Doctoral Candidate

Entered 2018


B.A. Cornell University, summa cum laude

Sam Schirvar studies twentieth century United States and Native American history with a focus on technology, politics, labor, and economic development.

His dissertation, “Manufacturing Self-Determination,” explores how industrial development on reservations after 1945 reshaped relationships between Native nations and the US government. It investigates how many reservations went from being destinations of plant relocation in the mid-twentieth century to harboring tribally-owned enterprises that remain regional anchors in struggling rural economies into the twenty-first century. The dissertation argues that tribal governments, facing settler public and private dispossession, fought for expanded roles as regional investors and employers—roles they were uniquely positioned to play due to their distinctive union of sovereignty, economic power, and deep ties to place. Sam holds the 2023-2024 Louis Galambos National Fellowship in Business and Politics at the Jefferson Scholars Foundation and the Hagley Library. His research has also been supported by the Tomash Fellowship at the Charles Babbage Institute; a Smithsonian Institution Predoctoral Fellowship at the National Museum of the American Indian and the National Air and Space Museum; a Research Fellowship from the Consortium for History of Science, Technology and Medicine; and several grants from the University of Pennsylvania.

Sam’s earlier research explored how the changing gender and status of text editing work in computerizing offices during the 1970s and 1980s shaped the research field of human-computer interaction. This research was published in BJHS Themes.

Research Interests

20th Century US history; political history; labor history; Native American history; Cold War science and technology; history of computing; political economy

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