A Review of the Borderlands Issue of the JAH (September 2011): Introduction

The September 2011 Special Issue (98:2) of the Journal of American History placed its focus on borderlands history with a collective title–“Margins to Mainstream: The Brave New World of Borderlands History.” It featured six articles: 

On Borderlands–Pekka Hämäläinen and Samuel Truett

Borderlands of Modernity and Abandonment: The Lines within Ambos Nogales and the Tohono O’odham Nation–Geraldo Cadava

Borderlands in a World at Sea: Concow Indians, Native Hawaiians, and South Chinese in Global and National Spaces–David A. Chang

The Cosmic Race in Texas: Racial Fusion, White Supremacy, and Civil Rights Politics–Benjamin H. Johnson

Race, Surveillance, and Indian Anticolonialism in the Western U.S.-Canadian Borderlands–Seema Sohi

Before the Railroad: From Slavery to Freedom in the Canadian-American Borderland–Gregory Wigmore

John Nieto-Phillips notes in his  introduction to the issue that,

 In recent years, the field of U.S. history has witnessed a remarkable surge in scholarship focusing on borders, boundaries, and frontiers—those interstitial contexts in which peoples converge. Much of that scholarship is grounded in indigenous histories or in imperial pasts. It is also rooted in narratives of national expansion, migration, racialization, and the statecraft of border control and citizenship. This scholarship embraces a wide range of concerns in far-flung contexts spanning centuries, and it draws our attention to the importance of “borderlands” in American history (337).

Nieto-Phillips also writes that, “Together, these six pieces suggest the expansive reach and temporal range of new borderlands scholarship” (337).

Over the next few weeks, Borderlands History contributors will review each essay and comment on its significance and contributions to the field. We hope this will provide opportunities to explore several ongoing questions such as:  What is borderlands history? Is it indeed a field? If so, how is the field defined? Has borderlands history indeed gone mainstream? If so, what does that mean and what does the future hold? If not, why not? How can we push the boundaries of the field?

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