New Borderlands History Article: Heather M. Sinclair, “White Plague, Mexican Menace: Migration, Race,Class and Gendered Contagion in El Paso, Texas, 1880-1930”

This article examines a debate that emerged in El Paso, Texas at the turn of the twentieth century surrounding the transmission of pulmonary tuberculosis from predominantly Anglo American migrants to the city’s ethnic Mexican population. Reports of Anglo-to-Mexican infections came from cities and towns throughout the U.S. Southwest, but by 1915 El Paso had emerged as the epicenter of the debate. Using popular and professional sources, the article tracks a shift in dominant perceptions of tubercular contagion from an association with white bodies to Mexican ones. An early narrative casts the Mexican female domestic servant as a victim of the infectious indigent white consumptive male health seeker. In 1915, as the Mexican Revolution raged and tensions between whites and ethnic Mexicans in the city sharpened, federal public health authorities published a report dismissing health seekers as a source of contagion to ethnic Mexicans. This article highlights the power of notions of race, gender, and class in shaping perceptions of and responses to epidemics, often with tragic results.

About the author:
In May 2016, Heather M. Sinclair received her doctorate from the University of Texas at El Paso in Borderlands History. Her dissertation, “Birth City: Race and Violence in the History of Childbirth and Midwifery in the El Paso-Ciudad Juárez Borderlands, 1907-2013,” centers of the history of women’s racialized reproduction in the borderlands. While completing this original study, Sinclair was simultaneously writing an article about disease, race, and gender in El Paso, published in the November issue of the Pacific Historical Review.

Link to the online article here:

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Job Alert: UConn Latina/o Studies, Tenure-Track

Dear readers, the Department of History and the Institute of Latina/o, Caribbean and Latin American Studies is conducting a search to fill a tenure-track position. They are especially looking for candidates who can teach “Puerto Rican history, Latin American/Caribbean history before 1900, U.S. Latina/o History, Gender/Sexuality history, Legal history, and Brazilian history.” Also, the preferred date for submissions is fast approaching, October 28. From the posting:

…the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at the University of Connecticut, invite applications for a tenure-track assistant professor in Latin American, Caribbean and/or U.S. Latina/o History, for any chronological specialization. The candidate will be jointly appointed with El Instituto; the tenure home will be in History. The successful candidate will be expected to teach survey courses in one or more of these fields, together with more advanced courses in the candidate’s area of interest. This person will be expected to develop a strong, ongoing research trajectory through high quality publications.  As jointly appointed faculty, teaching and service will be equally divided between History and El Instituto…

The successful candidate will be expected to contribute to research and, high quality publications, and national recognition as through honorific awards. In the area of teaching, the successful candidate will share a commitment to effective instruction at the undergraduate and graduate levels, development of innovative courses and mentoring of students in research, outreach and professional development. Successful candidates will also be expected to broaden participation among members of under-represented groups; demonstrate through their research, teaching, and/or public engagement the richness of diversity in the learning experience; integrate multicultural experiences into instructional methods and research tools; and provide leadership in developing pedagogical techniques designed to meet the needs of diverse learning styles and intellectual interests.

For more information, or to apply, follow the link.

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New Book: Globalizing Borderlands Studies


Globalizing Borderlands Studies in Europe and North America is a new edited volume that bring together scholarship on Europe, North Africa, the Baltics, Mexico, and the United States to examine “the importance of economic, political, social, and religious interactions.” University of Nebraska Press, which publishes the new work, reached out to us recently to let us know the book is now out. It’s co-edited by John W.I. Lee at the University of California, Santa Barbara, who has studied the borderlands of antiquity in the Mediterranean world. He’s joined by Michael North, an economic historian from the University of Greifswald (Germany), who specializes in the financial and monetary history of Europe and the Baltics. From the book description:

Gathering the voices of a diverse range of international scholars, Globalizing Borderlands Studies in Europe and North America presents case studies from ancient to modern times, highlighting topics ranging from religious conflicts to medical frontiers to petty trade… [this book] not only forges links between past and present scholarship but also paves the way for new models and approaches in future borderlands research.

In the coming months, we hope to follow up with a book review. For more information, follow the link to the UNP page.

Full disclosure: my book, Building a Revolutionary State through Roads: Mexico, 1917-1952, is under contract with University of Nebraska Press, publication forthcoming.

