Simpson's dissertation, To the Reserve and Back Again: Kahnawake Mohawk Narratives of Self, Home and Nation, examined the ways in which residence, location, movement and political discourse distill into a mobile and collective 'identity' for Mohawks of Kahnawake and other Iroquois peoples across the borders on their reserves ant the states that surround them. She stated that her research was "motivated in part by the disjuncture between the literature on nationhood and identity and that which I have observed (and lived) among the Mohawks of Kahnawake."
The primary concern of the dissertation was to explore the ways in which the people of Kahnawake produce nationhood and national belonging, and the study was guided by the following questions: a) how does membership relate to the process of claiming and maintaining rights within a political community? b) how do Mohawk definitions of membership react to, echo, and compete with and take their distance from the definitions of "registered" Indian status imposed by the Indian Act? c) do conceptions and practices of being Mohawk vary across the diaspora, from those living 'on reserve' and in Canada to those living in remote urban centers in the United States? d) what is the relationship of being Mohawk to the (reduced) traditional territory of the 'reserve'? e) how to expatriate Mohawks participate in, and how are the affected or threatened by, reserve community definitions and attendant rights to territory and resources? f) what do non-Kahnawake Mohawks and other Iroquois think of all of this?
Simpson started her position as Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Columbia University in July 2008. She defended her dissertation at McGill University in 2003, one year after receiving the American Anthropological Association’s Minority Dissertation Award. The award was instrumental in providing her the time to devote fully to writing. She then took the Provost’s Minority Post-doctoral Fellowship at Cornell University and was hired shortly thereafter to the Department of Anthropology and the American Indian Program. She then stayed at Cornell for three years and assume a position at Columbia University in July. She has articles in American Quarterly, Junctures and Law and Contemporary Problems as well as works forthcoming and in preparation. She has chapters in the edited collections Political Theory and the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as well as the forthcoming volume, Native Feminisms Without Apology. Her book manuscript is under contract with Duke University Press. Her theoretical and ethnographic interests reside within nationhood, indigeneity, critical forms of history and contemporary colonialism. She labors to connect these interests between the fields of anthropology, native studies and political theory. She is a Kahnawake Mohawk.