Carey Kathleen McCormack

Carey Kathleen McCormack

Carey Kathleen McCormack

Assistant Professor

Environmental history, indigenous studies, history of science (botany), gender/sexuality studies, Indian Ocean World, History of Southeast Asia

Prof. McCormack is a world historian who specializes in the history of the Indian Ocean World with a particular focus on botanical exchanges, indigenous plant knowledge, the professionalization of botany, and natural resource extraction during the colonial period. Her teaching explores the connection between imperialism and the contemporary inequalities between the Global North and the Global South especially when it comes to access and rights to natural resources. Prof. McCormack's pedagogy includes active learning and experiential learning by providing students the opportunity to experiment with historical artifacts and participate in group projects that focus on decentering and challenging Eurocentric narratives of world history. 

Current Research

My current research explores local resistance to colonialism through hiding, obstructing, and resisting plant hunters' efforts to collect indigenous plant knowledge in the Indian Ocean World. The Indian Ocean trade network was central to global trade before and after Europeans established monopolies in the region after the 16th century. Yet, these monopolies were far from complete. My research focuses on plant and natural resource commodity exchanges beyond the control of imperial powers. A central part of this story were the small traders, agriculturalists, and rulers that prevented plant hunters and colonial administrators from obtaining plant commodities. This resistance was central to maintaining control of trade networks and protecting local knowledge. 

Selected Publications

“Collection and Discovery: Indigenous Guides and Alfred Russel Wallace in Southeast Asia, 1854-1862.” Journal of Indian Ocean World Studies 1 (2017): 111-129.

“Discovery and Patriarchy: Professionalization of Botany and the Distancing of Women and ‘Others.’” Environments of Empire: Networks and Agents of Ecological Change edited by Ulrike Kirchberger and Brett Bennett. Chapel Hill: UNC Press, 2020.

Contributer, “Marianne North” and “Maria Sibylla Merian” in Women Who Changed the World: Their Lives, Challenges, and Accomplishments through History edited by Candice Goucher. Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO, 2022.

“Short Teaching Module: Teaching the Intersection of Gender and Race through Colonial Medical Texts,” for World History Commons funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Grants and Fellowships

December 2019: Research and Creative Activities grant, used for archival research in Singapore for book in progress.

March 2019: High Impact Practices teaching grant, used to purchase equipment for the paleo workshop.

April 2017: History Department Travel Grant, Washington State University.

February 2017: Northwest World History Graduate Student Travel Grant.

February 2017: Washington State University, Vancouver College of Arts and Sciences Graduate Student Travel Grant.

August 2016: Morris Reed Scholarship, used for archival research in Singapore.

April 2016: Cooney Family Graduate Fellowship, used to attend the SEA Symposium in Oxford and for archival research in London.

April 2016: Claudius O. and Mary Johnson Graduate Fellowship, used for archival research in Singapore.

Courses Taught

Research and Writing in History

The Historian's Craft (senior capstone)

Gender and Empire

World History 1400 - Present

Indian Ocean World History

Global Environmental History

History of Southeast Asia

Historical Roots of Global Inequalities


PhD in World History and History of the British Empire, Washington State University, Vancouver (USA) – May 2018.

Master’s of Arts Degree in World History, California State University, Long Beach (USA) - 2013.

Bachelor’s of Arts Degree in History (European History and History of Southeast Asia), California State University, Long Beach - 2006.

Recent Presentations

November 2022: Southeast World History Association, Harrisonburg, VA. Workshop Presentation, Paleo Skills Workshop, presenting the interdisciplinary workshop organized and hosted at the University of Tennessee, Chattanooga and supported by a high impact practices grant.

January 2022: American Historical Association, New Orleans, LA. Panel, Decolonizing and Recentering Indigenous Specialists: Knowledge and Practitioners in the Americas and the Indian Ocean

November 2020: Southern Conference on British Studies, Online Conference. Presented “Indigenous Medical Knowledge and Gendered Disease in British India.”

June 2019: World History Association Conference, San Juan, PR. Organized panel and presented, “Indigenous Medical Knowledge and Gendered Disease in Calcutta and Singapore 1768-1860.”

June 2018: World History Association Conference, Milwaukee, WI. Presented a paper titled “Medicine and Plantations: Colonizing Indigenous Knowledge in Colonial Singapore Print Culture.”

June 2017: World History Association Conference, Boston, MA. Organized a world history panel and presented on a topic from the fifth chapter of my dissertation, “Exclusion and Extraction: Spice Plantations and the Expansion of Empire in the Malay Peninsula (1870s to 1890s).”

April 2016: Southeast Asian Symposium, Oxford University, Oxford, UK. Presented, on an interdisciplinary panel, a chapter of my dissertation, “Colonizing Knowledge: Plant Hunters and Indigenous Guides in Southeast Asia, 1800-1846.”