I am a scholar of American politics and state formation, with a focus on questions related to violence, coercion and conflict, and firearms.
My research focuses on the “hidden,” violent side of American politics and state formation, though I am also interested in political geography and institutional emergence and evolution more generally. One of my projects, for example, investigates how the private use of violence by vigilantes and gunfighters on the Western frontier of the 1880s and 1890s helped pave the way to important institutional changes in the U.S. security state. Another examines the roots of the private detective industry in nineteenth century cities. A third compares the political economy of guns in America to other nations both in the past and the present.
This commitment to looking at often neglected forms of political practice and placing them into a specific historical context also influences the courses I teach, which not only focus on how political institutions in the U.S. work, but also on how they develop. In my introductory courses on American politics, for example, we pay special attention to how power and protest help determine which issues are important to Americans in specific times, as well as explore the ways in which American political institutions have both shaped and been shaped by a wide variety of domestic and foreign conflicts. I also teach several courses which engage theoretical perspectives on the historical and institutional analysis of power, coercion and the state in U.S. politics, in addition to a First Year Seminar on the meaning and uses of violence in political life.