Author Archives: Michael K. Bess

About Michael K. Bess

Mike is an Assistant Professor of History at the Centro de Investigación y Docencia Económicas, studying road building and mobility in Mexico and the U.S.-Mexico border. His research interests include the history of technology, modernization, and the environment.

Job alert: Bowdoin, LatAm, tenure-track

Dear readers, Bowdoin College’s History department is conducting a search to fill a tenure-track position in the history of Latin America. Scholars of the Caribbean and Brazil are also encouraged to apply. The teaching load is a 2/2 during the academic year and the position begins with the fall 2018 semester. More from the announcement:

The Department welcomes applications from candidates committed to the instruction and support of a diverse student population and those who will enrich and contribute to the College’s ethnic and cultural diversity. We value a community in which students of all backgrounds are warmly welcomed and encouraged to succeed. If you have experience working with a particular group of students in the context of Latin American History, we encourage you to address this in your cover letter.

Bowdoin values a strong commitment to research and a promise of long-term successful scholarly engagement as well as a dedication to teaching excellence in a liberal arts environment. There is internal funding in support of research, a junior sabbatical leave, and an accelerated post-tenure sabbatical schedule. Teaching load is two courses each semester. Ph.D. expected by date of appointment. We recognize that recruiting and retaining faculty may involve considerations of spouses and domestic partners. To that end, where possible, the College will attempt to accommodate and respond creatively to the needs of spouses and partners of members of the faculty.

For more information, or to apply, follow the link. The college only accepts online submissions.

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Job Alert: UC Davis Chicana/o Studies

Dear readers, the Department of Chicana/o Studies at UC Davis has launched a search for applicants to fill an open position in the department, at the rank of assistant or associate professor, specializing in Education. The successful candidate will have significant experience engaging and working with community issues. From the post:

Successful candidates will be expected to demonstrate excellence in delivering undergraduate and graduate level curriculum in Chicana/o Studies and/or Education with potential to teach emergent methodologies in the field of Chicana/o Studies. The department seeks scholars who have an interest in developing a new curricular track in Chicanx education. Chicana/o Studies is deeply invested in undergraduate education and is currently developing a graduate program. Successful candidates will be part of a collective effort to launch graduate education within Chicanx Studies. Ph.D. in Chicana/o Studies or related field must be completed by the first day of courses (September 24, 2018).

This position is funded through a UC Davis Hiring Investment Program effort. This position is one of two funded positions designed to create a cluster of faculty to develop links between the School of Education and the Chicana/o Studies Department. The second position is hired through the School of Education in a parallel search. These are separate positions that when hired will be expected to work together to bridge the School of Education faculty (SOE) to the Chicana/o Studies Department, developing curricular and programmatic collaborations.

Although the deadline is open, the department encourages applications to be completed by December 17th, 2017 in order to receive full consideration. For more information, or to apply, follow the link.

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Job alert: Lecturer in Latino/a History, Tufts

Dear readers, we wanted to let you know that the Department of History at Tufts University has launched a search for a part-time lecturer in Latinx History. Applicants should be able to teach courses on the history of Latin American-origin peoples from the colonial to modern period with an emphasis on the 20th and 21st centuries.

The department prefers candidates already have their PhD in hand at time of application, but ABDs will be considered. The successful candidate will teach undergraduate courses at Tufts for the spring 2018 semester.

Applications should include a CV, course proposal, and letters of recommendation. Review of candidates will begin immediately, all applications must be submitted via Interfolio.

For more information, or to apply, follow the link.

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Job Alert: Assistant Professor (TT) of Latin American/Mexico History, CSU Dominguez Hills

Dear readers, the History department at California State University Dominguez Hills is conducting a search for applicants to fill a tenure-track position in Latin American or Mexican history. The selected candidate will be expected to teach surveys in Latin American and Mexican history. S/he will also teach World and U.S. history courses for the university’s core curriculum.

