Monthly Archives: September 2015

Conference Dispatch: Coloquio de la Constitución de 1917 y el constitucionalismo en el noroeste de Mexico

Within a few years, Mexico’s Constitution of 1917 will mark its 100th anniversary. In preparation, since 2013, the Centro de Investigación y Docencia Económicas has organized a series of conferences, involving more than 100 scholars and up to 50 individual institutions. They form part of Dr. Catherine Andrew’s project on constitutionalism, exploring the social and political legacy of this topic in Mexican history. The goal has been to produce new and original academic works that examine the Constitution of 1917’s significance from local, regional, and national perspectives, examining Mexico’s history over the last century as well as encouraging reflection on the country’s future. Last week marked the close of the most recent conference hosted by the CIDE in Aguascalientes.

The conference examined the impact of constitutionalism on northwestern Mexico and opened with a session by Ignacio Marván from the División de Ciencias Políticas at CIDE. He spoke in depth about Venustiano Carranza and his legacy not only as a political and military leader nationally, but Dr. Marván also talked about his legislative work as a senator from Coahuila and how that experience informed his political philosophy in subsequent years. Later, the first morning panel led to a spirited discussion in the Q&A about Villa’s legacy.

Luis Barrón and Ignacio Marván

Luis Barrón and Ignacio Marván

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New UTEP Fellowships Supporting Study of Borderlands History

In light of current events and heightened political rhetoric worldwide, the study of borderlands is becoming increasingly important. Our friends at H-Borderlands have good news to share: The Department of History at the University of Texas at El Paso has announced new doctoral fellowships to support graduate study in the field of Borderlands History. The deadline for applications is in January 2016. For more information, follow the link below:

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BOOK REVIEW: Border Patrol Nation

In today’s latest guest post, we’re excited to feature the work of Terry Maccarrone! Terry is a Master’s candidate in history at Stony Brook. His areas of interest are wide-ranging but tend to focus on European and Asian history, international relations, and theories of nationalism and state building.

Miller, Todd. Border Patrol Nation: Dispatches from the Front Lines of Homeland Security. San Francisco: City Lights Publishers, 2014.

Todd Miller’s journalistic examination of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s divisions of Customs & Border Protection (CPB) and Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) operates from a noticeable anti-establishment perspective bias, disapproving of post-9/11 immigration-related policies instituted by the U.S. government. In his on-the-ground accounts of encounters with CPB and ICE that are disturbing at best, Miller offers some readers an emotional, provocative look at a flawed immigration (and immigration control) system, and gives others who would not initially be inclined to object to U.S. governmental policies a shock to their systems.


Throughout the book, Miller portrays the CPB and ICE as pseudo-Fascist thugs, part of a neo-Borderland Security-Industrial Complex that works to overstate the immigrant border threat, keep detention center beds filled, and reap the federal budget dollar bonanza. Unfortunately, the phraseology he uses in his works evokes images of blind, order-following Nazi Storm Troopers and indoctrinated Hitler Youth, rather than a more balanced investigation of CPB and ICE offices, agents, and policies. Miller succeeds, however, in eliciting an emotional response from the reader through his depictions of the abuse suffered by migrant victims at the hands of these agencies. His interviews with victims, advocates, and officials are powerful, but the book would have been more well-rounded with more counterevidence that might have defended the agencies’ actions or rationales. This is a criticism, however, that some might find more applicable to a strictly academic study rather than one journalist’s purposefully provocative take on the current border crisis.

Structurally, the book is well composed, and discusses both the U.S.-Mexico and U.S.-Canada borders for those interested in comparing the two regions. A chapter on the Haiti-Dominican Republic border attempts to analyze the overreach of the CPB into foreign states—and communicate Miller’s objection to North American meddling in the affairs of other states—but some readers may find this chapter tangential or out of place. Overall, though, Miller succeeds in offering a thought-provoking book that compels its readers—no matter their political viewpoint—to delve further into the case studies and arguments raised therein about the legal and human consequences of post-9/11 security concerns.

