Interviews

BHIP #8: We speak to Dr. Grace Peña Delgado!

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Dr. Grace Peña Delgado. Photo credit: Dr. Ernesto Chávez.

 

It was a lovely morning drive to Santa Cruz, California to meet with and interview Dr. Grace Peña Delgado. Dr. Delgado is currently Associate Professor at the University of California, Santa Cruz. She is the author of Making the Chinese Mexican: Global Migration, Exclusion, and Localism in the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands (Stanford University Press: 2012) which was distinguished as a CHOICE Academic title. Additionally, she co-authored Latino Immigrants in the United States (Polity, 2012) with Ronald Mize.

Delgado has penned several noteworthy articles including her latest piece, “Border Control and Sexual Policing: White Slavery and Prostitution along the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands, 1903-1910,” in the Western Historical Quarterly which garnered several awards including the Judith Lee Ridge Award for best article in history published by a member of the Western Association of Women Historians and the Bolton-Cutter Award for best article on Spanish Borderlands history. We had a wonderful conversation about her past projects and her current and future research. Delgado discussed the significance of migration, immigration, race, gender, and sexuality in the borderlands, and about the ways in which the state as a focus of study is becoming more important as we understand the history of the making of the Mexico-U.S. and the Canada-U.S. boundary.

Delgado explained how she discovered the topic for her first book Making the Chinese Mexican. Listening to her grandparents recall the expulsion of the Chinese community out of Sonora, Mexico, Delgado realized she had no historical knowledge of this event. She saw promise in this little known topic and this transnational story became the focus of her dissertation and then her book. In the end Delgado believes her manuscript is a critique of nationalism on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border. While there is a strong historical understanding of the dangers of American nativism at the turn of the twentieth century, her book shows the ways in which Mexican nationalism/nativism pushed back and forged a distinct border culture along the border of Arizona and Sonora, specifically as it related to the racialization of Chinese and Mexican communities in the region.

Her current project emerged alongside her research for her first book; as she dug through archival material that discussed the exclusion of Chinese from the United States and Mexico, she discovered documents that related to white slavery and the policing of women’s bodies along the border. While her first book revealed the layers of racial justifications for national exclusion, her current research unpacks the gendered and sexualized modes of exclusion, particularly for women. Delgado believes that a deeper and more nuanced analysis of state bureaucracy will reveal the ways in which sexuality lay at the foundation of state control along the border. She contends that the state and state formation mechanisms have been absent from the ways in which we analyze identity formation and the creation of communities along the border.

We also talked about the influence of Chicano/a and Latino/a historiography and methods in her research. Delgado made clear that her next book will reclaim borderlands history as Chicano/a history and vice versa. As borderlands scholars begin to address different questions, Delgado suggests this work has not been attributed to Chicano and Chicana historiography. She explains that as scholars we have “lost track of the contributions of Chicano historiography of 40 years past and we’ve also lost track of the way in which they’ve talked about the state and state formation on the border…” Dr. Delgado explains that her next book, focusing on prostitution, white slavery, and state formation will bring Chicano/a scholarship back in conversation with borderlands historiography and firmly place Chicano/a history back in the borderlands.

I asked Delgado about how she approaches teaching U.S. history, given her research and analysis of borderlands history. “I teach histories of American empire-building through critiques of citizenship and nationalism that also include the Mexican side of the equation,” Delgado explained. She places Chicano/a history, specifically, within a hemispheric framework and teaching through a postcolonial lens. Delgado believes that these ideas as well as her tenure in Pennsylvania inspired her to write her book Latino Immigrants in the United States in order to show linkages between Chicano/a and Latino/a scholarship and experiences in the United States. Delgado states that bridging this scholarship and translating this historical knowledge for students can help them to understand the roots of collective activism against American nativism in this country.

There is so much more we discussed, specifically in regards to state building and the management and control of bodies along the border. I recommend listening to the entirety of the interview in order to truly appreciate the scope of Delgado’s work and knowledge. I could have asked Dr. Delgado a million more questions about nativism, bureaucracies, immigration and the power of the state in the borderlands. It was a pleasure to interview her and yet again confirm the importance of borderlands history in our research and teaching.

I would like to thank Dr. Delgado for inviting me to the University of California, Santa Cruz and all the Borderlands History blog audience for tuning in to this exciting interview.

Special thanks to Marko Morales for his audio editing skills and to Mike Bess for his tech support.

