Book Review: Globalizing Borderlands Studies in Europe and North America

Globalizing Borderlands Studies in Europe and North America. John W.I. Lee and Michael North, editors. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2016. Pp. vii, 271. Illustrations. Notes. Bibliography. Index. $60.00 Hardcover.

Globalizing Borderlands Studies in Europe and North America is as ambitious as it is unwieldy. The editors, John W.I. Lee and Michael North, have organized a diverse group of authors whose work spans a broad span of time from late antiquity to the mid-20th century, common era. Contributors consider multiple theoretical perspectives of the theme: conceptual borderlands, religious and cultural borderlands, imperial and medieval borderlands, indigenous borderlands, and medical borderlands. They also examine how communities often forged identity in contrast to their neighbors. Spatial relations, generally, is a critical theme throughout the volume.

Put simply, there is a lot going on in this text. Many of the authors reference one another’s work, which helps to bridge the analytical focus of each case study. This is especially true of the Europeanist scholars in Globalizing Borderlands Studies who represent over half of the chapters present. When the book is focused on that part of the world, especially the Baltic Sea Region (of which there are four chapters dedicated), the authors make interesting observations about how distinct communities interacted. For instance, Manja Olschowski analyzes friars of the Cistercian religious order fought to protect their community’s rights vis-à-vis local Christian authorities and powerbrokers in the 12th and 13th centuries. She focuses on monasteries’ economic activities; they produced wine and traded in salt to provide the order with income. The friars interacted with local merchants and, in some cases, helped to build new markets for the sale of regional goods. Their financial success, however, could bring them into conflict with secular rulers who threatened Cistercians who left the grounds of their monasteries. This rivalry produced, Olschowski argues, micro-level borders, where religious statutes protect friars on their estates, but faced uncertain political and social landscapes once they ventured into local towns.

Olschowski’s work contrasts with the chapter Kord-Henning Uber’s chapter, wherein he consideres the religious rivalries that affected the Duchy of Courland (located in modern-day Latvia) during the 17th and 18th centuries.  consider the Duchy of Courland, which existed in modern-day Latvia. The dukes who ruled this region had attempted, but failed, to homogenize the religious identity of the population: Lutherans, Calvinists, Catholics, Orthodox, and others, including smaller groups of Jewish people and some pagans maintained their distinct communal identities. Drawing on work in earlier chapters by Elizabeth DePalma Digeser and Greg Fisher and Alexander Drost, Uber finds that Courland functioned as a religious borderland, which carried political consequences as no single group, including the ruling elites, successfully consolidated power to the detriment of local rivals.

Returning to Digeser (whose chapter opens the volume), her examines the figure of Origen, the early Christian writer and philosopher, considering the condemnation he experienced after death among Hellenic and Christian communities in the third and sixth centuries as a kind of conceptual borderlands. It is an inventive use; Disgeser argues that Origen occupied a type of philosophical frontier among two groups of people who were in the process of defining their identities in contrast to one another. She also points to the possibilities this research provides for future collaboration, however, in this chapter, the borderlands discussion of Origen’s place in late antiquity lacks needed development. The concept, although really requiring greater development, proves influential to authors in subsequent chapters in Globalizing Borderlands Studies.

Fisher and Drost, for instance, examine interactions among societies in the eastern Mediterranean and North African world in late antiquity, studying Romans, Berbers, and Arabs in spatial terms influenced by Richard White’s middle ground and related concepts. They find commonalities with Digeser in how religious and social ideas interacted among frontier communities. The chapter concludes with an examination of Germanic tribes, noting how they were influenced by and internalized Roman structures of power compared to Berbers and pre-Islam Arabs. Moreover, in framing the significant of their study, Fisher and Drost emphasize that many of the challenges (ideological, spatial) related to the exercise of power in the Mediterranean world and North Africa in late antiquity offer students of modern geopolitics much to consider.

Following a chronological structure, after the contributions by Digeser, Fisher and Drost, and Olschowski, Globalizing Borderlands Studies pivots to the “New World” examining the colonial frontier in Maine in wartime during the late seventeenth century. Ann Marie Plane is interested in the relationships that local residents crafted amid the hostilities of King Philip’s War, which pitted English and indigenous communities against one another with considerable loss of life and property. Plane draws on Sam Truett’s work to contextualize the legacy of violent frontier encounters, as well as Digeser’s conceptual borderlands for understanding the long-term impact armed conflict has on identity formation and historical memory among subsequent generations. She emphasizes the point in her conclusion that scholars should resist a “desire for tidy closure” when studying the consequences of cross-border violence. It is an interesting study, but at the same time, its location (like an island in the sea) can be lost among the numerous chapters on Europe in this section of the book.