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UTEP Borderlands History Conference November 6-7, 2015–Program

2015 UTEP Borderlands History Conference
Friday, November 6, 2015
The El Paso Natural Gas Conference Center, University of Texas at El Paso

6:00 – 7:00 pm Keynote Address: “Caged Birds: Immigration and the Rise of Mexican Incarceration in the United States” Kelly Lytle Hernandez, UCLA
7:00 – 9:00 pm Reception

Saturday, November 7, 2015
Hilton Garden Inn El Paso/University

8:00-10:00am Panel 1: Borders, Bodies and the State
“Borders, Bodies and Babies: the State and Precarious Reproduction in the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands, 1922-1942,” Heather Sinclair, The University of Texas at El Paso
“Illegal Methods: Abortion and the State on the U.S.-Mexico Border,” Lina Murillo, The University of Texas at El Paso
“Babies, Bodies, and Borderlands: Parteras, Religion, and the State in New Mexico, 1848-1940,” Rebecca Tatum, Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York
Space Outside States?: Borderlands, Statelessness, and Refugee Migrations,
Julian Lim, Arizona State University

Commentator: Monica Perales, University of Houston

10:10am-12:10pm Panel 2: State-Building in the Borderlands
“El establecimiento de la línea de presidios en el intento de definición y afirmación del Estado español en la frontera septentrional,” Alonso Domínguez Rascón, El Colegio de San Luis, A.C.
“The Union of Coahuila and Texas: A Forced Marriage and an Ugly Divorce” Jesus De la Teja, Texas State University
“Geographies of Difference: Nation, Empire and State-Brokering in Late Porfirian Chihuahua,” Jonathan Hill, City University of New York: Graduate Center
1. Jaime R. Ruiz
“Modernity, Cronyism, and Revolution: Urban Infrastructure in Chihuahua City during the Porfiriato, 1892-1911,” Jaime Ruiz, The University of Texas at El Paso

Commentator: Mario T. Garcia, University of California, Santa Barbara

12:15-1:15pm Lunch

1:20-3:20pm Panel 3: Movement, Migration, and the State
“‘Many of our countrymen who have been driven or escaped from the hands of their tormentors…have lately found their way to this City’: The Problem of Refugees in the Mexico-U.S. Borderlands,” Evan Rothera, Pennsylvania State University
“Los indios de la frontera mexicoamericana en la agenda diplomática de México y Estados Unidos, 1876 – 1878,” Viridiana Hernández Fernández
“Ernesto Galarza and Woodrow Moore: Visiones Criticas Sobre El Estado en la Coyuntura del Programa Bracero,” Diana Irina Córdoba Ramírez, El Colegio de México
“Ciudad Juárez ante la deportación de mexicanos en El Paso, Texas, 1931. Conflicto local impulsado por políticas nacionales,” Fernando Saúl Alanís Enciso, El Colegio de San Luis, A.C.
Commentator: Yolanda Leyva, The University of Texas at El Paso

3:30-5:30pm Panel 4: Challenging the State
“Sociedad sin Estado y Estado sin sociedad: cultura mexicana y bifurcación de las lealtades políticas en los dos Laredos 1848-1898,” Manuel Ceballos Ramírez, Colegio de la Frontera Norte
“Nuevas aproximaciones al estudio de la zona libre: el caso de los vinicultores en Baja California y las negociaciones con el gobierno federal mexicano (1940-1945),” Diana Lizbeth Méndez Medina, Universidad Autónoma de Baja California
“A Dreary Lot of Parasites”: A Comparative Look at Drug Smuggling, Border Enforcement, and Prohibition Rhetoric along the US-Canada and US-Mexico Borders,” Holly Karibo, Tarleton State University

Commentator: Josiah Heyman, The University of Texas at El Paso

5:30-6:00pm Response: Ignacio Martinez, The University of Texas at El Paso

7:00-9:00 pm Dinner: Café Mayapan

Registration is required.
For more information and to register, please visit:
For questions or concerns, email:

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The Lives of Others: Refugees, Crisis, and National Identity in Europe’s Borderlands

In today’s guest post, Danielle Smith, Interim Director of the Center for International Studies at Georgia Southern University writes about the recent history of Europe’s borderlands in the context of the on-going refugee crisis. Danielle’s research interests cover memory and identity constructions in transitional societies, especially focusing on Europe. 

Quickly skimming the international press coverage from a week ago yields headlines that flattered Angela Merkel and the German government for their openness and incredible dedication to taking humanitarian action in the face of a seemingly overwhelming number of asylum-seeking refugees entering Europe. The Economist went so far to praise Chancellor Merkel’s “brave, decisive, and right” leadership on the issue as a sea change from years of “cautiously incremental decision-making.” This global eagerness to praise the German government’s actions glossed over – as anyone who has followed the state’s relationship with its minority populations can predict – the internal derision and push-back from nativist and nationalist groups.