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Double Job Alert: Chicanx/Latinx Studies, tenure-track openings

Dear readers, we wanted to let you know about to tenure-track opportunities in Chicanx/Latinx Studies with application deadlines quickly approaching. The first is at California State University Channel Island, where the Chicana/o Studies program is seeking to hire a new assistant professor. From the job description:

Special consideration will be given to candidates whose research and teaching focuses on (in)justice issues, broadly defined, that may include the criminal justice system, prison industrial complex, law and socio-economic inequality; we are also interested in candidates whose interdisciplinary work focuses on discourse analysis and visual critique that blends theory and practice, film, multi-media, art, music, critical race, gender, and queer studies.

The successful candidate must have earned a PhD in Chicana/o Studies or an equivalent field by time of appointment, moreover, while preference is given to current PhD holder, ABDs will also be considered. The deadline to apply is November 1st. For more information, follow the link.

Today’s second job alert comes from the other side of the country at Kennesaw State University in northern Georgia. The Interdisciplinary Studies Department is looking for candidates to fill a 9-month tenure track position in Latinx or American Studies. The successful candidate will join the department at the rank of assistant professor with a 3/3 course load. ABDs will also be considered in the application process. From the description:

The professor will teach undergraduate courses for the Latin American/Latin@ Studies program and undergraduate and graduate courses in the American Studies program. Possible courses might include Introduction to Latin American/Latin@ Studies; Introduction to American Studies at the undergraduate and graduate levels; Popular Culture of the Americas; and other courses in the candidate’s area of specialization.

For more information, or to apply, follow the link. The deadline to submit an application is October 24th.

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A Conversation with Kelly Lytle Hernandez and John Mckiernan-González: recent approaches to the scholarship of the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands

Scholarship on the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands composes a significant and influential genre within the field of U.S. Western History and Chicana/o-Latina/o Studies. Geographically rooted in the U.S. Southwest and Mexico, or Greater Mexico, publications in this subfield explore a broad range of themes including: migration and labor, citizenship and race, culture and identity formation, gender and sexuality, politics and social justice, just to name a few.

This conversation features two prominent historians of the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands: Kelly Lytle Hernandez, author of Migra!: A History of the U.S. Border Patrol (UC Press, 2010), and John Mckiernan-González, author of Fevered Measures: Public Health and Race at the Texas-Mexico Border, 1848-1942 (Duke University Press, 2012). My discussion with Kelly and John focuses on their exemplary scholarship to explore how historians conceptualize, investigate, and explain the history of the U.S.-Mexico Border region. In particular, we discuss how the U.S.-Mexico border exists in the minds of policy makers, bureaucrats, low level officials, businessmen and the public at large, as more than a fixed political boundary. Indeed, competing notions of who and what the border is supposed to control has historically shaped ideas about race, public policy, and law enforcement practices throughout the U.S.-Mexico border region. In addition to their existing work, we discuss their forthcoming publications which signal exciting new directions in the field of Chicana/o-Latina/o Studies and U.S. History in general.

This conversation was recorded during a session of the 109th annual meeting of the Pacific Coast Branch of the American Historical Association held earlier this month in Kona, Hawaii.

Listen to this conversation in its entirety by clicking HERE

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Job Alert: Northern Arizona University

Dear readers, the Department of History at Northern Arizona University has launched a job search to fill a tenure-track position in Native American or Indigenous History. The successful candidate would enter at the rank of Assistant Professor, beginning next fall. S/he will be expected to teach undergraduate and graduate courses as well as develop scholarship that contributes to “indigenous histories in a global context.”

The major themes of study the department specializes in are “Global/Comparative history; Environment & Health; Colonialism and Nationalism; Class, Race, & Ethnicity; Gender & Sexuality; and Public History.” Candidates whose work can address aspects of these topics will have preference in the hiring process.

A PhD must be completed by August 2017. Salary range is $54,000-$58,000, depending on experience. Although the position will remain open until filled, the review of applications begins on October 24, 2016.

For more information, or to apply, follow the link.


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Gender and Intimacy Across the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands Conference

web_bannerCheck out the schedule for this fantastic conference presented by the University of California Santa Barbara!

September 30-October 1, 2016

For more information contact:

Miroslava Chávez-Garcia, Ph.D.


