BHIP #5: We Speak to Alexandra Minna Stern

This is the fifth installment of the Borderlands History Interview Project (BHIP), a series that showcases the voices of respected historians in the field to discuss their current projects and views on the present and future of borderlands history.

As November draws to its end and the foliage has reached its zenith here in Ann Arbor, we at Borderlands History Blog are happy to present our next installment in the Borderlands History Interview Project with Dr. Alexandra Minna Stern. Several of the Borderlands History Blog writers already share a repertoire with Professor Stern, including our very own Lina-Maria Murillo. Stern has served as both a great mentor, advocate, and friend, and I am pleased to have caught up with her earlier this month. We conversed in the Department of American Culture for a while, both speaking about research interests, and well, borderlands.

Alexandra Minna Stern is a historian of science and medicine and Professor in the Departments of Obstetrics and Gynecology, American Culture, and History at the University of Michigan. She is also the current director of the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies and serves in various capacities in two Public Health units as well. Stern received her PhD in History from the University of Chicago in 1999. She is the author of the Eugenic Nation: Faults and Frontiers of Better Breeding in Modern America, which was published by the University of California Press in 2005, and of Telling Genes: The Story of Genetic Counseling in America, which was published by Johns Hopkins University Press in 2012, an exploration into genetic counseling. Currently, she is underway on two projects, including a history on sterilization in California, and the history of the “gay gene.”

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Dr. Alexandra Minna Stern


Different to some of our previous authors, Stern’s interaction with Borderlands history came about when exploring the history of medicine and science vis-à-vis eugenics through the U.S. nation. And while her primary research is not explicitly borderlands, some of her methodological frameworks – specifically the borderlands of gender and conceptual borderlands – assist her scholarship. In Eugenic Nation, for example, Stern investigates how notions of racist eugenic thought were entrenched within federal education policy (segregation vs. integration), and the policies of federal state agents (border patrol and military health officials) well into the twentieth century. While Stern herself identifies as a historian of science and medicine, much of her work on the border (as well as the state) has been well received, especially some of her articles in the Hispanic American Historical Review, and in the edited collection, Continental Crossroads. They have indeed provided insight into border surveillance, state agents (border patrol) and the transnational past of state-sanctioned violence.

We thank Dr. Stern for her time, and insights into history and the borderlands past. I would like to thank Michael Kirkland Bess for uploading and editing the interview, and also to Lina-Maria Murillo for her help.

For the full interview, follow the link:

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