Timo McGregor, New York University
MCEAS Consortium Fellow
“Empire of Strangers: Mobility and Political Community in the Dutch Atlantic, 1645-1688”
Timo’s dissertation examines the production of vernacular political thought in seventeenth-century Dutch colonies in West Africa, the Caribbean, and North America. Inter- and intra-imperial contests over human mobility stimulated ideological and institutional experimentation in these highly networked and diverse colonies. Everyday disputes over the movement of settlers, access to indigenous communities, extradition of fugitives, control over capital flows, and merchant trading rights blurred the lines between internal and external politics, generating informal cross-imperial arrangements through which officials and elites attempted to manage or mitigate their subjects’ mobility. In this day-to-day cross-polity politics, colonists replaced the formal languages of alliance, warfare, and sovereignty with a vernacular political vocabulary centered on concepts of neighborliness, protection, and civic mercantilism. Timo's dissertation illuminates how colonizers used these political vernaculars to conceptualize and legitimize forms of imperial power that depended on systems of shared and negotiated authority across polities. These findings point towards new ways of understanding seventeenth-century colonizing as a concerted European process, rather than a sequence of discrete national ventures, and destabilize modern assumptions of neat domestic/foreign distinctions in international political thought.