As a theoretical starting point, this paper takes up Connell’s concept of hegemonic masculinity which posits that gender configurations are shifting and determined by whichever expectations best motivate behaviors that reinforce a hierarchical and complementary relation between genders. This hierarchical structure, following theorizations by Maria Lugones, is itself a product of the colonial encounter. With this in mind, this paper compares historical shifts in American gender configurations to the material demands of settlement. Utilizing existing research into settler gender identity between 1760 and 1870, it finds that the increasing emphasis on domesticity in gender discourses concretized gender configurations in the racialized nuclear family, facilitating overwhelming population booms and justifying land-grabbing. Resultingly, American manhood was configured around patriarchal familial relations and property, intimately connecting settlement and masculinity. The 2016 Malheur occupation in which armed, primarily white, militia members took over the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon exemplifies this settler masculine complex. The militants routinely emphasized that their access to land was necessary for them to maintain their livelihoods and thereby their position as patriarchs. This paper finds that the connection between property and manhood is an important part of settler colonization because it embeds, at the level of socialization, an internal motive to seize and hold territory. Looking more broadly, the explanatory power of combining post-colonial feminist scholarship with modern gender research paradigms reveals not only their utility but also the need to take settler colonialism as a structural factor seriously in current American gender formation research.

Publication Place

Tacoma, Washington


University of Puget Sound

First Advisor

Benjamin Lewin

Second Advisor

Monica DeHart

Third Advisor

Jennifer Utrata

Degree Type



Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

Date of Award

Spring 5-19-2019


University of Puget Sound