Categories: Interviews, Methodology, Teaching/Professional Development | 1 Comment

Rethinking Interconnectivity along the U.S.-Mexico Border

The U.S.-Mexico border is the most frequently traversed political boundary in the world. In his new book, Connectography: Mapping the Future of Global Civilization, Parag Khanna, a research fellow at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore, sees cities, communication networks, and transportation infrastructure as the key points of reference to understand how global society organizes itself, today. Although his argument diminishing the importance of national boundaries is less convincing (given the legal and policing issues millions of people face), the visual (re)presentation of global population centers, and of how goods and people move across geographic space, is compelling. Recently, the Washington Post interviewed Khanna about his work. Here’s what he had to say about his map depicting the U.S.-Mexico border and the North American economy:

One of the titles I’ve given the map is ‘Think geology, not nationality.’ America is now suddenly the largest oil producer in the world. The American energy revolution is the most significant geopolitical event since the end of the Cold War, and it’s a major shift in the world’s tug of war. Ten years ago, we were all talking about how the United States and China were going to fight resource wars for Middle Eastern oil and minerals in Africa. Now, thanks to this incredible seismic revolution, we’re selling oil to China instead.

The reason this relates to North America is because, if you think about strategy in the geological terms, you realize that if the U.S., Canada and Mexico unite their energy, water, agriculture and labor resources, you create a continental empire that is more powerful than America is. I’ve not even mentioned the Arctic, which of course Canada controls half of, which is becoming a very strategic geography as the Arctic ice melts. Canada is going to potentially be the world’s largest food producer in 20-25 years as a result of climate change. And then there’s water. The southwestern United States is now in a perennial drought, and yet at the same time, perversely, is the site of the fastest growing population in the United States. So hydrological engineering may need to take place between Canada and the United States.

For more of the interview, as well as his map depicting the infrastructural linkages across the U.S.-Mexico border, follow the link.

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Q&A with James F. Brooks about “Mesa of Sorrows: A History of the Awat’ovi Massacre”

On February 25, 2016, The Charles Redd Center for Western Studies annual Annaley Naegle Redd Lecture was given by James F. Brooks, a Professor of History & Anthropology at the University of California – Santa Barbara. He spoke on his recently published Mesa of Sorrows: A History of the Awat’ovi Massacre. Students and scholars of borderlands, indigenous, and southwest histories will be familiar with Brooks from his award-winning Captives and Cousins: Slavery, Kinship and Community in the Southwest Borderlands andother important works. To accompany the video of the lecture, Professor Brooks was kind enough to also participate in a short Q&A below. Questions by Brenden W. Rensink, responses by James F. Brooks.

Read some of my own thoughts on the book at my “From the Bookshelf” series.

 

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“Democracy in the Fields” Website Release

Last Sunday (April 3, 2016) I had the pleasure of attending the launch of a wonderful new multi-media website that tells the story of “the summer of 1975,” which details the efforts of Salinas Valley farmworkers to join the United Farmworkers Union following the passage of California’s Agricultural Labor Relations Act in May of 1975 (signed into law on June 5, 1975 by Gov. Jerry Brown).

Democracy in the Fields was made possible by the collaboration of Miriam Pawel (author of The Crusades of Cesar Chavez), Mimi Plumb (photographer), Wendy Vissar (web designer), Bob Barber (journalist), and a generous grant from California Humanities. The event was held at the National Steinbeck Center.

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Q&A with Sujey Vega about LDS Latinos and Ethnic Religious Belonging in Arizona

On March 10, 2016, the Charles Redd Center for Western Studies at Brigham Young University was fortunate to host Sujey Vega, an Assistant Professor of Women and Gender Studies, Arizona State University. Prof. Vega works at the intersections of gender, ethnicity, and religious communities. Her current work explores the experiences of Latino members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS or Mormon) in the politically charged atmosphere of the Arizona borderlands. Her lecture for the BYU Redd Center, entitled The Desert Diaspora: An Exploration of Latino Latter Day Saints and Their Ethnic Religious Belonging, can be viewed below in its entirety. To help offer more context for her work, she was kind enough to participate in a short Q&A, posted below, her current projects in Arizona and recent monograph, Latino Heartland: of Borders and Belonging in the Midwest (NYU Press, 2015).  Questions by Brenden W. Rensink and responses by Sujey Vega.

 

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A conversation with Natale Zappia, author of “Traders and Raiders: The Indigenous World of the Colorado Basin, 1540-1859.”

