Ryan Carr works at the intersection of Indigenous Studies and early American studies. Trained as a scholar of the nineteenth century, his more recent work goes further back in time, exploring overlooked connections between literary and religious cultures in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. His first book, on the Mohegan-Brothertown minister Samson Occom, appeared in November 2023.
More recently, Ryan has been working on the history of Indigenous secularism and its relationship to "the secular colonial," a set of Euro-American beliefs (and associated governmental practices) concerning the relationship between religion, politics, and culture in Native American communities. With Megan Fulopp of the Brothertown Indian Nation, he's also working on a new edition of Occom's selected writings.
Finally, partly inspired by a favorite quip by Occom, "Indians are neither Whigs nor Tories," he's beginning a longer-term comparative study exploring different meanings of "freedom" in transnational North America before 1850. For many Indigenous and Black intellectuals who did not enjoy the protections of colonial laws and constitutions, terms like "liberty," "freedom of religion," and "freedom of speech" meant something other than what they've come to mean in the Anglo-American liberal tradition. A more transnational approach to liberty in the colonial era, one that foregrounds non-Anglo perspectives, raises urgent questions about how modern public culture both upholds and challenges the rule of law.