Tel: 530-219-3933

September 30, 2016
5:00-5:15 pm: Welcome & Introduction, Sharon Farmer, Chair & Professor, History
5:15-6:00 pm: Keynote Speaker, Dr. Alexandra M. Stern, Professor of American Culture, Women’s Studies, History, and Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Michigan.
6:00-8:00 pm: Catered Dinner & Informal Discussion
October 1, 2016
8:00-8:45 am: Coffee, Tea, and Light Refreshments
8:45-9:00 am: Welcome & Introductions, Miroslava Chávez-Garcia & Verónica Castillo-Muñoz

Session I
9:00-10:30 am: Cultural Studies, Media, & Personal Narratives in Contemporary U.S.-Mexico Borderlands
Laura Barraclough, Assistant Professor, American Studies, Yale University, “Charro Masculinity in Motion: Gender, Sexuality, and the Family on Hulu’s Los Cowboys”
Juan Llamas-Rodríguez, Ph.D. Candidate, Film & Media, UCSB, “The Familial Ties of the Female NarcoTrafficker”
Jennifer Tyburczy, Assistant Professor, Feminist Studies, UCSB, “Sex Toys after NAFTA: Transnational Class Politics, Erotic Consumerism, and the Economy of Female Pleasure in Mexico City”
Deborah Boehm, Associate Professor, Anthropology and Women’s Studies/Gender, Race, and Identity, University of Nevada Reno, “Divided by Citizenship and/or Geography: Partnerships in the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands”
Commentators: D. Inés Casillas, Associate Professor, Chicana/o Studies, UCSB, & Leisy Abrego, Associate Professor, Chicana/o Studies, UCLA
Audience: Comment

Session II
10:45 am-12:15 pm: Interdisciplinary Approaches to Gender, Marriage, and Intimacy in 20th-Century U.S.-Mexico Borderlands
Celeste Menchaca, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, History, Texas Christian University, “Staging Crossings: Policing and Performing Difference at the U.S.-Mexico Border, 1906-1917”
Marla A. Ramírez, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Sociology and Sexuality Studies, SFSU, “Transnational Gender Formations: A Banished U.S. Citizen Woman Negotiates Motherhood & Marriage Across the U.S.-Mexico Border”
Jane Lily López, Ph.D. Candidate, Sociology, UCSD, “Together and Apart: Mixed-Citizenship Couples in the Mexican Border Region”
Commentators: Denise Segura, Professor, Sociology, UCSB, & Verónica Castillo-Muñoz, Assistant Professor, History, UCSB
Audience: Comment
Lunch Break: 12:15 pm – 1:15 pm

Session III
1:30 pm – 3:00 pm: Contesting Gender, Family, and Marriage in the 19th-Century U.S.-Borderlands
Margie Brown-Coronel, Assistant Professor, History, CSU, Fullerton, “History Makers in the Borderlands: Josefa Del Valle and Legacy Building in California, 1880 to 1940”
Amy Langford, Ph.D. Candidate, History, American University, “Saints on the Border: Plural Marriage and the Contest for Authority in the Mormon Colonies of Mexico, 1885 to 1915”
Erika Pérez, Assistant Professor, History, University of Arizona, “The Zamorano-Daltons and the Unevenness of U.S. Conquest in California: A Borderland Family at the Turn of the 20th Century”
Commentators: James Brooks, Professor, History & Anthropology, UCSB, & Miroslava Chávez-García, Professor, History, UCSB
Audience: Comment
3:00-3:15 pm: Concluding Remarks & Publishing Timeline
Miroslava Chávez-García, Verónica Castillo-Muñoz, & Marc Rodríguez, Editor, Pacific Historical Review


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Peyote and the Racialized War on Drugs

In an article  published in the Christian Century blog (here), Lisa Barnett, Ordained Minister (Christian Church, Disciples of Christ) and PhD candidate in U.S. history at Texas Christian University, discusses some of her dissertation research which looks at the ritual use of peyote by the Native American Church. Of special interest to borderlands scholars, Barnett’s research addresses how in the late nineteenth and early decades of the twentieth centuries, a commercialized peyote trade developed along the U.S.-Mexican border connecting merchants in the borderlands region of the Rio Grande to a variety of Indian tribes residing in Oklahoma and Indian Territories. In this article she examines how peyote became criminalized because of its perceived threat to Christianizing Native Americans.


                                     New York Times, 1923

Barnett writes:

“The mild hallucinogen, derived from the top of a cactus growing in the Rio Grande area, became the basis of a new American Indian religion in the late 19th century. As the peyote religion quickly spread throughout Oklahoma Territory to other tribes in the western half of the U.S., white missionaries and government officials became alarmed. In their zero-sum mindset, they viewed Peyotism as a threat to their efforts to Christianize the Native American peoples.”

Read this fascinating article at the Christian Century blog, linked here.