Minimum requirements to apply include: “Ph.D. in the discipline of History. Degree must be in hand at time of application. Evidence of at least two years effective teaching as instructor of record. Demonstrated ability to teach Latin American, Mexican history, women’s history and gender history. Demonstrated record of effective teaching and student mentoring in culturally diverse academic environments. A promising research agenda.”

Applicants must submit their documents online by September 30th, 2017 and the review of applications begins in October. For more information, or to apply, follow the link, the job ID in the employment database is 3102.

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CFP: Fathers, Fathering, and Fatherhood: Queer Chicano/Mexicano Desire and Belonging

The co-editors of Lambda Literary Awards Finalist Queer in Aztlán: Chicano Male Recollections of Consciousness and Coming Out are calling on submissions for a new collected volume, which will examine notions of fatherhood and queer identity among Latino men. From the announcement:

The collection will seek to answer: How do fathers, acts of fathering or notions of fatherhood mark the lived experience of queer/gay Chicano/Mexicano males? How are queer men’s lives and notions of manhood and/or masculinity shaped by “fathering” experiences or lack thereof? How do queer/gay Chicano/Mexicano men construct cultural and sexual identities that contest traditional notions of manhood and/or masculinity?

The treatment of fatherhood as a publication topic pertaining to straight Chicano men alone is not yet commonplace in the literature; this qualifies as exceptional a book project on our topic, which in addition gives emphasis to queer/gay Chicano/Mexicano perspectives. The latter approach to fatherhood invites greater levels of complexity as seen through different lenses of Latino male sexuality, cultural traditions, and gender identities that have yet to be explored in published works. Also, because this is not an easy topic for many of our contributors to write about given the fear, anxiety, and disappointment that may arise, the editors hope the book will serve to inspire personal recollection, healing, growth and transformation for those engaged in this project as authors and for our audience.

The deadline to apply is December 31, 2017. For more information, check out the full announcement. To submit a draft with title, email the co-editors.

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Fighting Against Exclusion: Borderlands History in Modern Political Context

We’re excited to present the latest installment in our summer series about academics and activism in this current political moment. –editors

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The public fight over how we define social values in the United States has entered a new phase, one which critically requires participation and honest input from Borderlands scholars. Over the years, state legislators have sought to restrain intellectual diversity in education programs. One of the best-known cases occurred in Arizona, in 2011, when House bill 2281 went into effect as law, banning social justice and ethnic studies programs in public and charter schools under the guise of forbidding “resentment toward a race or class of people.” The outcome made it harder for voices of people of color to be heard and limited critiques of the official narrative built around the state’s history and identity. In January 2017, Arizona lawmakers proposed a new bill that would expand this ban to include public universities.

This Arizona law prompted push back in other parts of the country. Following its passage, legislators in California and Oregon, proposed bills that would implement ethnic studies programs in their states. In May 2017, one of the most recent bills signed into law with bipartisan support in Indiana authorized ethnic and racial studies courses to be offered as electives in all high schools at least once a year.

The debate around how themes of racial and ethnic identity are taught in schools and universities remains deeply contentious. The 2014 Supreme Court decision to weaken the Voting Rights Act threatens to politically dis-empower many of the voices in favor of these programs. Moreover, the 2016 election campaign and Trump’s victory buoyed extremist, right-wing proponents who have verbally attacked public and private institutions they perceive as “left-wing” spaces. This post briefly examines the politics of exclusion, in conjunction with neoliberal policies, which threaten to close access to diversity of opinion and hollow out the academic job market in the country.

One of our concerns is the chilling effect that extremist, right-wing rhetoric has on academia and on the job market for new academics. Providing announcements for job listings is an important part of the work that our blog offers as a service to readers. We want you to be aware of any openings that coincide with Borderlands history, Mexican history, Mexican-American history, Latinx/Chicanx Studies, Latin American Studies, and Ethnic/Racial Studies. Since January, we noted a marked decrease in the number of positions available for these fields compared to previous years. This drop follows reductions in the job market, which the American Historical Association has noted. For example, so far, for 2017, we’ve published three job postings for openings in our field, whereas by this time last year, we had published six postings.