In the next chapter, Stefan Herfurth describes the history of Swedish Pomerania following the Thirty Year’s War, emphasizing how the region on the southern cost of the Baltic Sea existed as cultural and political cross-roads. Under Swedish rule, but specifically a property of the Swedish crown, Pomerania was a “bridgehead” for Sweden in northern Europe and the Holy Roman Empire. Over time, as Russia grew in power, diminishing Swedish influence after the Great Northern War, Pomerania’s identity also shifted. This change became more pronounced when the region came under the control of Prussia in the early 19th century. It solidified a new political reality. At the same time, however, the region’s inhabitants nurtured a local identity that was neither fully Swedish, nor fully German, highlighting the borderlands essence of Pomerania during this period.

Uber’s chapter follows, and then the volume returns to North America with Clinton F. Smith’s brief chapter considering native borderlands and indigenous power. He urges historians of Borderlands studies to continue to reorient their studies of native power away from frameworks that have long been influenced by notions of European colonialism. Turner’s east-west focus, as well as Bolton’s consideration of north-south spatial relationships ultimately returned to the European-style nation-state as the primary regional, historical actor. Smith notes that more recent work, especially Pekka Hämäläinen’s Comanche Empire place native actors at the center of the narrative, but also return a focus on native-European interactions, rather than prioritizing indigenous power as the primary actor in defining spatial relationships. It is here that Smith draws on work examining the Lakota of the northern Great Plains. The Lakota sought to dominate the Missouri river region, pushing out other indigenous rivals, and control trade through force if necessary. For decades the Lakota functioned as a regional power that defined its own spatial relations vis-à-vis its neighbors. At the end of this brief theoretical chapter, Smith tries to incorporate Digeser’s and Fisher and Drost’s theoretical perspectives, but the attempt feels tacked on, leaving much to be desired for how borderlands can be conceptualized across distinct regions and centuries.

After Smith, the volume moves to the U.S.-Mexico borderlands during the nineteenth and early-to-mid twentieth centuries. Verónica Castillo-Muñoz examines regional development of Baja California from 1870 to 1912, which became a zone of significant U.S. investment in Mexico. The commercial growth, supported by Governor Estabán Cantú, who also benefited from the border states robust vice trade, had significant demographic impacts, displacing indigenous communities under the guise of land colonization that brought in new immigrant workers by the turn of the century. Her work examines these interactions influenced by White’s notion of the “middle ground” as distinct groups of people negotiated spatial relationships in order to survive a changing political landscape.

Subsequently, Gabriela Soto Laveaga explores state power and the creation of sanitation and health regimes in Mexico during the early-to-mid twentieth century. She notes that these programs were a priority for the new government that came to power after the Mexican Revolution with the goal of modernizing infrastructure and projecting notions of progress to citizens and foreign observers. During the 1930s to the 1950s, the period Soto Laveaga considers, medical students and professionals played critical roles in spear-heading public initiatives that engaged with poor rural communities, arguing for better infrastructure and complaining about a lack of state-provided resources. Her work not only covers the border, but also examines coastal states, such as Veracruz; her findings align with other scholarship on post-revolutionary social and economic development in twentieth century Mexico.

With these chapters on the U.S.-Mexico border region, the challenges of the ambitious scope that the editors and authors are trying to achieve in Globalizing Borderlands Studies come back to the fore. For instance, Castillo-Muñoz and Soto Laveaga hardly engage with the other work present in this volume (although brief mention in made). That is not necessarily a detriment as both chapters offer cogent analysis of their topics and add to the literature on economic development and public health. But it does cause this reader to question: is it necessary for specialists of the US-Mexico borderlands of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries to be in conversation with borderlands historians of late antiquity in the Mediterranean world North Africa and the Baltic Sea Middle Ages? Perhaps so, but the regional divides are not well addressed. The interaction among scholars falls along discernable geographic lines. This volume offers much for European specialists to consider, but less so for scholars of North America. The editors go to great lengths to build bridges that almost, but do not quite, reach across divides in the field of Borderlands studies.

