Duke Preliminary Portfolio

This is a requirement for the Duke University History Department for students to show their mastery of the discipline. Rather than the old style of comprehensive exams–a relic of the days when history was an old boy’s club–this portfolio entails less pressure and a more useful style for examining students. It is designed to be very similar to the tenure docier.

I completed three field specialties. The first is a general US History field with Professor Laura Edwards, spanning from the colonial period to the present. The second is a US labor history field, focusing on rural and agriculture labor and working-class history. This field is with Professor Nancy MacLean, and had input and advice from John French and Jocelyn Olcott in its early stages. My final field is thematic with Professor Jedediah Purdy, in the Duke Law School, covering Law and Society and focusing on legal historical methods and theories property.

Faculty Examiners: Laura F. Edwards (adviser), Nancy MacLean, Jedediah Purdy, and Adriane Lentz-Smith

Table of Contents

Dissertation Prospectus

Download Prospectus (.doc)

Gilding Equality: Property Law as Social Order in Post-Emancipation Virginia

My title is tentative.

Overview. My dissertation examines the role of property in the institution of a social order in which race and gender traits became associated with particular physical spaces in the post-emancipation U.S. South. Scholars typically focus on the slow ascension of white supremacy after the end of slavery, punctuated by moments of interracial possibility until the ultimate imposition of Jim Crow. Law, in this model, is the formal arm of the white patriarchy, institutionalizing segregation and inequality for future generations. I argue, however, that examining the multiple ways southerners thought about and used property raises new questions about race and gender in the post-emancipation South. Virginians had significant input in the development of the law that was, in turn, deployed and interpreted discursively in disputes over the proper uses of the spaces created by property law. They advanced different understandings of property and the use of space in conflicts over appropriate behavior on sidewalks and in public squares; whether private establishments could exclude certain groups of people; the ownership of agricultural production; and, more generally, about the social characteristics associated with certain spaces. My dissertation thus argues that property law was fundamental to the spatialization of difference and inequality in the post-emancipation South.

U.S. History, Colonies to Present

Major historiographic trends in US history from contact to the present. In the paper there is a particular emphasis on the role of geography and space in historiographical interpretations. Directed by Professor Laura F. Edwards.

U.S. Labor History: Independence to Present

This field covers labor history in the United States from independence to the present. Much of the reading and the included paper involves charting rural and urban interconnections in economics, the working-classes, and in labor movements. Directed by Professor Nancy MacLean.

Law & Society

Overview of the function of law in society throughout history, with a focus on debates around Anglo and American law. Focuses on the major philosophical, theoretical, and methodological works on law and historical inquiry. Directed by Jedediah Purdy, J.D., in Duke Law.

Miscellaneous Portfolio Requirements

The portfolio system requires a handful of extra items that do not fit into the subsections above. These research papers and grants are presented as is, representing steps in my intellectual development. They are complete representations of my present thinking. For the best representation of that, see my Dissertation Prospectus.