News and Announcements

Special Publication–Global Border Studies (IJCEAS)

Stemming from the 2014 Berlin Border Seminar, the Comparative Research Network has published the first of a two-part special edition of the International Journal of Contemporary Economics and Administrative Sciences,“Implications of Borders on Culture and Economics.” The publication features a wide range of interdisciplinary border studies projects, including one of my own, “Spirit, Transformation, and Gender in Borderlands: A Representative Case Study.”  It’s free to access, so check it out here.

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The cover features the Oder River near the campus of the European University Viadrina, separating Frankfurt (Oder), Germany and Slubice, Poland.

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Black Lives Vigil on the Border

In El Paso, The Black Student Union (BSU) from The University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP)and the group Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) hosted a vigil in memorial of Black Lives lost to unnecessary violence and to educate the community of the ongoing tragedies across the nation.

The community gathered at La Plaza de los Lagartos (San Jacinto Plaza) in the evening on Sunday, July 10. The plaza was filled with various organization and community members who stood in solidarity with BSU and PFLAG. Among the attendees were students from New Mexico State University who made a special trip to El Paso from Las Cruces, New Mexico to attend the vigil.

The press release circulated for this event  read “Black Student Union, BSU, is to promote activities of common interest, cultural and educational benefits for the African American students at UTEP,” it went on to quote the organizations president Shyla Cooks, “We have been far too silent for far too long.”

Organizers and leaders of the Black Student Union (BSU) Keyanna Robinson, Makeda Buggs, and Shyla Cooks shared a few words please click on their names to hear their message. These brave students continue the long legacy of community organizing and activism on the border. Through poems, speeches, and songs they joined their voice to the many speaking out about injustices faced by black communities and other minority groups across the United States.



Makeda Buggs, Black Student Union (on stage speaking)






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CFP: Not Just Green, Not Just White: Race, Justice, and Environmental History

Not Just Green, Not Just White: Race, Justice, and Environmental History

 Eds. Traci Brynne Voyles and Mary E. Mendoza

CALL FOR PAPERS: In 2003, Carolyn Merchant called on environmental historians to redouble their efforts to craft a critical environmental history of race, particularly one that takes into account the vast and urgent stakes of environmental injustice for communities of color. Not Just Green, Not Just White seeks to answer that call, highlighting scholarship that engages our environmental past with an eye toward building socially and environmentally just futures.

This collection brings together voices that analyze the relationships between environment, race, and justice through a historical lens, exploring how environmental injustices are produced in different historical contexts in ways that profoundly shaped, and still shape, the experiences of communities of color in the US. More broadly, these collaborators ask how power relations have been articulated through resources and resource exploitation; how the environment has been a literal and figurative terrain of struggle over rights, inclusion, or differentiation; or how nature has come to signify and symbolize race in ways that produce unequal or unjust power relations. Ultimately, the collection seeks to underscore the reality, long apparent to communities of color but too rarely articulated in scholarship on environmental history, that racial injustice and environmental degradation (and sometimes preservation) are co-constituted.

Race is a critical component to the study of environmental injustice, but environmental history, until very recently, has tended to leave out questions of race. Classic environmental histories have focused on wilderness, whiteness, and white ideals of pure nature, leaving unexamined the different ways in which people of color experience the nonhuman world and engage in environmentalism. This tendency in environmental history reflects dominant American narratives that focus on white individuals and how they have changed landscapes, ignoring how expansion, settler colonialism, economic and agricultural development, resource extraction, and urban planning have dramatically affected the relationship between people of color and their own natural and built environments. This, in short, is a totalizing, universalizing framework that flattens the diversity of human relationships to the non-human world. This collection brings together a number of historians thinking about a range of environmentalisms and environmental histories, with an eye toward building a more environmentally just future – as well as piecing together a more complete picture of our diverse environmental pasts.

The lack of exchange between environmental justice and environmental history goes both ways, and both fields of scholarship can compliment each other in productive ways. Contrary to environmental history, environmental justice scholarship has been focused on contemporary cases of environmental injustice and racism, only infrequently accounting for the rich histories that produce and give form to unequal relationships to resources and environmental protection. Still, many environmental justice studies of gendered and raced environmental epistemologies have added significantly to our understanding of how environmental knowledge and experience are more rich and more complex than simple reductions to “man’s” impact on “nature.” This collection seeks to apply that rich scholarship, with its deep thinking about race as an analytic as well as about the lived realities of people of color, to environmental history in ways that can bring us to a better understanding of the connections between humans and nature, as well as between and within our human communities. As part of this move toward deep thinking about race and diversity, we are attuned to the need for more intersectional applications of this scholarship, looking to the ways in which gender and race (and sexuality and class) together have formed our relationships to the non-human world not only in the present and future, but also in the past.

We will consider historical scholarship that seeks to explore what the human relationship with nature has looked like for various communities and indigenous nations across the US. We are particularly interested explorations of how (white, American notions of) environmentalism, or activities associated with it, have reinforced racial and classist stereotypes by alienating people who cannot afford or who cannot access things like recycling, or buying local organic foods, and excluded the diverse environmental epistemologies and practices of people of color from mainstream environmentalism. Additional avenues of inquiry might look at the ways that diverse communities and peoples have interacted with nature and what it means (or has historically meant) to be good stewards over nature. Ultimately, we hope to bring together a range of scholars working to disentangle whiteness from environment and environmentalism, and in doing so, offer a more diverse approach to our environmental past, present, and future. Continue reading

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Race and Identity in Borderlands Food Culture

Dear readers, the New Yorker has just published a fascinating essay about the Afghanistan immigrant, Zarif Khan, who arrived in Wyoming at the turn of the twentieth century. His life crossed national and cultural boundaries as he made his home in North America. Khan went one to become famous for selling tamales across the region and not only gained the nickname “Hot Tamale Louie,” but also U.S. citizenship (twice). The feature, by Kathryn Schulz, explores historical issues tied to race and ethnic identity, and also how these characteristics are interpreted by local and foreign groups. Likewise, the impact of food culture and how it is viewed by communities is an important part of this story.