This time the rhetoric was ignited by the arrival of refugees in numbers larger than predicted, and served to magnify far-right, right, and even some centrist party fears about safety, security, and the fate of Germany as a nation. To these groups, Germany’s overwhelming burden stems from the inability and unwillingness of other European Union states to take on their fair share of refugees, as determined a quota recently set by the European Commission. Nationalist rhetoric contextualizes this crisis as further weakening Germany economically and culturally. On September 13, the German government announced its intention to reverse previous pledges and close its southern borders with Austria by 5pm, thus temporarily exiting the Schengen Area. These chaotic and vacillating decisions represent far larger than a single domestic or foreign policy action by the state of Germany. It does, rather, symbolize decades of unresolved issues related to the development of a supra-national European identity and the role of state and national borders that stubbornly remain in conflict with the idea of “Europe” as an identity space.

An important feature in the creation of identities and nations are borderlands, representing a set of boundaries where people attempt to define the beginning and ending of “otherness,” a task that can only be achieved in the idealistic self-delineating of national identities. On the contrary, borderlands are often classified as frontiers because they represent a co-mingling of identities along politically designated boundaries. These complicated situations suffer from a variety of conflicting responses related to the proper conceptualization for imagining these landscapes and dividing national groups, ranging from attempted cultural integration, to forced assimilation, to outbreaks of violent ethnic chauvinism. For the EU, the Schengen Agreement originated as a remedy for divisive centripetal forces which produce nationalist center-seeking and “othering” at defined borders.

In large geographic states, people have the ability to physically move away from borderlands to the center and escape the constant pressure of and disentangle themselves from the immediacy of these otherness questions. Pursuing nation-states counters the purpose and goals of developing a European Union of ever closely tied states. Fostering borderless mobility between states serves to confer the conception of a state to the larger territory of Europe, especially as comprised by those states that agree to and abide by the terms of Schengen. This is an important point as the classical definition of a state does include the presence of a permanent population. Borderless mobility, then, enables heterogeneity amongst nations formerly confined to specific spaces and eliminates inclusion/exclusion dynamics by erasing borders that foster such practices. Ideally, no European whose nationality originates within the Schengen Area can be an “other,” and these national identities become combined into the ideal of “European.” Continue reading

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Book Review: Borderland on the Isthmus: Race, Culture, and the Struggle for the Canal Zone

We’re excited to present this guest post by Gregory Lella, a PhD student in the History department at the State University of New York at Stonybrook. His main research interest is internal law enforcement and incarceration within the U.S. military, particularly in enclaves, bases, and facilities located outside of the United States. He is interested in how the military’s parallel culture and legal system functioned in the context of the carceral state.

Donoghue, Michael. Borderland on the Isthmus: Race, Culture, and the Struggle for the Canal Zone. Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2014.

Michael Donoghue’s Borderland on the Isthmus is an ambitious attempt to chronicle the social history of the Panama Canal Zone using the lens of borderlands history. Focusing on the years between 1903 and 1999, Donoghue produces a study of identity, culture, race, gender, and sexuality that accomplishes many of its objectives but in some moments falls short of its challenging goals.


Donoghue studies the Canal Zone as a noncontiguous borderland—or a borderland geographically disconnected from a larger imperial entity—and he structures his chapters thematically rather than chronologically, with each focusing on a different group of people or the complications of a particular identity. Though this decision results sometimes in confusion for the reader—several subheadings and broad jumps between different topics can be disorienting—his analyses of race relations in the Panama Canal Zone and the relations between civilians (Zonians) and the military are insightful. When it comes to analyzing gender relations in and around this borderland, however, Donoghue places far more emphasis on the history of sex and prostitution than gender relations on the whole. The book’s tendency to focus on spectacular and shocking stories centering on sex—for instance, the first chapter’s opening anecdote about American GIs being fellated through a border fence by Panamanian prostitutes—only works if the author successfully uses these stories to illustrate a larger, deeper argument. Some of the book’s stories are loosely connected by theme but the reader is left wishing at times that the author made stronger, more coherent arguments to follow. Continue reading

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Borderlands and Transnational History at the 2015 Western History Association Conference

Each year I like to make a list of the borderlands and transnational history panels at the Western History Association annual conference. This year we will be in Portland and with the conference theme of “Thresholds, Walls, and Bridges,” there are sure to be lots of good topics! As always, there are some very tough decisions to make with some painful double-booking. I swear, it seems to get worse every year – multiple must-see panels all booked at the same time. Perhaps this is a good sign. Either my interests are ever-broadening and everything looks amazing, or there is simply more and more great work being done. Its probably a bit of both.