In Traders and Raiders: The Indigenous World of the Colorado Basin, 1540-1859 (UNC Press, 2014) Assistant Professor of History at Whittier College Natale Zappia provides an in-depth look into the “interior world” of the Lower Colorado River. Tracking the people, networks, economies, and social relations of an expansive indigenous world that includes parts of the modern-day states of Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, Arizona, California, Baja California, and Sonora, Mexico, Dr. Zappia narrates the history of the region through an examination of its diverse ecology and multiethnic political economy. Breaking from the Eurocentric narrative tropes of “discovery,” “conquest,” and “frontier,” Zappia’s interior world is a fluid borderland where the practices of trading and raiding are central in linking indigenous, Spanish, Mexican, and American people, ideas, and commodities into fragile interdependent networks emanating from indigenous trade centers and roadways along the Colorado and Gila Rivers. Traversing the pre-Columbian, Spanish, Mexican, and American eras, Traders and Raiders challenges us to consider anew the ecology, people, and developments that have shaped the region to the present-day.

Listen to this conversation in its entirety on the New Books in Latino Studies podcast.

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BHIP#7: We Speak to Pablo Mitchell!

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Where did the months go this year? The BHIP took a bit of a break since our last interview in December, but we are back and ready to meet another wonderful Borderlands scholar. It is my pleasure to introduce Pablo Mitchell to our BHIP audience. Dr. Mitchell is currently Associate Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and is Professor of History and Comparative American studies at Oberlin College. He received his M.A. in 1995 at the University of New Mexico and his PhD in 2000 from the University of Michigan. He is the author of several books, including the award winning, and one of my personal favorites, Coyote Nation: Sexuality, Race, and Conquest in Modernizing New Mexico, 1880-1920 (University of Chicago Press, 2005) as well as West of Sex: Making Mexican America, 1900-1930 (University of Chicago Press, 2012) and his latest, a textbook titled History of Latinos: Exploring Diverse Roots (Greenwood Press, 2014). We talked about his research, his ideas about sexuality, race, gender, and the body, as well as emerging questions in Borderlands history, and teaching history.

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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A conversation with Laura Isabel Serna, author of “Making Cinelandia: American Films and Mexican Film Culture Before the Golden Age.”

During the early decades of the 20th century the nation of Mexico entered the modern era through a series of social, political, and economic transformations spurred by the Mexican Revolution of 1910-1920. At the same time, American film companies increasingly sought opportunities to expand their market share by exporting films to exhibitionists in Mexico and Latin America. As government bureaucrats and progressive reformers sought to unify and rebuild the Mexican state, the cinema became a critical site through which the post-revolutionary ideals of modernization, secularism, and ethnic nationalism were promoted.

In Making Cinelandia: American Films and Mexican Film Culture Before the Golden Age (Duke University Press, 2014), Associate Professor of Critical Studies in the School of Cinematic Arts at the University of Southern California Laura Isabel Serna vividly describes the process of cultural exchange that played out across the U.S.-Mexico borderlands during this critical period in the development of the modern Mexican state. Focusing on the “agency of Mexican audiences, distributers, cinema owners, and journalists,” Professor Serna narrates the dynamic process of how American film was received, interpreted, and fashioned to meet the needs of Mexican state officials and a “transnational Mexican audience.” Illuminating alternative responses to Mexicana/o “encounters with American mass culture” that did not always result in the acculturation of American values, Dr. Serna argues that movie going promoted a growing sense of Mexican national identity among the emerging diasporic community of transnational Mexican citizens in the post-revolutionary era.

Listen to this conversation in full at New Books in Latino Studies.

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BHIP #6: A Conversation with Dr. Maria Montoya

 

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Join me in welcoming Dr. Maria Montoya to the BHIP as she helps us bring this fantastic year for the Borderlands History Blog to a close. I was fortunate to meet with her at the Western History Association conference in Portland, Oregon. It was a chilly morning in late October when I sat with Professor Montoya to discuss her research, teaching, and new projects. We discussed the convergence of Western and Borderlands history in her work and teaching. Dr. Montoya is currently Associate Professor of History at New York University. She received her M.A. in 1990 and her PhD in 1993 from Yale University.

Dr. Montoya has written extensively on the history of the American West and borderlands. Her first book Translating Property: The Maxwell Land Grant and the Conflict Over Land in the American West, 1840 to 1920 about the various state and capitalist forces that altered the American landscape after 1848 received excellent reviews, she has several articles and chapters in edited volumes including one with Vicki Ruiz and John Chavez, titled “Creating an American Home: Work, Gender and Space in Rockefeller’s Coal Towns.” Her second manuscript titled: Taking Care of American Workers: The Origins of Universal Healthcare in the American West 1900-1950 and a text book Global Americans: A Social and Global History of the United States are both forthcoming. We talked about what inspired her research and her teaching, and how borderlands history and methods have influenced how she engages her scholarship. Continue reading

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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

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