argues that federal trusteeship, often cast as a benevolent practice, in fact advanced an imperial strategy named "fiduciary colonialism": a form of territorial acquisition and population management carried out through the expansion of administrative control over Indigenous wealth. Emilie's writing has appeared or is forthcoming in the Journal of the Early Republic and the American Historical Review.

Panelist: Alejandra Dubcovsky, University of California Riverside
Alejandra Dubcovsky is an associate professor of history at the University of California, Riverside. She received her BA and PhD from UC Berkeley, and a Masters in Library and Information Science from San Jose State. Her first book, Informed Power: Communication in the Early American South (HUP 2016), won the 2016 Michael V. R. Thomason Book Award from the Gulf South Historical Association. Her works have been featured in several journals, including Ethnohistory, Journal of Southern History, and the William and Mary Quarterly. She has served in the editorial boards of the journals of Ethnohistory (2015-2018), NAISA (2017-2023), and Native South (2016-2021). In 2021 she won a Mellon New Directions fellowship to work on the Timucua language. Her forthcoming book from Yale Press examines the roles and power of Native women in the early South.

Commentator: Elizabeth Ellis, Princeton University
Elizabeth Ellis is an assistant professor of history and the co-director of the Native Studies Forum at New York University. She specializes in early American and Native American history and her research focuses on the early Indigenous south. Prior to joining NYU, Liz was the Barra Postdoctoral Fellow and a visiting assistant professor at the McNeil Center for Early American Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. Her forthcoming book with the University of Pennsylvania Press, The Great Power of Small Nations: Indigenous Diplomacy in the Gulf South, examines the formation of Native nations in the early southeast and the ways that Indigenous peoples shaped and limited the extent of European colonization. Her research interests also include, Indigenous migration, Native American slavery, and early Indigenous writing. In addition to her work on early America, Liz writes about contemporary Indigenous issues and political movements and is committed to organizing and fighting for Indigenous self-determination. She is a citizen of the Peoria Tribe of Indians of Oklahoma.

Panelist: Jessica Marie Johnson, Michigan State University
Jessica Marie Johnson is an Assistant Professor in the Department of History at the Johns Hopkins University and a Fellow at the Hutchins Center for African and African American Studies at Harvard University. As a historian and Black Studies scholar, Johnson researches black diasporic freedom struggles from slavery to emancipation. As a digital humanist, Johnson explores ways digital and social media disseminate and create historical narratives, in particular, comparative histories of slavery and people of African descent.

She is the author of Wicked Flesh: Black Women, Intimacy, and Freedom in the Atlantic World (University of Pennsylvania Press, August 2020). She is also the co-editor, with Lauren Tilton and David Mimno, of Debates in the Digital Humanities: Computational Humanities (under peer review), the guest editor of Slavery in the Machine, a special issue of archipelagos journal (formerly sx:archipelagos) (2019), and the co-editor, with Dr. Mark Anthony Neal (Duke University), of Black Code: A Special Issue of the Black Scholar (2017). She is also the Director of LifexCode: Digital Humanities Against Enclosure.

Her work has appeared in Slavery & Abolition, The Black Scholar, Meridians: Feminism, Race and Transnationalism, American Quarterly, Social Text, The Journal of African American History, the William & Mary Quarterly, Debates in the Digital Humanities (2nd edition), Forum Journal, Bitch Magazine, Black Perspectives (AAIHS), Somatosphere and Post-Colonial Digital Humanities (DHPoco). Her book chapters have appeared in multiple edited collections.

She is the Founding Curator of #ADPhDProjects, which brings social justice and histories of slavery together. She is also Co-Kin Curator at Taller Electric Marronage. She is also a Digital Alchemist at the Center for Solutions to Online Violence and a co-organizer of the Queering Slavery Working Group with Dr. Vanessa Holden (University of Kentucky). Her past collaborations include organizing with the LatiNegrxs Project.

She is the recipient of research fellowships and awards from the Mellon-African American Digital Humanities Initiative (AADHum) at the University of Maryland, the Woodrow Wilson Foundation, the Gilder-Lehrman Institute, the Mellon Postdoctoral Fellowship Program in the Program in African American History at the Library Company of Philadelphia and the Richards Civil War Era Center and Africana Research Center at the Pennsylvania State University, and Bowdoin College (through the Consortium for Faculty Diversity).

Panelist: Shannon Speed, American Indian Studies Center, UCLA
Dr. Shannon Speed is a tribal citizen of the Chickasaw Nation of Oklahoma. She is Director of the American Indian Studies Center (AISC) and Professor of Gender Studies and Anthropology at UCLA. Dr. Speed has worked for the last two decades in Mexico and in the United States on issues of indigenous autonomy, sovereignty, gender, neoliberalism, violence, migration, social justice, and activist research. She has published numerous journal articles and book chapters in English and Spanish, and has published seven books and edited volumes, including her most recent, Incarcerated Stories: Indigenous Women Migrants and Violence in the Settler Capitalist State, which won the Best Subsequent Book Award of the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association in 2019 and a CHOICE Outstanding Academic Title award in 2020. She has a new co-edited volume entitled, Heightened States of Injustice: Activist Research on Indigenous Women and Violence (University of Arizona Press). Dr. Speed currently serves as the Past President of the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association (NAISA). In recent years, she was awarded the Chickasaw Dynamic Woman of the Year Award by the Chickasaw Nation, and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the State Bar of Texas Indian Law Section.