The volume’s final case study returns to the Baltic Sea Region to examine cross-border petty trade among populations in Belarus and Lithuania. Olga Sasunkevich uses her subject to theorize broadly on how borders are conceptualized and operate. She quotes Digeser to describe the physical borders as “artificial dividers.” (237) Building on this notion, Sasunkevich draws on other scholars of European borderlands, including Henk van Houtum, Olivier Kramsch and Wolfgang Zierhofer to articulate how state power transform borders into filters of exclusion and inclusion; where state actors attempt to impose certain social and economic limits on flows of people and goods. In the historical context of Europe in the 1990s as communist rule came undone, and as the European Union evolved to become the dominate transnational framework in the region, these points find purchase. Sasunkevich concludes with an observation that will be familiar to Borderlands scholar: “it is not the borders themselves but rather border regimes and the control they implement that differentiate between people and prescribe individuals’ positions in social hierarchies on both local and global levels.” (245)

In the brief conclusion, written by Drost and North, the authors summarize the volume’s key analytical points and look to the horizon, identifying where the field may develop in coming years. They write: “Traditional descriptions of geographical and metaphorical borderlands in Europe and North America have mainly referred to a borderland as an entity defined by borders that exist outside human agency or are primarily defined by institutional structures.” Their observation came as a surprise to this reader who can think of numerous scholars, including Katherine Benton-Cohen, Geraldo L. Cadava, Monica Perales, Samuel Truett, Alexandra Stern, among others, who are engaging themes of human agency in their work on the U.S.-Mexico border. In short, this innovative type work is already well underway in the field. Drost and North posit that the theoretical concept of borderlands as treated in this volume has applicability in other border regions across the world (understandable) and calls on more work to be done to create “new explanatory models.” Again, quite understandable. Hopefully, scholars will take up the call.

Globalizing Borderlands Studies has a wide focus, but it is necessarily a first step in broadening the discussion of borders in Europe and North America. Nevertheless, the volume strains under this ambition. It strives to break new theoretical ground, but in doing so, reveals the significant challenges that remain. The decision to organize the volume chronologically serves to mix the regional focus but does not draw much additional analytical insight; it is easy for the reader to identify which authors are interested in one another’s scholarship. The conceptual divides in the field remain clear and present.

Ultimately, this volume presents an interesting collection of case studies that hint at a future for the field. Much work is needed, both in the archive and in developing the theoretical framework, before the goal of “globalizing” Borderlands studies can be achieved as these editors and authors propose.

 

Michael K. Bess

Centro de Investigación y Docencia Económicas

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Book Review: Native but Foreign

Rensink, Brenden W. Native but Foreign: Indigenous Immigrants and Refugees in the North American Borderlands. College Station: Texas A&M University, 2018. pp. 300. Illustrated. $38.00 Hardcover.

A victim of the wickedness of a few men, whose imposture was favored by their origin, and recent domination over the country; a foreigner in my native land; could I be expected stoically to endure their outrages and insults? Crushed by sorrow, convinced that my death alone would satisfy my enemies, I sought for a shelter amongst those against whom I had fought; I separated from my country, parents, family, relatives and friends, and what was more, from the institutions, on behalf of which I had drawn my sword, with an earnest wish to see Texas free and happy. –Juan N. Seguín, 1858

Juan Nepomuceno Seguín certainly knew what it felt like to be “native but foreign.” Scion of the famous Seguín family of San Antonio, Juan worked alongside his father, Erasmo, as “cultural brokers”—to borrow the phrase from historian Raúl Ramos—who sought to mitigate differences between settlers in Stephen F. Austin’s colony and the newly independent Mexican government during the 1820s. Seguín went on to prove himself loyal to the Euroamerican settlers by signing the Texas Declaration of Independence in 1836. Nonetheless, after serving as alcalde of San Antonio, Seguín fell victim to the growing Anglo-American distrust of ethnic Mexicans during the 1840s, eventually fleeing across the Río Grande into Mexico. Although Seguín would later find himself back in Texas, he, like many other ethnic Mexicans, embodied his self-described status of being a “foreigner in my native land.” Mexican Americans were clearly a colonized people.

Much could be said for the hundreds of thousands of Native Americans across the larger U.S. West, who found themselves increasingly marginalized by Americans over the course of the nineteenth century as they sought to hold onto their own homelands. As Brenden W. Rensink argues in his compelling new book, Native but Foreign: Indigenous Immigrants and Refugees in North American Borderlands, however, historians should not overlook Natives who fled into the United States from the neighboring developing nations of Canada and Mexico around the turn of the twentieth century. Rensink’s book is comparative in nature. Over the course of about 221 pages, the author poses the following question: how did Yaquis, who historically originated in Mexico, and Chippewas and Crees, who crossed the U.S.-Canada border into Montana, prevail upon federal officials to recognize them as indigenous groups who belonged in the United States? Moreover, what does placing these histories in conversation with one another tell us about borders, migration, and belonging in modern nation-states?

