My dissertation, “‘Now I am Going to Tell You about Sir Hector Macdonald’: A Cultural Biography of Memorialization and Child Sexual Abuse in the British Empire,” challenges academic and popular renditions of the life story of “Fighting Mac”—Hector Macdonald—an imperial military hero. Drawing upon letters previously believed destroyed, I reveal that the 1903 scandal surrounding Macdonald’s court martial and suicide was not, as has been speculated, a snobbish English conspiracy against a poor Highlander risen above his station. Nor was Macdonald an “unfortunate homosexual” brought down by an empire overly concerned by consensual relationships between men. Instead, he was investigated because a 16-year-old British Ceylonese boy disclosed that Macdonald had sexually abused him and his 13-year-old brother. Their classmates later came forward with similar statements.
Engaging with the recent turn in feminist historiography toward histories of sexual abuse, I propose a new, abuse-informed reading of the Fighting Mac case that centers the narratives (and where available, the biographies) of the boys. Attending to twenty-first century calls to believe the accounts of survivors of abuse, I ask what it means for a primary source to be believable. How can historians evaluate “believability” when official records of a celebrity soldier have been destroyed, when key pages of muckraking newspapers are missing from government files, when people with first-hand knowledge have all died? What should we do with a history so unspeakably uncomfortable? What do we do when primary sources insist on speaking distressing truths anyways? And how should we remember perpetrators and survivors of historical abuse?
I am a cultural historian of gender and sexuality, and my methods draw on the fields of literary studies, queer theory, and art history. I am a member of the History Department’s Gender and Sexualities Research Cluster.
Primary advisor: Erika Rappaport
“Now I am Going to Tell You about Sir Hector Macdonald”: A Cultural Biography of Memorialization and Child Sexual Abuse in the British Empire
“Belief and Doubt in Histories of Abuse,” Broadsides (blog), North American Conference on British Studies, September 8, 2023.
“How Y’all Write: Exploring Language Varieties,” in Dynamic Activities for First-Year Composition, ed. Michal Reznizki and David T. Coad (Champaign, IL: National Council of Teachers of English, 2023), 278-80.
“Biographical Sketch of Mary Elizabeth (Mrs. Lorenzo) Darling.” In the Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920. 2021.
“Biographical Sketch of Hattie Elizabeth (Mrs. Aylett) Cotton.” In the Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920. 2020.
“Imaging the Criminal Body: ‘Faces of Meth’ and Galton’s Composite Photographs,” in Before-and-After Photography: Histories and Contexts, ed. Jordan Bear and Kate Palmer Albers (London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2017), 43-56.
Certificates, Awards, and Training:
Course Design for Equity, UCSB CITRAL Community of Practice, 2022-23
Nominee, UCSB Academic Senate Outstanding Teaching Assistant Award, 2022
Summer Teaching Institute for Associates Certificate, UCSB Instructional Development, 2021
Pillars of TAship Certificate, UCSB Instructional Development, 2020
Nominee, UCSB Academic Senate Outstanding Teaching Assistant Award, 2020
- History 4C: Modern Europe (Summer Session B 2023)
- History 141A: Britain’s Monstrous Nineteenth Century (Summer Session A 2022)
- History 141B: Twentieth-Century Britain (Summer Session A 2021)
Graduate Teaching Assistant:
- Writing 2: Academic Writing (Spring 2023)
- Writing 2: Academic Writing (Winter 2023)
- Writing 2: Academic Writing (Fall 2022)
- Writing 2: Academic Writing (Spring 2022)
- Writing 2: Academic Writing (Spring 2021)
- Writing 2: Academic Writing (Winter 2021)
- Writing 2: Academic Writing (Fall 2020)
