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Tom Schira

Tom Schira
IRTG Diversity
University of Trier
54286 Trier
Phone +49 (0)651-201-3327
E-Mail schira@uni-trier.de


Imagining Alterity: The Historicity and Transformation of Knowledge in John Jewitt’s Captivity Narrative (1807-2015)

(Supervisors: Ursula Lehmkuhl, Trier / Lianne Moyes, Montréal
Mentoring: Eva Bischoff, Trier)

The indigenous attack on the American trading ship Boston in 1803 by members of the Nuu-chah-nulth in Nootka Sound and the subsequent captivity of John Jewitt - a young British blacksmith who served on board - became one of the best-known episodes of the maritime fur trade. This prominence was a result of the publication of Jewitt’s journal after his release from captivity with the title A Journal, kept at Nootka Sound (1807). Through a multitude of adaptations, Jewitt’s narrative became one of the most influential sources of European knowledge about the First Nations of Nootka Sound and Vancouver Island – in academic as well as in pop-cultural discourses.
This dissertation analyzes the historicity and transformation of this knowledge in Jewitt’s journal and the adaptations of this text in the longue durée. The focus hereby lies on the construction of alterity and identity in the texts, which are the main aspects of the knowledge production. The produced knowledge had a profound influence on the discourse about First Nations of the Pacific Northwest while itself being influenced by this discourse. Thus, the analysis of Jewitt’s Journal and its adaptions can show the circulation of knowledge, its discursive nature, and the historical nature of the construction of First Nations as Other.
Following a social constructivist approach, alterity and identity are not understood as a binary dichotomy, but as complex constructions which are formed by a number of interdependent markers and which interact in a dynamic multi-relational network. Accordingly, the dissertation will analyze different articulations of difference, thus focusing on the process of othering rather than on its products.
The leading questions of the project are: How is knowledge produced in the Jewitt-corpus? What changes can be identified in the course of different versions? How is the circulation of knowledge relevant in these processes?


Since 2019
Doctoral Candidate at IRTG Diversity
Master of Arts (History)
Bachelor of Education (Biology and History)

Work Experience

07/2016 - 06/2019
Research Assistant in the project "Aschkenasische Juden im späten Mittelalter: Reaktionen auf Verfolgung, Entrechtung und Vertreibung" of the research group "Resilienz. Gesellschaftliche Umbruchphasen im Dialog zwischen Mediävistik und Soziologie", University of Trier
04/2016 - 03/2019
Research Assistant in the International Research Training Group "Diversity: Mediating Difference in Transcultural Spaces", University of Trier
03/2016 - 06/2016
Research Assistant at the Arye-Maimon Institute for the History of Jews in the Middle Ages, University of Trier


"'Streben zu gerechter Beurteilung des Fremdartigen, ja Abstoßenden': Trans- und intranationale Wissenszirkulation in John Jewitts captivity narrative", in: Österreichische Zeitschrift für Geschichtswissenschaften 34/2.
"Time, Knowledge, and the Image of the Other: Visualizing Difference and Temporalities in White Slaves of Maquinna (2000), in: Charlotte Kaiser, Ouennassa Khiari, Viktoria Lühr (eds), Temporalities of Diversity / Temporalités de la diversité / Zeitlichkeiten der Vielfalt (Münster: Waxmann): 183-201.
"Der Wald als Herrschaftsraum: Herrschaftsverdichtung im Spiegel von Forstgesetzen im Kurfürstentum Trier des 18. Jahrhunderts." Kurtrierisches Jahrbuch 56: 145-176.

Conference Presentations

"Defining ‘Knowledge’ is Power: Complicating the History of Knowledge"
IRTG Diversity Closing Conference: "Post | Diversity - Researching Diversity in the Atlantic World", Université de Montréal, 09-10/09/2022.
"Imagining Alterity: The Historicity and Transformation of Knowledge in John Jewitt’s Captivity Narrative (1807-2015)"
History Research Colloquium, John F. Kennedy Institute for North American Studies, Freie Universität Berlin, 23/05/2022.
"New Colonial History"
Nachwuchskolloquium Neuere, Neueste und Internationale Geschichte: "Doing History in Wissenschaft und Gesellschaft: Neue Perspektiven zu Beginn des 21. Jahrhunderts, Robert-Schumann-Haus, Trier, 21/05/2022.
"The Circulating Other: Analyzing Knowledge in John Jewitt's Captivity Narrative (1807-2015)"
15th Annual Graduate Conference in European History (GRACEH 2021): Motions of Knowledge – Knowledge in Motion Conceptualizing “Knowledge Circulation” for Historical Research, University of Vienna, 07-09/04/2021.
"Imagining Alterity: The Historicity and Transformation of Knowledge in John Jewitt’s Captivity Narrative (1807-2015)"
Berichtskolloquium PROMT Neuzeit, Universität Trier, 27/10/2020.
"Colonial Knowledge in Circulation: John Jewitt and the Historicity of Knowledge"
"Canadian English Literature" Seminar, Université de Montréal, 28/09/2020.
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