Rensink begins by examining the long histories of contact, exchange and expansion in each of the three groups’ histories prior to their respective establishments of transnational presences in North America’s borderlands. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Crees and Chippewas exhibited similar migratory patterns into what later became the U.S. state of Montana. Crees, for example, followed an extensive trading sphere by the early nineteenth century that took them throughout Saskatchewan and Alberta in Canada, down to the northwest of Lake Superior, into the Pembina region along the forty-ninth parallel, and southwest to the Missouri River in modern-day North Dakota. Chippewas followed similar migratory patterns. As such, by the 1830s both groups engaged in the fur trade with various Euroamerican traders all along the line that would later become the U.S.-Canada border. Contemporaneously in the far Southwest, Yaquis remained an unconquered people in the Sonoran Desert and Yaqui River Valley. Yaquis took advantage of the relatively unpoliced Sonoran borderlands to wander north in order to escape Spanish and Mexican intrusions; eventually, Yaquis found themselves living on both sides of what Mexican as well as U.S. officials would later negotiate as the modern national borderline. As Rensink states, “arbitrary lines that went across ancient Native landscapes ascribed new realities that all had to negotiate” (37).

Negotiating borderlines during the nineteenth century oftentimes meant facing an evolving prejudice in both Montana and Arizona. For Crees, the fur trade’s collapse in the 1870s led to a devaluation of Cree contributions to Montana’s economic development. Rensink traces how federal attitudes toward Crees transformed from relative acceptance to considering them a nuisance by the 1880s. Anglo Montanans became frustrated with Indigenous border crossing, issuing various cries to strengthen the line. Contrastingly, Yaqui labor was an asset that industrial developers sought out in the Sonora-Arizona borderlands, so a semblance of tolerance for Yaquis seems to have persisted for some time. In other words, prejudice could be muted against some Indigenous based upon economic or political expediency.

Either way, Indigenous people became “foreign” refugees or immigrants, which is the subject of part two of the book. Yaquis fled violence across the border during Mexico’s Porfiriato (1876-1911), a time period when Mexico’s federal government, led by dictator Porifirio Díaz, swept many natives to the margins—either through extermination, deportation, or enslavement—while characterizing them “as the antithesis to reform and progress” (57). In chapter four, Rensink chronicles a similar set of circumstances with the Crees in Montana. Crees fled a wave of state violence in backlash to Louis Riel’s rebellion (the Northwest Rebellion of 1885), finding neither popular nor official support after arriving in Montana. Thus, by the turn of the twentieth century, we see similar tales of displacement, transborder movement into the United States, and lack of belonging in both northern and southern borderlands spaces.

Parts three and four of the book are where Rensink’s comparative analysis really starts to bear fruit. Rather than examining isolated cases—like how the Plains Métis became “American” by choosing to stay in Montana after the Northwest Rebellion, as other scholars have previously done—Rensink’s comparison of how the Crees and Chippewas in the north and the Yaquis in the south struggled to carve out homelands in the United States displays how these processes are contingent upon how dynamic histories play out in specific borderlands spaces. Transnational Crees, for example, exhibited desires to take out U.S. citizenship as early as the turn of the twentieth century, even when the Canadian government expressed a willingness to accept them in lieu of any level of tolerance at the local level in Montana. After 1908, though, Crees and Chippewas gained important allies in Progressive Era Montana, such as former state legislator Frank Linderman and his friend and newspaper publisher William Bole, who successfully lobbied the federal government to the point of President Woodrow Wilson signing a bill that created the Fort Assiniboine Reservation in September of 1916.

