Melissah J. Pawlikowski joined the Department of History at Kenyon in 2021. She is a historian of the Atlantic world specializing in early American history and its borderlands. Her teaching and research explore questions pertaining to the economic origin and evolution of power, particularly as it relates to class, race, gender and sexuality. Beyond an expansive list of core U.S. history surveys and seminars she has also designed courses on themes from sustainability to LGBTQIA+ history. All of her courses are inclusive and center on a “history from below” perspective.
Pawlikowski’s research focuses periods of warfare or intense violence during the eighteenth century, the French and Indian War and the American Revolution specifically. Her work relates colonial violence to the processes of conflict resolution and mechanisms of power building through community formation and economic entanglements. Her research has introduced two key additions to the early American narrative: the contact-conflict paradigm and her theory of interethnic power building.
Her first book manuscript project considers social and economic mobility during the American Revolution and the Early Republic through military service, farming, industrialization and entrepreneurship in the foundation and expansion of communities. Among her findings her research has uncovered is the construction of a forced breeding program of enslaved peoples and the use of black codes and prisons in the north to create new sources of slavery following gradual abolition and the outlawing of the Atlantic Slave Trade in the United States. Her second project redefined eighteenth century squatters in the Susquehanna River Valley and Ohio River Valley from land thieves and Indian killers to multiethnic communities of transient and dispossessed peoples. This study identified a network of around one hundred and fifty interethnic refugee communities and detailed the formation of the Delaware Indian Confederacy from a cross section of decimated Indian communities, landless Euro-Americans, free and enslaved African Americans.
Her additions to the scholarship on the North American borderlands stands out in part for her methodologies, theories, and insights she gained from her dual background in West and West Central African, the Caribbean, Latin and South American histories.
Areas of Expertise
Early American History, Atlantic History, Borderland History, Native American History, African and African American History, History of Capitalism, Economic History, LGBT+ History, Sustainability Studies, Power Dynamics.
2015 — Doctor of Philosophy from The Ohio State University
2007 — Master of Arts from Duquesne University
2005 — Bachelor of Arts from the University of Pittsburgh