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Graduate Student Profile: Loren Michael "Mike" Mortimer, History

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Saturday, January 5, 2019 (All day)

Meet UC Davis Graduate Student Loren Michael "Mike" Mortimer

  • Department
  • Program and year of study
    Ph.D., 5th year with a designated emphasis in Native American Studies 
  • Previous degrees and colleges
    BA, Hamilton College
    MA, North Carolina State University
  • Where did you grow up?
    New Jersey, just off exit 153B on the Garden State Parkway
  • Where do you live now?
    Davis, CA
  • What's your favorite spot in Davis?
    On any given patio with an iced coffee and fast Wi-Fi
  • How do you relax?
    By switching to a non-caffeinated beverage.
  • What was the last book you read for pleasure?
    A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles. 
  • What TV show are you currently binge-watching?
    Chef’s Table on Netflix
  • Research interests
    Native American history, indigenous political ecology, early American environmental history, the Atlantic World in the Age of Revolutions, settler colonialism, spatial history, and comparative border studies
  • Dissertation title or topic
    'While the Mountains Remain and the Rivers Run': Indigenous Power and Presence in the St. Lawrence Borderlands, 1534-1842 is an environmental history of the Seven Fires confederacy, an Indigenous federation of Iroquoian and Algonquian communities along the St. Lawrence River. Combining ethnographic, environmental, and digital historical methodologies, my research examines how the unique ecosystems of St. Lawrence River watershed shaped the development of Native American societies and their relations with French and British colonizers. My dissertation unsettles longstanding assumptions about international borders by placing Seven Fires at the center of their own transnational history rather than the margins of United States and Canadian national origins stories.
  • Please share a surprising or noteworthy fact or finding from your research
    During the eighteenth century, Indigenous peoples and European colonists alike enjoyed the taste of American black bear, especially in the autumn when the bears were fattened on acorns. Colonists roasted bear like ham and drank melted bear fat to cure indigestion. Native peoples preferred communal feasts of hearty bear stew where they honored the spirit of the bear by ensuring nothing went to waste. Stewing the bear ensured its meat was not only more succulent, but also healthier to consume than the colonial “bear hams” because this cooking method also killed any unwanted parasites.
  • Which professor or class inspired you to pursue graduate studies?
    I have racked up a ponderous ledger of intellectual debts going back to the late 1980s, so stay tuned for a lengthy acknowledgments section when I complete my dissertation.
  • Which scholarly text do you wish you had written? Why?
    1066 And All That by W. C. Sellar and R. J. Yeatman because histories have previously been written with the object of exalting the authors. The object of this text is to console the reader! 
  • What's the best thing about being a grad student?
    I can take my work very seriously without having to take myself too seriously all the time. 
  • What's the worst?
    Alternative facts
  • If you weren't a grad student, what would you be doing?
    Well, I really enjoyed my stint as a features writer for ISS…
  • Finally, please ask yourself a question - "What new ideas did you learn as a features writer for ISS that ended up benefitting your research in unexpected ways?"
    I discovered the concept of chronesthesia—the capacity of the human mind to project ideas forward and backward through time—while writing a piece about David Kyle’s work on cognitive migration. I had the chance informally discuss the concept of chronesthesia at length with Professor Kristin H. Lagattuta and her graduate students following an ISS Noon Lecture on early childhood development. This idea helped me understand the origins of history and storytelling as evolutionary imperatives. I gained a deeper understanding of the underlying cognitive processes structuring Indigenous oral histories and the transmission of cultural knowledge across millennia.

Graduate student profile courtesy of the UC Davis College of Letters and Science.

About Graduate Studies

Graduate Studies at UC Davis includes over 100 dynamic degree programs and a diverse and interactive student body from around the world. Known for our state-of-the-art research facilities, productive laboratories and progressive spirit – UC Davis offers collaborative and interdisciplinary curricula through graduate groups and designated emphasis options, bringing students and faculty of different academic disciplines together to address real-world challenges.

UC Davis graduate students and postdoctoral scholars become leaders in their fields: researchers, teachers, politicians, mentors and entrepreneurs. They go on to guide, define and impact change within our global community.

For information on Graduate Studies’ current strategic initiatives, visit the Graduate Studies strategic plan page.