Capstone Seminar: History of the U.S./Mexico Border, 18th to 20th centuries


This course explores the creation and perpetual remaking of the border between the United States and Mexico from the 1780s to the current day.  Topics explored include nation formation, citizenship, migrant lives, public policy, border incursions, and national identity.  The ability to secure borders is supposed to be one of the hallmarks of nationhood.  Yet the U.S./Mexico border has long been porous, subject to flows of capital and labor, with varying degrees of concern and coercion on the part of the U.S. and Mexican governments.  Moreover, the border created is not simply geographical or physical, but also economic, social, and psychological.  The U.S. government defined "Mexican," for example, at some times as a nationality and at others as a "race."  Nor was the border simply a U.S./Mexican binary, from the use of African American troops on the border in the early twentieth century to Native American reservations that bridge the border today.

Starting before the U.S./Mexican War dramatically shifted the border, and carrying up to the present, this course examines changes and continuities in the history of the border, focusing on public policy and debates, transnational corporate practices, popular representations, and individual lives, and so provides a historical foundation for current immigration controversies.  Students will read works of history and autobiography as well as government hearings and other primary sources.  Each student will learn how to conduct original research, culminating in an essay on an approved topic of his or her choice.

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Theme (Concentration)

Human Rights and Social Movements, Law and Governance


Latin America and the Caribbean, United States and Canada