- History 17B: US History, Sectional Crisis through Progressivism (Summer Session A 2020)
- History 87: Japanese History through Art and Literature (Spring 2020)
- History 2A: World History, Prehistory-1000 (Winter 2020)
- History 2B: World History, 1000-1700 (Fall 2019)
- History 4C: History of Modern Europe, 1715-Present (Spring 2019)
- History 2B: World History, c.1000-c.1800 (Winter 2019)
- History 2C: World History, 1700-Present (Fall 2018)
- History 4B: Western Civilization, 1050-1715 (Summer Session B 2018)
- History 4C: Europe and the Crisis of Modernity, 1715-Present (Spring 2018)
- Black Studies/History 49A: Survey of African History, Prehistory-c. 1800 (Winter 2018)
- History 88: South Asian History (Fall 2017)
Awards and Prizes:
Pacific Coast Conference on British Studies Graduate Student Paper Prize, “Deciphering Professional Interpersonal Relationships and Archival Practices through an Imperial Scandal,”2023
Ann Rappaport Paper Prize in European History, “‘Even His Lungs Were Affected’: Aubrey Beardsley, Earnestness, and the Artistic Politics of Interiority,” 2021
Grants and Fellowships:
North American Conference on British Studies Dissertation Travel Grant, 2023
UC Humanities Research Institute Graduate Student Dissertation Support Grant, 2023
Joachim Remak Dissertation Fellowship, 2023-2024
UCSB Interdisciplinary Humanities Center Foundations in the Humanities Graduate Teaching Fellow, 2022-24
UCSB Graduate Division Humanities and Social Sciences Research Grant, 2022
American Institute for Sri Lankan Studies Dissertation Planning Grant, 2021
Albert and Elaine Borchard European Studies Fellowship, 2021
History Department Dissertation Fellowship, 2021
History Department Research Travel Grant, 2021
“Triangulating Hector Macdonald in Newsprint: Early 20th-Century Scandal and Reputation on a ‘Spicy Little Isle Where Ladies were Few,’” American Institute for Sri Lankan Studies, New Research in Sri Lankan History Serminar, October 28, 2022 [virtual event]
[upcoming] “‘Polluted Minds’ and ‘Innocent Little Boys’: Age, Evidence, and Authority in a Misremembered Sex Scandal,” North American Conference on British Studies, November 10-12, 2023 [Baltimore, MD]
[upcoming] “Misremembering Macdonald: Sexual Violence against Children in Ceylon,” Annual Conference on South Asia, October 21, 2023 [Madison, WI]
“Naming the Unspeakable: Revealing and Obscuring Sexual Abuse in the Edwardian British Empire,” joint conference of the Society for Global Nineteenth-Century Studies and the International Society for Cultural History, June 20, 2023 [Singapore]
“Deciphering Professional Interpersonal Relationships and Archival Practices through an Imperial Scandal,” Pacific Coast Conference on British Studies, March 25, 2023 [Riverside, CA]
“‘Who is to Blame but the Wretched and Unworthy Objects?’: Victim Blaming, Child Sexual Abuse, and the Afterimage of Victorian Justice in Imperial Histories,” North American Victorian Studies Association, September 30, 2022 [Bethlehem, PA]
“Cynicism, Earnestness, and Memories of Aubrey Beardsley’s Walls: Upsetting ‘the Goody-Goody Taste of the British Public,’” Pacific Coast Conference on British Studies, March 26, 2022, [virtual conference]
“‘Even His Lungs Were Affected’: Aubrey Beardsley, Earnestness, and the Artistic Politics of Interiority,” North American Victorian Studies Association, March 3, 2022 [virtual conference]
“Scottishness, Celebrity, Space, and Sex: The Case of Hector Macdonald,” Nineteenth-Century Studies Association, March 13, 2021 [virtual conference]
Panel chair, “Queer Colonials: Male Same-Sex Sexuality, Intimacy, and Desire Across the British Empire Before 1850” at QHC 2019, June 18, 2019 [San Francisco State University]
History Department IT Graduate Student Assistant, 2019-21
Member, Website Redesign Committee, UCSB Department of History, 2019-21
Member, Community Relations Committee, UCSB Department of History, 2019-20