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Mary Shi

Dissertation Fellow
UC Berkeley

Mary Shi is a Ph.D. candidate in sociology at UC Berkeley. Her dissertation research uses large-scale infrastructure projects such as the Erie Canal and the first transcontinental railroad to investigate the role of space and territoriality in American political development. In her work, she reveals the way in which dispossessed Indigenous lands, as the “public lands” were woven into American public finance and the centrality of territory management concerns—such as infrastructure promotion—in American state formation. Through the case of the first transcontinental railroad, she also asks how American federalism accommodated (or not) the contradictions of territorial expansion and development. In doing so, she theorizes the United States as a case of state formation perched between the age of empires and nation-states and asks what kind of political institutions are needed to make equitable decisions over land.

Proposal Title: Territoriality, Land, and Dispossession in American State Formation

Mary Shi.

Expertise & Interests

  • Political economy
  • Historical sociology
  • The state, society and space
  • Urban sociology