Peter Olsen-Harbich


Peter Olsen-Harbich, College of William & Mary

Advisory Council Fellow 

“A Meaningful Subjection: Coercive Inequality and Indigenous Political
Economy in the Colonial Northeastern Woodlands”

Peter’s research analyzes the forms and historical import of inequality within the indigenous polities of eastern North America across the early contact and settlement periods. The principal thesis of his work is that differentiated access to the internal exercise of legitimate force (i.e., the existence and operation of coercive politics) meaningfully structured the indigenous response to sustained contact with European powers. The responses under examination include: the fervent effort to attract early exploratory vessels for trade; the subsistence aid offered to early European colonies; the attempted incorporation of these colonies into indigenous confederacies; the adoption of European material culture; and the demobilization of indigenous men in colonial conflicts. Peter is additionally interested in the philological study of the lexicon used to describe political authority in North America's small-scale societies, across a variety of indigenous (Algonquian & Iroquoian) and European (English, Dutch, Latin, French, Spanish) languages, as well as the application of this lexicon to strategies of governance and conquest


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