Alicia Maggard, Brown University
Advisory Council Fellow
“One Nation, under steam: Technopolitics, Steam Navigation, and the Rise of American Industrial Power”
Alicia Maggard’s research focuses on nineteenth-century state-industrial relations, steam technology, and American expansion. Before miles of rail had been laid and before factories claimed the surplus labor of farm families, it was the steamboat that introduced Americans to the industrial era; shortly thereafter, subsidized steamship lines like Pacific Mail introduced industrial America to the world. Drawing on recent work in Science and Technology Studies and New Materialism, Maggard seeks to write a nuts and bolts—and paddlewheels and propellers—history of America’s continental and Pacific empire. Her project attends to the mechanical arrangements and organizational cultures that allowed steam to compete in the passenger, defense, and freight industries, with special emphasis on the infrastructural networks that stretched from coal mines in Pennsylvania to dry docks in California. By focusing on material systems, Maggard’s dissertation moves between nominally public and private entities to question how states exercise power through technology and to what extent they rely on proxies to do so.