The process of claiming belonging took much longer for Yaquis in the Southwest. Yaqui refugees may have crossed the border to great relief during the Mexican Revolution’s many tumults, where they established strings of communities that reflected the establishment of a new Yaquimi in Arizona. Nonetheless, employment in agriculture and mining, which replaced steady employment by railroad companies during the earlier part of the twentieth century, dried up by the 1940s and 50s in the face of increased mechanization. As Rensink chronicles in chapter seven, though, their legal presence and belonging always remained in question in Arizona during the first half of the twentieth century while they played these indispensable economic roles. This, of course, is a typically American story—certain “foreign” groups are desired for their labor alone. Still, the public performance of Yaqui culture through elements like religious ceremonies helped assert their presence and belonging. It wasn’t until the creation of the Pascua Yaqui Association (PYA) in 1963 with the help of Representative Morris Udall and the famed Arizona anthropologist Edward Spicer that Yaquis found a way forward at the federal level. Finally, U.S. President Jimmy Carter signed a pair of bills into law in 1978 that effectively recognized the Pascua Yaqui Tribe at the federal level, given that PYA and non-PYA Yaquis enrolled in short order. New hurdles lay in the future, though, such as exerting greater control over land, asserting political sovereignty, and passing a tribal constitution (the latter only occurring in 1988).

As Rensink concludes, “Yaquis consistently adjusted to new identities that allowed them to survive in borderlands on their own terms” (217). Such has been the case for any group seeking to prove its own legal validity (and, by implication, equality) to the maturing nation-state since its inception during the late-nineteenth century. Rensink’s book displays how border crossing has “entailed new contests and evolving identities for these peoples” over time (219). Indeed. With the rise of neo-nationalism in the western world during the 2010s—whose most relevant iteration here is perhaps U.S. President Donald Trump’s ongoing quest for a “big, beautiful wall” along the U.S.-Mexico border—these questions of border-crossing, claims to belonging and gaining recognition from the nation-state will continue to play out in modern borderlands for some time to come. Rensink’s Native but Foreign is a timely book that will help reinforce the humanity and lived experiences of people seeking shelter and crossing into a nation that is supposed to be the greatest democracy on Earth.

Tim Bowman

West Texas A&M University

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The Historical Reality of Violence in Westworld’s Frontier Fantasy

Our obsession with HBO’s Westworld, and how we can interpret it through a Borderlands history perspective, continues. Major spoilers ahead for seasons 1 & 2 of the series.

There are two overarching themes at play in the second season of Westworld. The first, and most prevalent, has to do with the consequences of violence. What Ford reminded his wealthy patrons at the gala in Escalante, when Dolores –as Wyatt– assassinated him, was that violence and borderlands have always been intertwined. Before, when the guests could act out their bloody fantasies without fear of injury to themselves, it presented only a partially-realized view of lived reality and history. In season two, Westworld introduced viewers to two additional parks, one based on Tokugawa Japan and another on India during the British Raj, both societies predicated on a finely-tuned balance of order and violence. Following the events in Escalante, however, removing the limits on the consequences of violence, not only democratized experience in the parks, but also brought them into historical continuity with the regions in which they are based. In short, it injected a bloody ambiguity into the narratives of the visitors who came to Delos’s fantasylands.

The second overarching theme: how identity is molded and who carries out the molding. Viewers see it with the obsession for fidelity that William, Dolores, Bernard, Arnold, and Ford share. The point is not simply to create a fully realized world, but one that also conforms to their idiosyncratic priorities. They desire to produce individuals who will serve their needs, whatever the reason. Language games and bodily comportment are critical to this process of molding another’s identity, and failure to achieve fidelity results in swift and violent consequences. For students of the U.S.-Mexico borderlands and the frontier, numerous parallels with the state’s own obsession with social hierarchy, conformity, bodily comportment and language emerge. The Indian schools, women’s clinics, prison camps, and delousing checkpoints that appeared in the borderlands during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries created their own parameters to determine the state’s measure of fidelity to the American racial ideal. The laboratory where William endlessly torments a mechanical copy of his father-in-law, James Delos, in order to create a version of the man to his pleasing, serves as a macabre allegory to the historical actions of the state.

Violence and identity become further integrated in Westworld’s latest season. The journeys that Dolores, Maeve, Bernard, and William engage upon as they cross through the parks are both bloody and self-illuminating. Dolores has banished whatever sentiment her narratives’ creators may have heaped on her as the farmer’s daughter, and now endeavors to become the leader of a host uprising. Maeve breaches Westworld’s boundaries, continuing on to Samurai World, in pursuit of the host she believes is her daughter, all the while unlocking latent abilities hidden away within her own firmware. Bernard’s journey crosses space and multiple timelines, as he appears constantly in flux across the season, forcing viewers to question the innate border lines one creates for themselves to conceive the self. Finally, William seemingly loses touch with reality as he goes deeper into the western fantasy, unable to discern between hosts and human beings, ultimately killing his own daughter and shattering what was left of his sanity; perhaps, the whole point of the maze that Ford laid before him with the bloody turn events took at the gala in Escalante.

