Jennifer L. Gaynor is an historian and anthropologist of Southeast Asia and its surrounding seas from the seventeenth century to the present. She writes about the maritime world, its transnational and global interconnections, and the relations between society and politics.
Published in, among other places, the Journal of World History, Radical History Review, and Anthropological Quarterly, her first book, Intertidal History in Island Southeast Asia, revises how we understand the spice wars in world history. Conventionally portrayed simply as a story of competing mercantile empires, Intertidal History refocuses attention on the vital roles played by maritime Southeast Asians in struggles against domination of the spice trade by local and European rivals. In contrast with later portrayals of "sea people" as stateless pirates and sea gypsies, the networks and skills of sea people were instead crucial to naval endeavors, as well as to the success of shifts in political economic power from one place to another. This history of shifting political and interethnic ties among littoral people and land-based realms, along with their shared interests on distant coasts, exemplifies how regional maritime dynamics interacted with social and political worlds above the high-water mark.
Dr. Gaynor has received support from Fulbright-Hays and the Social Science Research Council, and held fellowships at Cornell University's Society for the Humanities, the Australian National University, the University of Michigan's Public Goods Council, and SUNY at Buffalo's Baldy Center for Law and Social Policy. Both her written work, and her teaching on the history of maritime Southeast Asia, colonialism and empire, and the United States' relations with the region, locate Southeast Asia in the world. Her current project examines the changing material, cultural, and legal geography of Asian seas and coasts.