John Paul Paniagua

History (Fall 2021)

JOHN PAUL PANIAGUA is a Ph.D. candidate in History at Princeton. He is interested in the many ways that Native Americans experienced the European colonization of the Americas and how they navigated and negotiated the contested spaces of the colonial Americas. With particular focus on connecting Indigenous peoples to the Atlantic world, he seeks to understand how, why, and when Amerindians crossed the Atlantic, took part in its commerce, or were thrust into oceanic diaspora during the early modern period.

Based on parish records, imperial correspondence, and colonial regulations, his dissertation, “The Amerindian Antilles, 1492-1800,” offers a comprehensive study of Indigenous survival in the Greater Antilles. He explains how the conquest of the islands created a series of reproduction crises among the Taíno which destroyed their society while producing thousands of deracinated survivors. Threatened with the impossibility of social reproduction, these Indians were confronted with three possible strategies: resistance, flight, or assimilation into the colonial world. Moreover, as the Indian slave trade grew and as colonization spread to the surrounding mainland regions, thousands of mainland Indians were swept into the Caribbean as soldiers, diplomats, and traders. Across five chapters, inter-imperial case studies of Cuba, Jamaica, and the Leeward Islands explain how Amerindians lived and died in these colonies, how the Spanish and English relied on their labor and expertise, and ultimately, how Amerindians shaped colonial Caribbean societies.

In doing so, the dissertation engages with scholarship on North and Latin America as well as Native Studies. The project explains how an “Indigenous Atlantic” defined by Native ways of life and a “Red Atlantic” attentive to the varied (but subordinate) roles of Amerindians are neither incompatible nor opposed to one another. On the contrary, these two paradigms describe parts of the same historical phenomenon—the effects of Caribbean colonization on Amerindian populations. Indeed, both frameworks describe Amerindian life and death in the Caribbean at different times during colonization.

Before coming to Princeton, John earned his B.A. in History and Economics from Whittier College, where he was a Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellow (MMUF). At Princeton, John has been a Lassen Fellow in Latin American Studies, a Graduate Fellow for the Scholars Institute Fellows Program, and an Interdisciplinary Humanities Fellow. His research has been funded by various campus initiatives, as well as the Social Science Research Council and the Newberry Library.