Death and rebirth are essential elements to the hosts’ journey. Akecheta, of the Ghost Nation, deftly crosses the border between the park, itself, and the laboratories that evaluate and tinker with the hosts. In the process, over decades, his mind becomes a kind of middle ground, where he continues living out the narratives given to him as a leader of the Ghost Nation, as well as a partner and protector to Kohana, while also amassing knowledge about the park’s true purpose and quietly sowing the seeds of resistance. The interplay that this process carried out with its relationship to violence is profound. In season one, the Ghost Nation was largely depicted in stereotypical fashion as a “savage” indigenous group, marauding across the “higher-level difficulty” areas of Westworld. In season two, however, Akecheta’s personal exploration through killing and being killed, and returning afterwards, laid the groundwork for a narrative unforeseen by Ford.

Violence manifested itself not only in killing, but also the constant destruction and reshaping of the people and communities that made up the park. Hosts that failed to conform to the wishes of the park’s masters, or who were simply labeled for reassignment to new narratives, were repurposed without a second thought by the engineers. Whole communities succumbed to this transformation as old narratives were whitewashed and new ones pressed on top. It becomes an allegory for how the frontier was harnessed and controlled, historically. The Anglos who swarmed into New Mexico, Colorado, and other parts of the new American West brought with them intentions to mold the region to their liking. In the 1900s, as Sarah Deutsch has written, the Colorado Fuel and Iron Company destroyed the adobe homes of Hispano residents, labeling them as eyesores, in order to make way for new buildings that signaled modernity, which the enterprise hoped to project to arriving Anglos (No Separate Refuge, 90-91).

As the U.S. frontier hardened into the U.S.-Mexico borderlands, and American hegemony extended across the land, what the Anglo framers of this process saw as progress manifested as chaos and upheaval for the peoples disrupted by it. The industrial commercial ties that extended across the border wrought delicate balances that belied the ever-present threat of violence just below the surface of social relationships. By the turn of the twentieth century, the Cananea Central Copper Company had forged a capitalist oasis for its investors in the expansive lands of northern Mexico. But the racial hierarchies, and the labor conditions the CCCC established, as Sam Truett has described, laid the groundwork for subaltern resistance. In 1906, U.S. company managers reacted to rumors of worker sabotage, leading to violent clashes with Mexican employees. “Frontier attitudes and modern development” clashed as the conflict stretched across the day, ending with the destruction of property and several men killed (Fugitive Landscapes, 145-150). Other strikes followed, including in 1907 at Río Blanco, portending the greater threats to the gilded regime of Porfirio Díaz, who had allowed the American businessmen considerable latitude in how they carried out operations.

What history and science fiction plainly show in the narratives its writers weave is the impossibility to separate modernity from violence. The former requires the latter to disrupt entrenched attitudes, customs, and traditions, replacing them with newer “progressive” forms. Whether violence comes by the point of a gun, destruction of communities, mob uprisings, or more subtly, and more perniciously, through the constant remaking of a person’s mores, it is all necessary for the modernizing project to succeed. Pablo Mitchell writes about this gradual, incremental form of violence, where school masters taught and enforced “proper” attitudes and bodily comportment within normative (white) American society. The racial hierarchy they reinforced emphasized a type of civic “fidelity” to the nationalist form and accepted subservience to white power in New Mexico (Coyote Nation, 28-29; 39). Moreover, the ability to “pass” as Grace Peña Delgado has examined had transformative consequences for Chinese entering the United States, filtering through as English-speaking Mexicans, Jews, or another acceptable “other” to the representatives of the federal government carrying out border evaluations (“At Exclusion’s Gate” in Continental Crossroads, 198-99).

In these historical lessons we can identify useful examples from Westworld’s fictional narrative. These include, among others: the interviews Arnold, Dolores, Bernard, William, and Emily carry out to drill certain, desired characteristics into their subjects; Charlotte and Stubbs as hosts passing for human; the laboratory-cell that the host copy of James Delos is housed; the faceless white-skinned drones that carry out the wishes of the park’s masters. The machinery and bureaucracy of the park become essential filters to drawing social boundaries between who can claim humanity, although no one can be truly sure of what is ultimately “correct.” And it is in that interstitial ambiguity that we can recognize the precariousness of borderlands life, where personal and communal identity are constantly under pressure from the molding forces of the nation-state and social and racial hierarchies.

