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Shelby Johnson

Assistant Professor

Address: Morrill 104C


Ph.D., Vanderbilt University


Areas of Interest & Expertise
  • The Global Eighteenth-Century

  • Early Native American and Indigenous Studies

  • Early African Diaspora and Caribbean Studies

  • Ecocriticism, speculative fiction, and cli-fi

  • Queer Theory and Sexuality Studies

Selected Publications and Work in Press
  • The Rich Earth Between Us: The Intimate Grounds of Race and Sexuality in the Atlantic World, 1770-1830. Book Manuscript (UNC UP).

  • Co-Editor (with Jeremy Chow), Unsettling Sexuality: Queer Horizons in the Long Eighteenth Century. Essay Collection (Delaware UP).

  • “Listening to Bamewawagezhikaquay’s Teachers: Jane Johnston Schoolcraft’s Citational Cosmopolitics,” Criticism, Special Issue: New Approaches to Critical Bibliography and Material Texts” (in press).

  • “Phillis Wheatley Peters’ Niobean Soundscapes.” Eighteenth-Century Environmental Humanities. Ed. Jeremy Chow. Lewisburg, PA: Bucknell UP, 2022. 103-130. 

  • “Thresholds of Livability: Climate and Population Relocation in Anna Maria Falconbridge’s Two Voyages to Sierra Leone.” Transatlantic Eighteenth-Century Women Travelers. Ed. Misty Krueger. Lewisburg, PA: Bucknell UP, 2021. 48-63.

  • “’The fate of St. Domingo awaits you’: Robert Wedderburn’s Unfinished Revolution.” The Eighteenth-Century: Theory and Interpretation 61.3 (2020): 373-390.

  • “’An Observance of Silence to the Events’: Formal Histories of the Haitian Revolution in Frances Burney’s The Wanderer.” English Language Notes 57.2 (Fall 2019): 58-70. Special Issue: “Memory, Amnesia, Commemoration,” ed. Ramesh Mallipeddi and Ian Balfour.

  • “Histories Made Flesh: William Apess’s Juridical Theologies.” MELUS 42.3 (Fall 2017): 6-25. 

Current Research

My teaching and research are deeply invested in tracing the material and imagined emergences and afterlives of slavery and settler colonialism. My current book, The Rich Earth Between Us: The Intimate Grounds of Race and Sexuality in the Atlantic World (UNC) explores a constellation of texts engaged with the large-scale territorial and ideological ruptures of the Age of Revolution and Removal. I argue that early Indigenous and African diasporic writers draw from repertoires of a gifted earth to improvise what I am calling “small plots,” or narrative idioms, forms of dwelling, and local conspiracies that reconceive the grounds of anticolonial dissent and descent. The Rich Earth Between Us reconsiders how eighteenth-century forms of belonging to the earth—and to each other—allow us think through and beyond colonialism’s persistent ruination of communal and ecological relations. 

I have also begun work on a second project, Climates of Consent: Population Relocation and the Plantationocene, 1783-1840, which investigates imperial configurations of consent and coercion that animated the resettlement of Black Loyalists and Jamaican Maroons to Nova Scotia and Sierra Leone after the American Revolution and the Second Maroon War (1795-96) and the displacement of southeastern Native nations during Indian Removal (1830-39), where each group had to assent—by treaty or signature—to their own relocation. Resettlement initiatives thus instantiate what Michel Foucault calls the disciplining of a “people” into an imperial “population,” a transformation in subjectivity revealed in settlers’ claims that the territories’ comparatively hostile climates operated as pervasive instruments of genocide. Robert Wedderburn’s The Axe Laid to the Root (1817) contends that the British intentionally “transported the whole of” the Trelawny Town Maroons “into a cold climate, which destroyed the chief part of them.” Tracing moments like this, I argue that resettlement projects and climate knowledge form co-constitutive imperial modes for governing non-white populations, and parallel the more studied worldmaking paradigms represented by plantation empires—the Plantationocene. 


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