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Department of History Staff

Alexander I. Olson
Alexander I. Olson
- Director of Graduate Studies; Associate Professor
  • alexander.olson@wku.edu
  • Cherry Hall 230D
  • (270) 745-4201
  • Ph.D., University of Michigan, 2013
  • Fields U.S. History, African American Studies, Indigenous Studies, U.S. West, Environmental History, Family History

I grew up in Seattle and received my BA from Stanford University, MA from University of Washington, and PhD from University of Michigan. My current research examines eugenics, ethnic nationalism, and indigeneity in the intellectual culture and spatial politics of the North American West. I’m also interested in the intertwined histories of genetic genealogy, sexuality, identity, and the internet.


“Jonesville and the Legacy of Slavery at Western Kentucky University,” Ohio Valley History 21.2 (Summer 2021): 72-91. Co-authored with Selena Sanderfer Doss and Susan Farmer.

“Writing My Mother’s Obituary,” The American Historian, no. 26 (December 2020): 32-38.

"Writing on Rubble: Dispatches from San Francisco, 1906," KNOW: A Journal on the Formation of Knowledge 3, no. 1 (Spring 2019): 93-121.

American Studies: A User's Guide (University of California Press, 2017). Co-authored with Philip J. Deloria.

“Ad Hoc American Studies: Michigan and the Hidden History of a Movement,” American Studies 55, no. 1 (2016): 107-131. Co-authored with Frank Kelderman.

“Muybridge in the Parlor,” Journal of American Studies 50, no. 1 (February 2016): 61-80.

“Citizen Stories: A New Path to Culture Change,” Public: A Journal of Imagining America 3, no. 1 (Spring 2015). Co-authored with Elizabeth Gish and Terry Shoemaker.

“‘You have rescued me from academicism’: Selections from the Correspondence of Henry Nash Smith and Mary Hunter Austin,” Southwest Review 96, no. 1 (Winter 2011): 50-65.

“Heritage Schemes: The Curtis Brothers and the Indian Moment of Northwest Boosterism,” Western Historical Quarterly 40, no. 2 (Summer 2009): 159-178. Winner of the Bert Fireman Award from the Western History Association.

 “Our Leschi: The Making of a Martyr,” Pacific Northwest Quarterly 95, no. 1 (Winter 2003/04): 26-36.


History 102: World History since 1500
History 240: United States to 1865
History 241: United States since 1865
History 352: Borderlands and the American West
History 353: Native American History to 1865
History 354: Native American History since 1865
History 362: Genetics and Family History
History 421: Environmental History
History 447: American Popular Culture
History 522: United States since 1945
History 535: Historiography
History 622: Borderlands History
History 625: Native American History
Honors 251: Citizen and Self (Past Programs: San Francisco, Washington DC, and the Salish Sea)


“Cartographies of Japanese Internment in the U.S.-Canadian Maritime Borderlands,” Modern Language Association, Seattle, 2020.

"Pragmatism and American Studies Methodology," Warren Center for the Humanities, Vanderbilt University, 2019.

"Family Mapping in an Age of Mass Genetic Testing," Organization of American Historians, Philadelphia, 2019.

"Blood and Soil Bohemianism: Mary Austin’s Racial Imaginary," Modern Language Association, Chicago, 2019.

"C.L.R. James, Cricket, and American Studies Historiography," American Historical Association, Chicago, 2019.

"'I Just Need to Know': Catfishing, Creativity, and the Costs of Therapeutic Authenticity," American Studies Association, Atlanta, 2018.

“Before the Creative Class: Recruiting Artists to Berkeley in the 1920s,” Creative Cities Symposium, Stanford University, 2018.

“Territoriality, Identity, and Indigeneity,” Commonwealth Center for the Humanities and Society, University of Louisville, 2018.

“The Public Face of Berkeley: Cultural Tourism and Racial Segregation around the University of California, 1889-1925,” American Studies Association, Denver, 2016.

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 Last Modified 8/8/18