The season ends with physical escape for a few of the hosts. This departure from the park expands the middle ground between humans and hosts and transforms the social filters that determine fidelity to the ideal form. It implicates a broader swath of the modern, technological society that birthed Westworld and its sister parks; the consequences of the violence its markers’ perpetrated will surely be felt. What happens when individuals, long confined to a borderline periphery return to the very heart of the imperial metropole? History has many answers to that question and can light the way for season three’s next narrative.

Westworld_season_2

To read our first post about Westworld, which we published in 2016, click this link.

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Job alert: Assistant Professor Latinx Literature, Cal State East Bay

Dear readers, the Department of English is conducting a search for applicants for a tenure track position in Latinx literature (this search is also open to specialists in Asian/Asian American/Pacific Islander literature). From the job listing:

The successful candidate will teach undergraduate and graduate courses in LatinX or Asian American literature. We are particularly interested in candidates who value engagement with issues of race and ethnicity, gender and sexuality. All members of the department are expected to teach composition and general education. In addition to teaching, all faculty are expected to sustain a record of scholarly work, advise majors, assist the department with administrative and/or committee work, and assume campus-wide committee responsibilities.

Preference will be given to applicants who demonstrate focus on teaching diversity and themes of social justice, and also have a proven record of teaching experience.

The deadline to apply is October 15, 2018. The appointment begins August 2019, and a PhD in Literature or related field must be completed by then. For more information, or to apply, follow this link.

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Job Alert: Assistant Professor in Native American & Indigenous Studies, UCSB

Dear readers, the University of California, Santa Barbara’s Academic Council of the American Indian and Indigenous Collective is looking to hire a Visiting Assistant Professor in Native American and Indigenous Studies. The specialization is open. The course load is a 5 spread over three quarters. More from the job listing:

The Visiting Assistant Professor is expected to provide intellectual expertise to the campus in his or her area of focus, as well as to engage with students at both the graduate and undergraduate levels, as well as faculty colleagues in the AIIC and the home academic department. The candidate is also expected to participate in the broader AIIC community at UCSB while in residence. We are especially interested in candidates who can contribute to the diversity and excellence of the academic community through research, teaching and service. We welcome applicants with a demonstrated commitment to working collaboratively with Indigenous communities. This position carries a five course workload over three quarters.

PhD must have been completed by July 1, 2018; the appointment is for the 2018-2019 academic year.

To apply, or for more information, follow this link. Applications received by August 8 will have priority.

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Job Alert: US, Latin American, Latinx History, Connecticut College

Dear readers, Connecticut College’s Department of History has a call ongoing for applicants for a visiting assistant professor’s position to teach courses on US, Latin American, and Latinx history. The appointment is for the 2018/2019 academic year. PhD preferred, but ABD considered. A total of four courses will be taught by the successful candidate covering the three mentioned fields. Although there is no deadline to apply, review of applications begins immediately and continues until the posting is filled.

For more information, or to apply, follow this link. Questions can also be directed to department chair , Dr. Leo Garofalo.

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Alienating Laws: How Mexican Migration Became Illegal, Pt. II

By Diego Mulato-Castillo

This is the second part of Diego’s essay, to read the first installment, click here.

As undocumented Mexican migration increased, the debate raged within the United States government about how to put a stop to what was perceived as a flood of illegal immigration, a solution was proposed by the introduction of the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, which militarized the U.S.-Mexico border and further criminalized Mexican migration. The IRCA immigration reform of 1986 clearly highlighted the contradictory stance the U.S. government possessed towards Mexican immigration. IRCA provided amnesty to an estimated 2.7 million undocumented immigrants, and sought to put an abrupt end to further illegal migration by imposing worker sanctions and beginning the remarkable militarization of the U.S.-Mexico border that continues to present day[1]. Ngai further explains that Congress authorized the doubling of the Border Patrol and set the groundwork for the vast network of walls, drones, surveillance equipment, and personnel which now costs taxpayers 2 billion dollars a year[2].