For more on Khan’s life, read the full article, here.

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Summer Book Sale at OU Press

Dear readers, like any academic, we love a good book sale, too. The University of Oklahoma Press has just announced its summer sale with a large selection of titles available for up to 40%. For more details, follow the link.


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Call for Papers: UTEP Borderlands History Conference 2017


The UTEP History Department is excited to announce The Annual University of Texas at El Paso Borderlands History Conference, February 10-11, 2017 here in El Paso.  This year’s theme is Shifting Borders: Gender, Family, and Community, and UTEP will welcome keynote speaker Sonia Hernández (Texas A&M).   Paper and panel proposals are accepted until September 23, 2016.

CONVOCATORIA EXTENDIDA hasta el 23 de septiembre!

El Departamento de Historia de la Universidad de Texas, El Paso anuncia la Conferencia Anual de Historia Fronteriza de UTEP, 10-11 de febrero de 2017 en El Paso, Texas. El tema es “Fronteras movedizas: género, familia y comunidad” y le darán la bienvenida a la presentadora principal, Sonia Hernández (Texas A&M).  Se aceptan ponencias (individuales o de mesas) hasta el 23 de septiembre de 2016.

Call for Papers (ENGLISH)

Convocatoria de Ponencias (ESPAÑOL)

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CFP: Indigenous Writing and Culture in the United States and Canada

Happy May, dear readers, we wanted to let you know about a great opportunity. Scholars who work with Indigenous writing and culture of the United States and Canada are encouraged to apply. The Literary Encyclopedia wants qualified candidates for writing projects that will expand the program’s coverage of Indigenous people. From the announcement:

All offers of contribution should come accompanied by an up-to-date CV and, in the case of doctoral students who wish to offer a contribution, also a short writing sample. The overwhelming majority (about 90%) of our contributors are academic scholars, while the remaining percentage is made up of highly endorsed doctoral students and independent researchers.

If you want to contribute, contact the volume editor, Dr. Padraig Kirwan (, or the managing editor, Dr. Cristina Sandru ( For more information, follow the link.

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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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Mapping Texas: From Frontier to the Lone Star State

Dear readers, for those of you who will be in the area, we wanted to let you know about a major new exhibit opening. Starting on April 29, and running until September 4, 2016, the Witte Museum in San Antonio, Texas, will be displaying forty rare maps. These documents cover 300 years of Texas history, which are made available for public viewing by the collections of the Texas General Land Office, the Witte Museum, and the private collection of Frank and Carol Holcomb of Houston. From the exhibit announcement:

Many of these maps will be on display for the first time. The fragile nature of several of the items make this a once-in-a-generation exhibit for visitors. This curated collection, dating from the sixteenth through the nineteenth century, traces the changing physical and political boundaries of Texas. It also includes artifacts and original documents relating to the creation of the selected maps…

Also put on display for the first time ever, the exhibition features the manuscript drafts of the surveys of the Texas-U.S. Joint Boundary Commission. Three different sheets, more than 14-feet wide, trace the Sabine River from its mouth in the Gulf of Mexico to Logan’s Ferry in the north, near present-day Logansport, Louisiana. A second set of maps follows the Boundary Commission survey in a straight line due north from west of Logan’s Ferry on the Sabine to the Red River. The boundaries established by these surveys were recognized when Texas entered the Union in 1845.


Installation work, from the Witte Museum website.

It is an impressive undertaking by the exhibit organizers, and a great collaborative work drawing on multiple, important historical collections. For more information, visit the Witte Museum, online.

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From the New York Times: “The Dark Side of Immigration Discretion”

Yesterday, the editorial board at the New York Times published a strong rebuke of the government’s deportation policies against Central American immigrants who have arrived to escape violence back home. As legal arguments and appeals work their way through the federal courts, Immigration and Customs Enforcement has aggressively detained and deported non-violent immigrants, including many students. The paper notes that this problem is particularly harsh in states like Georgia and North Carolina, where local organizational support in response to raids remains thin.

These activities are a reminder of the impact that border control policies have in regulating and enforcing federal statutes on the bodies that pass through ports of entry or cross without documentation. They also have a long reach, extending a hand thousands of miles from the border into local communities and disrupting everyday life in myriad ways. As many of us know, it is a process that has been well-documented by historians and scholars of the border and U.S. immigration. From the editorial:

While legal advocates have been scrambling, ICE has been running amok, raiding homes and public spaces in search of deportable youths. In North Carolina and Georgia, where organized advocacy is sparse, the dragnet has been unusually aggressive. Agents seized students at home and on their way to school. Appalled teachers, students and community leaders have been signing petitions and marching, pleading for justice and putting a human face on the victims of coldblooded policies: Wildin Acosta, still in detention, as his appeal proceeds. Kimberly Pineda-Chavez, arrested on her way to school. Yefri Sorto-Hernandez, arrested at his school bus stop. Jose Alfaro-Lainez, deported to El Salvador on April 13. Jaime Arceno-Hernandez, scheduled to be deported on April 27.

Students are being locked up while they appeal deportation orders, though they pose no threat of violence or flight. Ms. Saldaña has rebuffed pleas for mercy, saying the administration — which has flown more than 28,000 people back to Central America since October — needs “to send a message” that the borders are closed to illegal immigration. But pleading for refuge is not illegal. More than 100 members of Congress have denounced the raids. Both Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton have pledged not to deport children if they win the presidency.

To read the full editorial, follow the link.

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