Associate Professor of History and Department Chair
Chair of History Department
Director of Ethnic Studies
In an ever more globalized world, it is important to tell the stories that fall through the cracks of national history. My classes both historicize the nation, and seek to see beyond it. Every year I teach the Colonial and Modern Latin American history survey classes. While these surveys attempt to cover several centuries of Latin American history, they focus on key themes and countries. For the Colonial era, for instance, we take a close look at Indian-Spanish relations, concepts of gender and honor, the development of racial identities, and the political economy of the colonial enterprise.
The Modern survey (1820s through the present) focuses on issues such as the development of underdevelopment, US intervention in Latin America, cultural persistence, and resistance to “progress” and industrialization. I also teach, on a rotating basis, a class on Race and Nation in Latin America. This class explores how Latin American intellectuals have forged their nations’ identities based on racial notions, both adopted and adapted from European and North American social theorists. My classes on Modern Mexico and Modern Cuba highlight the political and cultural developments of these countries in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. I also offer a course on the US-Mexico borderlands that begins from the time Spanish explorers and Indians contested the region until the present post-modern period when Chicanas/os and others reclaim the border as a hybridized space. In fall 2005, I will teach for the first time a colloquium on Transnational History of the Americas.
In spring of 2004, I organized and led the first Lewis & Clark overseas program to Havana, Cuba.
I am a transnational historian of the Americas, specializing in race and national identity. My training in graduate school in both Latin American and US-Mexico borderlands history has allowed me to cross disciplinary and regional boundaries. My last research project focused on the Texas-Mexico border during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. My book, Catarino Garza’s Revolution on the Texas-Mexico Border (forthcoming from Duke University Press), examines the little known story of a rebellion launched from Texas soil against the D’az government in Mexico in 1891. Garza’s revolution helps us understand a border society that was in the midst of dramatic social transformation as each country pulled this “frontier” region more closely into the nation. The volume, Continental Crossroads (Duke University Press), which I co-edited, presents a series of exciting essays on borderlands history by new scholars in the field.
My new book project focuses on the construction of the “illegal alien” in the Americas by examining cross-border migrations of Chinese from the mid-nineteenth through mid-twentieth centuries. I am interested in showing how Chinese were seen as perpetual outsiders or “aliens” in places as diverse as Canada, the US, Mexico, Cuba and Peru. Furthermore, I show how Chinese migrants constructed a transnational world in the Americas that escaped the control of immigration agents and state bureaucracies. This research has brought me to archives in Washington DC, Seattle, Madrid and Havana.
In 2003, I co-founded the Tepoztlan Institute for Transnational History of the Americas. This institute brings together scholars from throughout North and Latin America for an intensive weeklong workshop on transnational history in a small town outside of Mexico City. Several publishing projects are underway as a result of collaborations started at the Institute.
I was born in New York City. After college at Princeton University, I lived in Nicaragua during the year that the Sandinistas lost the elections and gave up control of the government. In addition to participating in this revolutionary experiment in its tenth year, I helped a community in Granada raise funds to build a day-care center. After Nicaragua, I became a labor organizer with the International Ladies Garment Worker’s Union (ILGWU) in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and then taught English, Social Studies and Science in a Highschool in East Flatbush, Brooklyn. Burned out on life in the Northeast, I went to graduate school in Austin, Texas, where I learned the undervalued art of being a slacker. Over the years, I have lived, conducted research and done community development work in Cuba, Mexico, Nicaragua, Paraguay and Ecuador. My involvement with Latin America began in the mid-1980s in opposition to the US sponsored wars in Central America. I continue to be politically active supporting democratic movements and workers’ rights at home and abroad, as well as doing what I can to critique and stop US imperialism. And like Emma Goldman, I don’t want to be part of your revolution, if I can’t dance.