Sonja Castañeda Dower

Sonja Castañeda Dower is a PhD student in the Department of Political Science. Sonja’s research considers political self-determination with a particular focus on settler colonial governments’ past and present assimilation campaigns and ways in which these shape – and do not shape - Indigenous political institutions and behavior. Her latest project considers a U.S. government legibility campaign that arbitrarily renamed many thousands of American Indians across dozens of tribes from 1890-1910.

Sonja plans to use recently developed computational techniques to build “crosswalks” between various censuses (both Indian Censuses and US Censuses) to track individuals across the threshold in time when government renaming takes place. She hopes doing so can both add to what we know about the effects of legibility campaigns and provide Indigenous People(s) with crucial missing data that can help reconcile disparities between certain historical records and tribal history and memory.

Sonja holds an MA in Political Science from the University of Chicago, an MA in Politics and Education from Columbia University Teachers College, and a BA in English Literature from the University of Wisconsin – Madison.