Admittedly, this is a small, imperfect snapshot of the job market for historians, and there are limits to the conclusions we can reach. The information is anecdotal and dependent on human factors, including how often we check online for announcements or are informed about openings by other people and institutions.

Nevertheless, the job market cannot be isolated from the rest of society. As the AHA has recorded, the 2008 financial crisis had an enormous impact on the overall number of academic openings available for historians. The job numbers for our profession have struggled to recover from the post-2008 decline. Now, this problem is compounded by a series of state and national elections over recent years that have given an imprimatur to views in favor of limiting access to the liberal arts, while also giving voice to candidates spouting falsehoods or “alternative facts,” a popular term lending the appearance of veracity to untrue statements.

In this larger social context, we raise a pressing concern facing individuals and organizations: the urge to engage in self-censorship. In a heightened political climate, fraught with angry protesters (online and offline), cheered on by a pugilistic commander-in-chief, the urge to self-censor becomes more acute. The fear of reprisal increases a willingness to sidestep the thorny points in our public discussion about the direction our societies (and the world) are following.

A goal of our summer series about academia and activism is to reflect on our work as students and teachers of the U.S.-Mexico borderlands. Scholars should not stand by on the sidelines as universities and other important social institutions are dismantled by a wave of political leaders that see our organizations as effete threats to the “real America.” We join with other historians from the broader academic community who have discussed the need to engage with the public. As Keisha N. Blain and Ibram X. Kendi have written further, scholars must take an active public role in defending the truth. Otherwise, we cede ground to forces that are antithetical to the liberal, democratic process. Attacks against the legitimacy of higher education, alongside the continued demolition of tenure and the professional academic career, threaten to remove an important voice from the public space.

An understanding of Borderlands history uncovers many of the contemporary political and social tensions facing the United States as deeply rooted in questions of identity formation and the forging of the nation-state. It is a history scarred by racism and ethnic division. Studying it closely shows that the Alt-Right, and other extremist voices are not new. They are woven into the country’s historical fabric. The toxic views that Trump spread about Mexicans, Central American immigrants, and other people, will not simply disappear if he fails to win reelection in 2020. These ideas have been given a voice, and are propped up by lucrative multimedia operations, online, and on television and radio, with an audience of millions.

Scholars have a responsibility to educate the public. We should not remain in the comfortable space of simply talking to one another in the so-called “ivory tower.” For historians, we must document and contextualize the longue durée of racism and prejudice in the United States and elsewhere. Specifically drawing on examples from the U.S.-Mexico borderlands shines a light on the open wounds of nationalism, state power, and identity. By taking a stand, and clearly articulating our narratives with students, and in public venues, we can respond to attacks by extremists who rely on falsehoods and misconceptions when forming their arguments. In doing so, we acknowledge the role that teachers and professors must play in the generational struggle to define our communities, hopefully pushing back against exclusionary narratives embedded in the creation and function of the nation-state.

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Job Alert: Sarah Lawrence College, International Relations (TT)

Dear readers, Sarah Lawrence College is conducting a search for candidates to fill a tenure-track position in International Relations. What piqued our interest about this posting was that one of the qualities they’re looking for in applicants is a research/teaching specialization in cross-border mobility and forced migration. As such, we wanted to bring it to your attention.

Here is the full list of qualities given in the announcement:

[R]esearch and teaching interests focus on at least two of the following: international organizations and institutions; feminist international relations; race and international relations; strategic and security studies; peacekeeping and humanitarian intervention; conflict prevention, peacebuilding and statebuilding; human rights, reconciliation and justice; cross-border mobility and forced migration; global environmental governance and challenges; global political economy and inequality.