Here’s the breakdown: I am listing entire panels, even if only 1 paper is relevant to borderlands or transnational history. Also, I am interpreting these concepts broadly, but not too broadly. Often, conference theme buzzwords tend to creep into panel and paper proposal titles in ways that don’t always fit.. If there are any I miss, feel free to comment below. See you there!

Originally posted at my blog,
Re-posted here for everyone’s benefit.

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Three Calls for Submissions from 2016 NACCS TEJAS

Coordinators for the National Association for Chicana and Chicano Studies—Tejas Foco have sent along three calls for submissions for awards considerations ahead of the 2016 conference. We’ve attached the PDFs below:




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CFP: NACCS Tejas Foco at Lone Star College-Kingwood

THEME: Preserving Traditions, Stories, and Customs, Values, of the Mexican and Mexican American Community

The 2016 NACCS Tejas Foco conference is an interdisciplinary conference that is calling for submissions that offer insight into traditions, oral history (leyedas), passed down by our antepasados, customs, dichoscreencias, folkore (i.e., La Llorana, El Cucuy), language (i.e., caló), food, religion (i.e.religious drama pastorela), literature, music (baladas), pastimes (i.e., game of Huachas), folk art (i.e., murals, retablos), folk medicine (sobador/a, curandero/a), education, and Latino/a history and how they affect our everyday lives and identity.


We encourage submissions that seek to address the following, but not limited to, questions:

  • What external socioeconomic forces causes us to move away from these customs and traditions?
  • What generational factors operate in explaining the dilemma behind our children becoming non-practitioners of nuestra cultura and especially practicing the Spanish language and recognizing the value of bilingualism as an asset?
  • How does assimilation into American mainstream culture affect these customs and traditions and how has our culture changed over time?
  • What can we do, if anything, to stop the disappearance of customs and traditions? Or is disappearance inevitable and/or necessary to move forward? (Are some customs better left behind?)
  • How does the Mexican and Mexican American culture change American national and local cultural practices?
  • What is the role that folklore and public culture play in social movements? How do social movements influence Chicano/Mexicano culture?
  • How could Mexican and Mexican values serve to enrich contemporary mainstream America?
  • How does gender, sexuality and LGBT analyses offer new insights to understanding customs and traditions?

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Book Review: Ottoman-Iranian Borderlands: Making a Boundary, 1843-1914

We’re pleased to feature a new book review by Masoud (Ahmad) Ariankhoo on Borderlands History blog, today! Ahmad is a Ph.D. student in Stony Brook University’s Department of History. He is interested in the history of tolerance with a focus on the Medieval Sufi traditions of Persia. He is now working on a collection of letters from a High Middle Ages Sufi master to tease out attitudes to religious plurality.

Ates, Sabri. Ottoman-Iranian Borderlands: Making a Boundary, 1843-1914. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2013, 350 pp.

Sabri Ates’s The Ottoman-Iranian Borderlands is an extensive historical study of “an ancient interacting frontier” between two rival powers of the Middle East that only concluded “days before World War I” (1, 317). Ates centers his analysis on forgotten or neglected facets of a borderland that was constantly contested, re-imagined and reshaped by various players over several centuries. The book breaks away from the unidirectional approach of examining the center’s effects on the periphery and instead sheds light on the influence of borderlanders on those in power and the making of the border itself.

          ottoman iranian borderlands

Regarding his terminology, Ates points out that he uses “borderland, border, and frontier interchangeably” which may draw critique from borderlands historians as each term holds a specific meaning all its own (8). The author, however, demonstrates that he is fully aware of these distinctions by giving priority to the term “borderland” in his description of the contested region between the Ottomans’ and Iranians’ territories. He also does not refer to borders as impenetrable barriers in which the mobility of humans is completely contained but rather believes that the process towards establishing a defined border exhibits a “decrease in the porosity of the frontier as a filter” (197). Ates’s particular approach is significant since it puts his work in line with the global trend towards a more multilateral understanding of borders and borderlands and is also one of the first scholarly works that addresses the border interactions in the Middle East through the lens of borderlands methodology

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