Assistant Professor Peterson

January 03, 2013


The Department of History is pleased to welcome to our faculty Assistant Professor Maya Peterson. Peterson’s research stands at the intersection of environmental history and imperial history. She explores the inner workings of empires and how they function by focusing on how the physical environment of an empire might open up new avenues for thinking about modernity and colonial relationships. Peterson received her Ph.D. from Harvard University in 2011, with a dissertation entitled “Technologies of Rule: Empire, Water, and the Modernization of Central Asia, 1867-1941.”

Peterson’s dissertation examines tsarist and Bolshevik efforts to irrigate the Central Asian borderlands. It discusses how such hydraulic engineering projects reflected Russian imperial and Soviet notions of civilization and progress as well as Russia’s quest to be a European empire in the heart of Asia. Peterson was awarded the Fulbright IIE Fellowship, a Fulbright Hayes Fellowship, and a Social Science Research Council Dissertation Fellowship to help fund her dissertation research. She is currently working on a book based on this dissertation, as well as finishing several articles.

Peterson became interested in the Soviet Union after growing up during the last decade of the Cold War. During her undergraduate career at Swarthmore College, where she completed her B.A. in History with a minor in Russian, Peterson was able to study Russian language, literature, history, and culture. Through her studies she became interested in the ecological issues of the region and their effect on the development of the culture and empire.

Peterson is excited to “be part of such a dynamic department that cares equally about producing innovative research, educating, and mentoring students at the undergraduate and graduate levels.”

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