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Job Alert: Smith College, Assistant Professor (2/2)

Dear readers, the Department of English Language & Literature at Smith College in Northampton, MA, has launched a job search for Assistant Professor in the Program for Study of Women and Gender (SWG). It’s a wide call, but they are particularly interested in scholars of contemporary Latinx Studies and Native and Indigenous studies, among other disciplines. The position is tenure track with a 2/2 teaching load split between the English department and SWG.

From the post:

Successful candidates will demonstrate command of key methodological and theoretical perspectives in both gender studies and literary studies. We are particularly interested in candidates who work in women of color feminisms, Native and indigenous studies, Arab American and Latin@/x Studies; comparative work is welcome. Desirable additional fields or areas of strength include critical race theory, queer theory, drama and performance. We expect the successful candidate to have excellent preparation in literary texts from the twentieth century (and after), and interdisciplinary graduate training and teaching experience in women and gender studies. A Ph.D. in a relevant field is expected by the time of appointment.

For more information, or to apply, follow the link.

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Film Notes: Dread and Despair in Desierto

Desierto (2016) is a kind of horror story, and one seemingly tailor-made for this overheated US presidential election. As the Republican candidate has stoked xenophobia and recently delivered an angry speech in Arizona, this film—although imperfectly—illustrates how violence can occur when a whole group of people are denied their humanity.

Written and directed by Jonás Cuarón, Desierto tells the story of undocumented immigrants attempting to cross into the United States. It shines light on a small fragment of a much larger history of immigration in the U.S.-Mexico borderlands. From the Mexican Revolution, which saw thousands cross into the United States to escape violence, to the forced repatriation programs that the U.S. government carried out in the Great Depression, it is a history marked by individual and communal hardship. Looking further into the twentieth century, this sense of Mexican labor  as “cheap,” with workers seen as “disposable” (a subtext to the film) can be traced to the Bracero program (1942-1964), and later to the heavy economic impact of NAFTA on rural Mexican communities in the 1990s.

The film opens on a long, slow panoramic view of the Arizona-Sonora desert. A wood-panel truck carrying the immigrants stops, unable to go further. The coyotes, including one played by Diego Cataño, orders the group out to begin the rest of the trek on foot. The audience follows the story from the perspective of Moises (Gael García Bernal), who was hoping to reunite with him family after having been arrested and deported for a minor traffic violation.

Unknown to this group, a monster lurks in this desert. The audience receives its first glimpses of the villain, Sam (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), driving in a pick-up truck, listening to country music. Attached to the back bumper of the vehicle is a dusty, yellow “don’t’ tread on me” sticker. Along with his trusty dog Tracker, Sam patrols the sparse landscape, while downing hefty amounts of whisky. At one moment, he stops to chat with a Border patrol officer. After traveling deeper into the remote landscape, he comes across the small group of immigrants exhausted under the hot sun. From a distance, he takes position and with a rifle, takes aim.

It is at this moment the viewer realizes that Desierto is something very different from the quite, brooding film that opened. With a sparse script that has the actors showing their emotions on-screen more than talking through the scenes, what follows is a brutal and violent narrative. Like any horror film, the monster decimates the group with a series of swift blows, and then slowly and methodically hunts down the desperate survivors. It is bloody business, made harder to watch given the cruelty of the act. Morgan, with only a handful of words spoken during the entire film, dominates the screen and leaves one with a deep sense of dread as he prowls further into this ugly massacre.

Countering Morgan’s villainy, García Bernal delivers a strong performance. It acknowledges the desperate ordeal his character is in, while also finding a deeper strength as he tries to escape with another immigrant, Adela (Alondra Hidalgo). What ensues is a taut cat-and-mouse game across the rocky, arid landscape. The desert cinematography is captivating, and plays its own part in setting the feel of the film’s atmosphere for the audience. It is a beautiful background for what is otherwise an unrelentingly dark and violent story.

Ultimately, Desierto remains uncomfortable and deeply disturbing throughout much of its 90-minute length. Given the fraught politics of race and identity, as well as the everyday violence witnessed in communities in the United States and Mexico, the film’s exaggerated premise still felt a little too real. With its loose script, the director also leaves much of the interpretation up to the audience. We know that what Morgan’s Sam is doing is wrong, and we know that García Bernal’s Moises is the hero, but many of the scenes haunted me long after I’d left the theater. Perhaps, that was Cuarón’s intent.


Desierto premiered in France and Mexico in April 2016. It will be out in US theaters in October.

Lina Murillo helped with the editing of this review. 

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