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: UNL History & Ethnic Studies

Dear readers, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Department of History is conducting a search for applicants to fill an opening for a tenure-track position at the rank of assistant professor. An emphasis on Latin@ history is essential; the preferred candidate will “teach undergraduate and graduate courses in History and Ethnic Studies.”

The selected candidate must have her/his PhD in History completed by August 2018. Additionally, UNL lists preferred qualifications applicants may have as: “Interest in immigration, transborder issues, and/or the Great Plains; ability to contribute to digital history or digital humanities; ability to contribute to American West program.”

The position begins in August 2018. In order for your application to be given full consideration, submit before October 16th, 2017. For more information, or to apply, follow the link. Questions can also be directed to Dr. Jeannette Jones, the search committee chair.

 

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Industry, Community, and Social Change: Brief Reflections on the Impact of Infrastructure Development in the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands

This short essay is a spiritual sequel to a post I wrote for the blog in February 2015, adapted from a conference paper about infrastructure, economic development, and state formation presented at a meeting of the WHA. -MK

The implementation of new infrastructure technologies in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries had a profound impact on society in the U.S.-Mexico borderlands. The desire to improve the mobility of goods and people conflicted with desires to control who could be considered part of the towns and settlements that appeared around mining operations. It is a history that informs many contemporary political discussions about the border, foreshadowing future problems that can emerge from state and national governments hostile to diversity.

The growth in national rail networks linked once remote regions together and greatly reduced travel times. Sam Truett describes how the desire for access to copper reserves in Sonora drove economic expansion, which was facilitated by the arrival of new iron pathways. Whereas entrepreneurs had long lacked access to mineral resources due to the high cost of extraction and transport no longer faced such an insurmountable, railroads changed this condition. In Nacozari, Sonora, the U.S. firm Phelps, Dodge and Company expanded copper operations and connected the town to its burgeoning transportation network. Despite environmental challenges, corporate managers and engineers were more concerned with growth that fit within the parameters of the “regional empire” being built by Phelps Dodge.

Examining social change and racial division, Katherine Benton Cohen’s work on the creation of a “white man’s camp” in Bisbee, Arizona is a key example of the role of infrastructure development in the borderlands. She notes that whereas whites had tended to assimilate into Mexican cultural norms in the region in the mid-1800s, this gradually changed. The growth in Anglo migration, in conjunction with the removal of hostile Indian communities in 1886 undermined previous social dynamics. Phelps Dodge also had a hand in this process as they expanded mining operations and developed labor hierarchies that inscribed different racialized ideas onto the local community. A dual wage system for workers favored whites and rendered Mexican labor as “inferior” by paying them a lower rate. By the late 1800s, in Bisbee, Phelps Dodge had been the town’s largest employer and had used socially divisive labor hierarchies to its advantage. Company managers forged paternalistic practices through the construction of schools and development of other social services for whites, placing these activities under the guise of “modernizing” the community.

Benton Cohen’s research parallels Truett’s work on Cananea, Sonora, where Phelps Dodge representatives imported “American-styles” of living, going so far as shipping pre-fabricated homes from Los Angeles for Anglo residents. Both authors note how these architectural norms reinforced notions of racial inferiority as the company constructed smaller, cruder dwellings for Mexicans. In many respects, industrialization and urbanization brought new social pressures as local elites sought to inscribe a tiered notion of status not only in people’s pay, but also in the spaces where they lived. The idea of “America” championed by Phelps Dodge and others sought to reinforce these uneven relationships among Anglos, Mexicans, and other participants in the industrializing project that transformed the frontier into the border.

Miguel Tinker Salas approaches the question of border society and infrastructure development from the perspective of Mexico. He attempts to bridge the scholarly divide by drawing transnational connections between Arizona and Sonora as a Latin Americanist scholar studying the borderlands. Tinker Salas discusses the motivations for railroad construction among contemporary Sonorans, who saw the technology as an “instrument of progress.” He finds that local elites’ embrace of this new form of transportation went beyond economic calculations and included a socio-cultural impetus. Since railroads represented a modernizing project with substantive transformative aspects, Sonorans hoped the technology could allow their state to assert itself vis-à-vis regional economic competitors in the United States.

By the early twentieth century, government officials and popular opinion among whites, especially during the Great Depression, turned against the on-going demographic changes that greater mobility had afforded the borderlands. In response to the country’s economic crisis, state governments and federal authorities began rounding up and deporting Mexican immigrants, as well as U.S. citizens of Mexican descent. These openly racist program, which Francisco Balderrama and Raymond Rodriguez study, merged with policing practices to become an infrastructure of deportation that affected thousands of families across the region. Its dire consequences left a lasting impact on the country’s history, while also harkening to present-day concerns around hostility to the Dreamers and millions of other undocumented residents of the United States. The past has shown that officials have been willing to adapt existing infrastructure and policy norms in order to carry out government orders to identify and persecute whole communities.

The study of infrastructure transformation in the nineteenth and early twentieth-century borderlands uncovers a complex history that incorporates the significance of modernization alongside compelling critiques related to notions of “progress.” Transportation technologies played an integral role as railroads facilitated the flow of people and goods across the region. The history of the U.S.-Mexico borderlands represents a useful tool to better understand the role of industrial development. These processes are fraught with socio-political challenges and unfulfilled economic promises, but also speak to the robust character of exchange, as millions of individuals on both sides of the international boundary interact with one another and influence broad trends of identity production.

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Double Job Alert: Tenure Track LATAM Dartmouth & Rutgers

Dear readers, it’s that time of year again when the job listings begin to pile up in our inboxes and online message boards. We wanted to let you know about two opportunities for specialists of Latin American history. Dartmouth College and Rutgers University-New Brunswick have launched searches for candidates for positions beginning in the second-half of 2018.

For Dartmouth, candidates specializing in any period of history related to Latin American and the Caribbean are encouraged to apply. Excellence in teaching undergraduate must be shown in the applications. The position is tenure track and the successful candidate will enter at the rank of assistant professor. PhD must be completed by July 1st, 2018. The deadline to apply is next month, September 29, 2017, and all documents must be submitted via Interfolio. For more information, follow the link.

For Rutgers-New Brunswick, the Department of History is looking for candidates specializing in Modern Latin America (excluding the Caribbean) whose research focuses on themes of gender and/or race. The position is tenure track, open rank. Excellence in undergraduate and graduate teaching must be shown. The search committee will begin reviewing applications on November 1, 2017; the Interfolio submission system for this position will close on February 1, 2018. For more information, to apply, follow the link.

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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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