Greetings from Chicago, Illinois! From the 13 to the 16 of October, 2016, urban historians, city planners, biographers, architects, and public policy specialists convened at the Philip Corboy Law Center of Loyola University Chicago for the Urban History Association’s Eighth Biennial Conference. David-James (DJ) Gonzales and I had the opportunity to attend and present at this year’s meeting.
We arrived on Friday, October 14 and were able to visit some amazing panels that interrogated the themes of carcerality and the state, urban history before the “city,” settler colonialism, and the lack of scholarship on urban Latinx history. It is exciting to see over the years how each urban history conference features more and more panels on Latinx neighborhoods, community activism, and radical political thought. Some of the panels that were scheduled for the weekend included: “The Fight for Immigrant Rights in Los Angeles, Post-1965,” “Latino Studies and the New Urban History,” “Urban Latinos: Ethnic Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, Transnational Communities, and Cities in the Postwar United States,” “Latinos and the Changing World of Urban Work,” and “Rethinking the Boston ‘Bussing Crisis’”
Moreover, there were some great sessions on the connections between ethnicity, immigration, and urban space, as with a plenary on “A City of Immigrants: Immigration Reform since 1965 and its Urban Consequences.” The panel sought to present post-1965 as a defining point not just for civil rights, but for new groups of Latinx immigrants to the country. There was also a roundtable titled, “Settler Colonialism in American History?” This panel was absolutely terrific, especially because of the open conversations the panelists had with the audience. An individual from the audience posed the question, “Can only native scholars utilize settler colonialism in their research and can settler colonialism only be used to understand native pasts?” Nathan Connolly, a Black historian of property rights and land in Florida, responded that the moment we start to put restrictions on who can write certain pasts or operate specific optics is the moment white supremacy succeeds. Llana Barber, a specialist in immigration and Latinx history, concurred and suggested that settler colonialism helps attenuate the differences between different historically-marginalized ethnic groups. She compared Puerto Rican and Native American pasts, referring to land sovereignty and citizenship rights through the guise of a friendly state. The roundtable concluded that settler colonialism can and is helpful in thinking through ethnic histories like the Latinx past. Continue reading