Monthly Archives: December 2016

A Year in Review: BHB in 2016

The past twelve months will likely be remembered as one of the most frustrating years of our time. From civil strife and violence on American streets to brewing economic and political crises in Mexico to war in other parts of the world. At the blog, we have tried to make sense of these complex events from the perspective of our historical training. We have looked to the past to reflect on the present and think about our future. Over this past year, thanks to your support, our blog has also continued to grow. What follows is a list of some of our favorite and most popular contributions in 2016.

This year, our most popular essay was Lori Flores´s From Dissertation to Book: Writing a Book Proposal. We strive for practical contributions to be an important part of our work at the blog as a service to readers. In this piece, Lori writes: If you’ve just finished your dissertation, congratulations! Now set it aside for a good while. Trying to tackle dissertation-to-book revisions too soon will prevent you from seeing your graduate school-inspired language, and from knowing what needs to be tweaked, cut, or added in terms of content. Many times, you need a more distant perspective on your work in order to articulate to editors how you plan to produce a book, which is an entirely different beast in terms of framing, style, and structure. Feel free to circulate your work to valued colleagues for their input while you’re gaining that distance, and tackle other passion projects or interesting new readings in your field for some inspiration.

The blog has featured a number of excellent conversations with scholars. Lina Murillo’s Borderlands History Interview Project (BHIP) has continued to grow, adding two new episodes this year. She returned in March, interviewing Pablo Mitchell on his work: Mitchell pointed to one of the underlying tensions he feels has driven his work in Borderlands history. He explains that while some historians continue with a Boltonian sense of the borderlands, his allegiance lies more with Cherrie Moraga and Gloria Anzaldúa’s theories that have provided the theoretical framework for his research. Anzaldúa’s work helped Mitchell to think about sexuality, race, gender, and borderlands and to ask different questions of archival materials and read against the grain. Continue reading

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Clements Center Research Fellowships for the Study of Southwestern America

Clements Center for Southwest Studies 2017-2018 Fellowship Applications: Deadline for Submission, January 20, 2017.

Since 1996, the Clements Center for Southwest Studies, located at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, has nurtured scholars – both junior and senior – who work on the Southwest and Borderlands.  Scholars are given a year, in residence, in which to focus solely on completing a book manuscript. Past fellows include: Juliana Barr (Peace Came in the Form of a Woman: Indians and Spaniards in the Texas Borderlands), Monica Perales (Smeltertown: Making and Remembering a Southwest Border Community), Katrina Jagodinsky (Legal Codes and Trees: Indigenous Women’s Sovereignty in the Sonoran and Puget Sound Borderlands, 1854-1946) and Pekka Hämäläinen (The Comanche Empire). Continue reading

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Job Alert: Post-doc Fellow, Tulane

Dear readers, a new hiring opportunity is open at Tulane University’s Center for Latin American Studies. The institution is looking for a specialist in the humanities and social sciences (open to all fields) “engaged in scholarly or creative work on topics related to existing areas of institutional strength. Fellows are expected to participate in the full intellectual life of the Center and to offer an advanced interdisciplinary seminar on a subject of their choice during the spring of the fellowship year.”

The appointment is for the 2017-2018 academic year. The successful candidate must show strong research and teaching ability. PhD must be in hand by the start of the 2017 fall semester. Continue reading

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Latinx Undergraduates and the Future of the History Profession

During the past few months, the AHA released several reports detailing a nationwide decline in History majors across campuses. In this month’s Perspectives on History, Yovanna Pineda problematizes that claim, and illuminates in her own two-year case study how one academic constituency – Latinxs – is increasing in history major enrollments. An associate professor of Latin American history at the University of Central Florida, Pineda sampled and interviewed first-generation Latinx students and their experiences within history departments as well as those applying to history graduate programs.

She finds that while many first generation Latinx college students share a passion for history, several top research and elite private institutions fail to successfully recruit such students. Pineda reports, for example, that some graduate programs even questioned a student’s English competency and requested that they take the TOEFL to ensure language ability. Her analysis confirms the need for an institutional apparatus that will continue to effectively recruit and retain first generation students of color in the history profession.

