My name is Liz Polcha and I’m currently a PhD candidate in English at Northeastern University, a Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellow, and a Research Associate at the McNeil Center for Early American Studies. My research interests include early American and Caribbean literature, the history of science, feminist and postcolonial theory, and visual culture.
I have spent the past five years working for digital humanities and public history projects, namely the Early Caribbean Digital Archive, the Women Writers Project, and Our Marathon: the Boston Bombing Digital Archive. I also served as a NULab Fellow for Texts, Maps, and Networks.
My dissertation, “Redacting Desire: the Sexual Politics of Colonial Science in the Eighteenth-Century Atlantic World” offers an alternate reading of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century naturalist print culture by demonstrating how sexual desire, intimacy, and domination were entwined with observational science in the early Caribbean. This project foregrounds the centrality of women of color to the writings of colonial scientists, analyzing the ways in which interracial sexual encounters, while frequent within the recordings of men of science, were redacted from the production of transatlantic travel narratives and natural histories. Each chapter considers modes of literary redaction, such as coded diaries, edited manuscripts, and reworked engravings, as systems of knowledge creation within Enlightenment-era observational science. Interdisciplinary in scope, this research places gender and sexuality at the forefront of the history of New World science.
You can hear more about my work on a recent episode of the Breaking History podcast entitled “Creepy Diaries of the early Caribbean Slave World.”