You must have your PhD at the time of appointment, as well as teaching experience. Preferred candidates should show strength in undergraduate teaching and student development.

The deadline to apply is October 13, 2017, and the position begins in the fall of 2018.

For more information, or to apply, follow the link.

 

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CFP: New Directions in Black Western Studies

Dear readers, a call for submissions is on going for an upcoming workshop on Black Western Studies at the 57th Annual Western Historical Association, which will be held in San Diego from November 1-4, 2017. The organizers are also planning a special issue on “New Directions in Black Western Studies” for the quarterly interdisciplinary journal, American Studies. Papers accepted for the workshop will be considered for inclusion in the special issue. 

Scholars of Borderlands studies, among other research fields, are encouraged to apply. The deadline to do so is June 30th; submit your abstract (max: 500 words) via email to Jeannete Eileen Jones, Kalenda Eaton and Michael Johnson.

From the announcement:

For both the workshop and the journal we are interested in what it means to read the North American West as a Black space with varied and deep possibilities.. By this we mean, how the concept of presenting/representing the West is informed by black identities and identity-making, rival geographies tied to black mobility, black culture, black knowledge production, black arts, and black literatures. The WHA workshop and AMSJ special issue  will fill a gap in American Studies by bringing Black Western Studies into current dialogue with other fields of American Studies that focus on the intersections between race, ethnicity, and place/geography.

For more information, follow the link.

 

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Conference Notes: Borders, Braceros and Mobility at CALACS 2017

This year was my first time attending the Canadian Association of Latin American and Caribbean Studies conference, which was held at the University of Guelph in early June. The theme was “Walls, Barriers, and Mobility” fitting for the global political realities facing all of us.

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University of Guelph

The panel I was on included Catherine Vézina, my colleague at CIDE, Irina Córdoba Ramírez, from the Colegio de México, and Mateo J. Carrillo of Stanford. Our topic was “Migración y movilidad transfronterizas: logística y política, 1940s-1960s,” with the goal of integrating a discussion of policy around the Bracero program with discussion of infrastructure development in northern Mexico. We were scheduled to give the session at 8:30am, Sunday morning, the last day of the conference. It’s not the ideal time to discuss economic and labor policy along the​ US-Mexico border, but I was excited to see that we had a small audience who had some great questions for us after we delivered the papers.

The session began with my work, titled, “Trade and Travel across the Border: Examining the Social, Commercial, and Labor Ties between Nuevo León and Texas, 1940s-1960s.” I gave a general overview of economic development and social ties in northeastern Mexico, focused on the relationships between business people in Monterrey, Nuevo León, and their Texan counter parts in the Rio Grande Valley. In the late 19th-century and early-to-mid 20th century, public and private cooperation facilitated growth; by the end of World War II, presidents Manuel Ávila Camacho and Franklin Delano Roosevelt met in Monterrey, calling the US-Mexico borderlands a “natural bridge” between the “Anglo-saxon and Latin cultures.”

During the 1950s and early 1960s, the business elites in the region continued to forge closer ties. At the same time as national policy and public opinion, in both countries, drifted away from bilateral agreements like the Bracero program. US and Mexican political leaders increasingly backed moves for greater restrictions on immigration and trade, respectively.

Following me, Catherine gave a detailed history of the diplomatic relationship between Mexico and the United States around the Bracero program, titled, “Destino: incierto. Malos tratos e intervención gubernamental en la reglamentación el transporte de los braceros.” She showed that shortly after the Second World War, politicians and publics in both countries, had begun to turn on the Mexican temporary workers who came to the United States under the Farm Labor Agreement of 1942.

During the war, they had been hailed as heroes who contributed to the Allied effort against fascism. But, as Catherine explained, priorities changed after the war; the Mexican government increasingly viewed the Braceros as a political problem, while in the Mexican press, these workers were often depicted as traitors and vendepatrias for having left. Likewise, in the United States, a combination of factors, including criticism of workers’ treatment by contractors, union skepticism, and racist views of Mexicans, condemned the Braceros in US public opinion.

