Faculty Directory

Megan C Thomas
  • Pronouns she, her, her, hers, herself
  • Title
    • Associate Professor
  • Division Social Sciences Division
  • Department
    • Politics Department
  • Affiliations History of Consciousness Department, Center for Southeast Asian Coastal Interactions (SEACoast), Merrill College
  • Phone
  • Email
  • Website
  • Office Location
    • Merrill College Faculty Office Annex, Room 160
  • Office Hours Sp '24: Th 1:30-3:30pm (sign up online, link above)
  • Mail Stop Merrill/Crown Faculty Services
  • Mailing Address
    • Merill FS, UCSC, 1156 High St.
    • Santa Cruz CA 95064
  • Courses Poli 10: Nationalism; Poli 100: Theories of Property (Skills-Building Seminar); Poli 154: The Philippines; Poli 190D: Early Socialist and Anarchist Thought; Poli 108: Revolt, Resistance, Revolution; Poli 109: Orientalism; Poli 105C/LgSt 105C: Modern Political Thought; Poli 200A: Topics in Political Theory; Poli 209: Radical Political Thought; Poli 255: Comparative Anti-Colonial Thought and Movements

Research Interests

Professor Thomas is interested in political thinking, history, and Southeast Asia, especially the Philippines. She is interested in trying to recover historical political thinking that falls outside of what is often thought to constitute political theory.  Sometimes that means considering the actions of those who didn’t write, to try to imagine how they may have imagined their world and possibilities within it; sometimes that means reading works that aren’t overtly about political life to see what political visions they conjure; sometimes it means reading works written by people who aren’t well known in political theory.  She is also interested in much that is more easily recognizable as political theory, and often teaches it.

Her current research is on the struggles over sovereignty in the Philippines during the late eighteenth-century, when the British occupied Spanish colonial Manila as part of what was later called the Seven Years War.  The occupation and events surrounding it reveals how sovereignty was composed—and also compromised—by complex webs of alliances and allegiances.

Her earlier book, Orientalists, Propagandists, and Ilustrados: Filipino Scholarship and the End of Spanish Colonialism argues that Filipino intellectuals of the late nineteenth century used Orientalist genres, methods and conventions for anti-colonial ends.  Through this project, she also developed general comparative interests in nineteenth-century Orientalist and ethnological scholarship and the political uses of such knowledge, especially among emerging nationalists movements around the globe at the time. 

She has also written about late nineteenth-century newspapers in Manila; the politics of orthography; the shared qualities of nineteenth-century European Orientalist thought and contemporary comparative political theory; and nineteenth-century Russian anarchist Mikhail Bakunin’s conceptions of enlightenment, secrecy, and education.  Along with Leigh Jenco (LSE) and Murad Idris (Michigan) she edited the Oxford Handbook of Comparative Political Theory (2020).

Biography, Education and Training

Ph.D. (2002) Cornell University, Department of Government. Major: Political Theory. Minor: Colonialism and Nationalism.

M.Sc. (1994) London School of Economics and Political Science, Department of Government. Major: Political Theory.

B.A. (summa cum laude, 1992) Oberlin College. Major: English Literature. Minors: Philosophy, Women’s Studies.

Selected Publications


Articles and Book Chapters:

Teaching Interests

Professor Thomas teaches courses in 19th and 20th century political theory, Orientalism, comparative colonialism and anti-colonialism, historical revolutionary movements, socialism, and anarchism.