Read her article here.

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Demolishing the Barrio


Lorenza Martinez, Susana Morales, and her sister Martha.

There are so many political issues “trending” right now it has been hard to keep up with the pace.  Between President-elect Trump’s jaw-dropping cabinet picks and the devastating war in Syria; between Fidel Castro’s death and the future of Cuba and the struggle against the Dakota Access Pipeline, sometimes local concerns and issues seem to take a backseat to these national and international crisis.

This is not so on the U.S.-Mexico border.  Currently, there is a local group of activists, academics, politicians and residents attempting to resist urban renewal plans that will devastate a major historical area on El Paso’s Southside.  Their efforts are forcing the city government to contend with an informed community bent on protecting historical sites and homes still inhabited by residents in this traditionally ethnic Mexican barrio.  As developers salivate over this potentially lucrative opportunity, developing $180 million multi-purpose indoor arena, residents and activists alike are coming together to fight the destruction of one of El Paso’s oldest neighborhoods and the potential displacement of dozens of families and businesses.

Since my own research on reproductive rights is concerned with the area south of the train tracks, I was excited when a walking tour was announced to show city residents the breadth of the proposed development project and the effects the demolition of these city blocks would have on El Paso’s residents and to the city’s legacy.  My mother-in-law, Susana Morales (Martinez is her maiden name) had planned a trip downtown to purchase some trinkets for her grandchildren (my daughters) and I asked if she would join me on the walk later that afternoon.  “Sure mija!” she exclaimed, “You know I grew-up on South Leon near Overland.”  Her family has long ties to the border region and throughout her life has lived in some of the most historic areas of the city, but this was the first time she mentioned Duranguito. Continue reading

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New Book: Border Flows

A new book is out on water and the history of managing this resource in the U.S.-Canadian borderlands. Climate change will deeply affect how nations negotiate water rights, and this tension will continue to influence political realities in border regions for decades to come. Border Flows: A Century of the Canadian-American Water Relationship, edited by Lynne Heasley and Daniel Macfarlane, is a welcome and timely addition to the scholarly literature. Continue reading

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Westworld and the Frontier Imaginary

Lina and Mike have been obsessed with Westworld over the last two months, and in this essay, they share their reflections on the first season of the series as it came to an end last Sunday. There are mild spoilers ahead, but the two authors keep the discussion focused on the major themes of the TV show as understood through a Borderlands history perspective. We hope you enjoy it. -ed

Westworld, set in the American West in the mid-to-late nineteenth century, tells the story of a futuristic amusement park where many of the “cast members” (to borrow a term of Disneyworld parlance) are not human, but rather humanoid robots.  In the narrative, there are frontier towns, Mexican outposts, renegade Confederate soldiers, violent indigenous tribes, and endless lines of gunslingers and prostitutes. They serve the wealthy clients who pay large sums to visit the park and indulge in the bacchanalia and bloodshed on offer. Undergirding this scifi-western fantasy, dozens of levels beneath the surface, is the infrastructure of the park, built by its director, Dr. Robert Ford (Anthony Hopkins), and run with the help of his chief deputies, Bernard Lowe (Jeffrey Wright) and Theresa Cullen (Sidsi Babbet Knudsen), whose departments also vie for power, while references are made to impatient, faraway investors.

Some of us on the Borderlands History blog have been quite taken by this sci-fi thriller and believe we can learn something about the contemporary understanding and continued obsession with the frontier through HBO’s newest hit.  Moreover, we see that the show not only uses the borderlands region as a material space where sexual and violent fantasies are played out by park visitors and workers alike, but a metaphor for other historical and modern borderlands.

Like Frederick Jackson Turner’s famous address before the American Historical Association, Westworld is also deeply concerned with the frontier. Whereas Turner’s frontier was geographic, this drama’s is scientific. Both use some concept of the frontier to understand how culture and society are shaped. Violence becomes the catalyst for westward expansion in Turner’s imagination, and helps push major turning points for the narratives constructed in the park for its patrons. Continue reading

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