Irina continued the discussion of the Bracero program and its participants. Hers was a cultural and oral history, titled, “Dinámicas locales en la contratación de trabajadores agrícolas dentro del Programa Bracero: los casos de las estaciones migratorias de Chihuahua y Mexicali.” It focused on the everyday impact of the Bracero program on the lives of the men who became a part of it. Irina described the recruitment centers in Mexico that processed applicants, evaluating their ability to work as farmhands and conducting medical tests to assure health.

Even as the project came under growing criticism, men continued to arrive at recruitment centers to escape unemployment or more difficult conditions in other parts of Mexico. The process was deeply politicized; state leaders demanded that in return for hosting a recruitment center, their workers should be given priority in the application process. The centers became a kind of release valve for the pressure of economic conditions in northern Mexico, allowing local men to be funneled more easily through the process of applying and going to work in the United States. When the men returned, however, they faced public scorn by some for having participated.

Lastly, Mateo (who also won the award for Best Graduate Essay at the conference, this year) presented his work, “Migrant Flows: Irrigation and Transformation in Western Mexico, 1946-1964.” He described economic conditions in western Mexico, starting with President Miguel Alemán’s support for local agriculture. Mateo notes that where roads were built, so too were irrigation networks. This relationship was crucial to improving regional mobility, and connecting rural communities to access with credit to grow their farms and ranches.

The idea of this policy was to expand work opportunities in Mexico, but other results materialized. The small loans that campesinos received for installation of irrigation could be difficult to repay. When they fell in arrears, the government had the power to cut off the waters worsening the situation, and forcing people to sell and give up their lands. As land was consolidated by business and political cronies, local people were forced to go elsewhere in search of work, including crossing the border with the United States.

As a whole, the papers captured a wide swath of geographical, political, and class factors in Mexico during the mid-to-late 20th century. Northern elites benefitted well from ties with Americans, while poor and working-class people faced loss of land or public scorn if they went to work in the United States. Although the border had long been a zone of fluid trade and mobility with heavy investment in industry and infrastructure, government policies and public opinion gradually shifted to efforts that restricted border spaces. The decline of the Bracero program underscored these factors, where public anger, worker mistreatment, and suspicion of “the other” made its existence increasingly untenable.

At the same time, the benefits of infrastructure development could oftentimes​ be limited, and even possibly detrimental for the communities they were intended to serve. Bad loan terms and aggressive payment enforcement transformed people’s lives for the worse, not better. As today’s political leaders, particularly in the United States, stoke old fears and resentments, our panel at CALACS highlighted the long legacy of tension on the border around trade, labor, and mobility, and the outsized impact national and bilateral policies can have on everyday life in the US-Mexico borderlands.

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CFP: Historicizing Immigration Controls and Resistance

Dear readers, the editors of a special issue for the Journal of American Ethnic History reached out to us about a call for papers for this project. They’re looking for submissions “that examine policies through multiple frameworks required to understand border surveillance; and that examine the politics of immigration control as both involving federal, state, and municipal actors—as well as social workers, legal advocates, and community and religious leaders—working to disparate ends.”

The editors also encourage submissions that consider “the historical origins of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency, and its predecessors…” as well as work by scholars on the “cultural responses to restrict immigration policies ad enforcement practices, which historicize how immigrant and ethnic publics have used art, literature, music, and other mediums as modes of criticism.”

Submissions for the special issue are due by September 1st and should not exceed 35 pages in length, doubled-spaces with notes. Follow the JAEH style sheet and include a 50-100 word biographical note with their work. For more information, or to submit a manuscript for consideration, email the editors, Dr. Chantel Rodríguez and Dr. Andrew Urban.

Categories: Call for Papers, News and Announcements | 1 Comment

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