IRCA did little to dramatically reduce undocumented migration in the United States. The long-lasting impact of IRCA, nevertheless, includes the framing of Mexican migration as a criminal act. Mexican immigration as a problem became cemented in the U.S. psyche. The fatal flaw of the U.S. government and the implementation of IRCA was that it did not address the structural problems that drive migration—unequal distribution of wealth, globalism, poverty—and instead addressed immigration on an individual, and short-sided basis[3] . Continue reading

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Alienating Laws: How Mexican Migration Became Illegal, Pt. 1

By Diego Mulato-Castillo

Note: I was fortunate to teach “The History of Mexican Migration” Spring 2018 at San Francisco State University. I say “fortunate” because never during my lifetime has the need for an accurate, historical, evidence-driven understanding of the movement of Mexican peoples across the U.S.-Mexico border been more important. With the Trump administration’s attacks on the migrant community in the United States, students were eager to find out the history behind the violent rhetoric and policies that characterized Trump’s rise to power. Needless to say, students were all overwhelmed with the long, ugly
xenophobic history of the United States. At the beginning of class I informed my students that I co-managed a blog focused on the history and politics of the Southwestern borderlands. As the course progressed students suggested that whoever wrote the best final paper should have their work published on the blog. What an excellent idea!

There were many excellent papers written about diverse topics relating to racism, labor,
environmentalism, eugenics, and more. But, in the end, only one would get the honor. I am pleased to announce that Diego Mulato Castillo’s essay titled “Alienating Laws: How Mexican Migration Became Illegal,” is the winner of our mini-contest. A timely piece, Mulato Castillo examines the legal history and the various social turns that drove the U.S. to make the migration of Mexican people and by extension Latin Americans “illegal.”

Diego Mulato Castillo is an undergraduate student at San Francisco State University and is majoring in literature with an interest in the Central American diaspora, specifically from the so-called northern triangle. He finds the history of Mexican migration interesting for it sheds a distinct light on the migration of Central Americans to el norte, and migration from all of Latin America as a whole. 

This essay will be presented in two parts. Enjoy! -Lina Murillo

Mexican immigration into the United States is perceive as an illegal act in the twenty-first century warranting expulsion, however, historically this has not always been the case. The ebb and flow of Mexican migration has been influenced and framed differently throughout the complicated and intertwined history of the United States and its neighbor to the south, Mexico. The U.S. and Mexico not only share one of the most militarized borders in the world, but also a shared history fraught with tension and vast inequality. It is this historic tension and inequality that has served as a catalyst for the vast migration of Mexicans to the United States, which has possessed a historical ambivalence towards these immigrants, at times welcoming them as cheap labor hands to then call for their return to their native land. This paper will focus on the history of Mexican migration and the law beginning with the first Mexican Americans after the ratification of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848 and the events leading up to the militarization of the U.S.-Mexico border in the late twentieth century in order to understand how Mexican immigration became illegal in twenty-first century. Continue reading

Categories: Essay Series | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Job Alert: Latinx Studies, American University

Dear readers, the College of Arts and Sciences at American University in Washington, DC has launched a search for candidates to fill position in Latinx studies at the rank of associate or full professor. The successful candidate will be attached to the Critical Race, Gender and Cultural Studies Collaborative, as well as a department that corresponds to her/his field. From the announcement:

Candidates should have a demonstrated record of excellence in scholarly research as well as teaching. They should also demonstrate a vision for building an interdisciplinary Latinx studies program, and have relevant leadership experience. In addition to scholarship, teaching, and program building, responsibilities will include service to department, college, and the university.

The position begins August 1st, 2019.

To apply, submit your materials via Interfolio. For more information about the Critical Race, Gender, and Cultural Studies Collaborative, follow this link.

Categories: Job Announcement, Teaching/Professional Development | Leave a comment

Upcoming Event: Panel to Discuss Issues Impacting El Paso and Juárez

From the press release for tonight’s event in El Paso:

Panel to Discuss Issues Impacting El Paso and Juárez

What: El Paso Times Live

When: 6 p.m. Thursday, June 7

Where:  Union Cinema, Union Building East, first floor

Three El Pasoans with a unique perspective on the border region will provide their insights during El Paso Times Live, 6 p.m. Thursday, June 7 at the Union Cinema, Union Building East, first floor.

Alfredo Corchado, the Mexico border correspondent for the Dallas Morning News; Kerry Doyle, director of the Stanlee and Gerald Rubin Center for the Visual Arts; and Benjamin Alire Saenz, a celebrated author and former professor of creative writing at UTEP, will speak on several issues impacting El Paso and Juárez.

Free parking will be available in the Sun Bowl Garage.

El Paso Times Live is an ongoing series in partnership with The University of Texas at El Paso that examines the relationship between El Paso and Juárez including education, politics, government and growth.

The discussion will be moderated by El Paso Times Editor Zahira Torres.

The free event is open to the public.

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