Meet the Fellows: 2019 Newcombe Fellow Courtney Buchkoski
The Charlotte W. Newcombe Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship is the nation’s largest and most prestigious award for Ph.D. candidates in the humanities and social sciences addressing questions of ethical and religious values. The 2019 class of Fellows includes Courtney Buchkoski, a doctoral candidate in history at the University of Oklahoma. Courtney looks at her own experiences to draw inspiration for her area of focus:
When I was 18 years old, I packed my bags and moved from my home in Washington state to a region of the country that many would describe as the opposite—Alabama. There, I became fascinated by regionalism. I discovered that people in the Pacific Northwest had ideas about the Deep South that were entirely mythic, and vice versa. These myths of places, I found, were often perpetuated by people who had never even seen the region that they were describing. This idea continued to fascinate me as I pursued my education in Nebraska and, now, Oklahoma.
My dissertation compares a group of 19th-century reformers in the Northeast who imagined that the West would be a ripe garden for their politics, religion, and social hierarchy. These reformers financed emigration aid companies that sent settlers to areas that they had only read about in newspapers and pamphlets, expecting to build bastions of the Northeast from coast to coast. And, perhaps unsurprisingly, their experiments built on mythic regionalism one by one fell apart, as they faced the reality that the West was not a “virgin land.” In their new homes, settlers became mishmashes of regional identities, and in the process, wrote their own myths about the American empire. As old myths died, new ones rose in their place, leaving those who moved between to puzzle over the pieces.
Courtney’s dissertation, titled Evangelizing Settler Colonialism: Emigration Aid and the American West, 1820–1880, explore 19th-century emigration aid companies that subsidized westward expansion. For more information on the 2019 Newcombe Fellows, click here.