June 2017

Each piece in this issue of American Quarterly has disparate origins and routes. Although we were keenly aware of the importance of each essay from the beginning, as we move into the production phase just a week after Donald Trump’s inauguration, every essay has become far more relevant to the world we live in than we had imagined at the outset. Although these varied works came to be placed in this particular issue more by circumstance than advance planning, together these works—that address gay activism, Indigenous dispossession, racial capitalism, settler colonialism, carceral ableism, immigration, and deportation—point us to many of the critical battles that lie ahead and offer many important tools in fighting them.


Tracing the Settler’s Tools: A Forum on Patrick Wolfe’s Life and Legacy
Cynthia G. Franklin

The contributors to the AQ forum, “Tracing the Settler’s Tools” gave earlier versions of their papers at the 2016 ASA Conference in Denver, on a roundtable entitled “Racializing the National Home: Patrick Wolfe’s Traces of History,” initially conceived to include Patrick Wolfe as a respondent. That roundtable, which took place nine months after his untimely passing, is viewable in the video below, where his absence is a palpable presence. The next three videos feature Patrick Wolfe himself— first, giving a lecture at the American University of Beirut’s Center for American Studies and Research (CASAR) in 2013 titled “Comparing Colonial and Racial Regimes”; then, in two parts, a 2012 interview conducted by Sami Moukaddem for the film How We Can Solve The Palestinian Israeli Problem. These videos elaborate in some moments, and show in gestational form in others, arguments central to Traces of History.

These videos do not only augment his written scholarship: to see Wolfe in action is also to better appreciate the commitments he brought to his intellectual work. In his CASAR lecture, “Comparing Colonial and Racial Regimes,” Wolfe laments the “St. Therese-like gesture” that occasionally occurs when a social scientist, proclaiming race as a social construct, places “hand on chest, eyeballs rolling to heaven,” in an attempt to present this banal starting point as a world-dissolving discovery. He also looks to how “a hand-waving gesture” can accompany—in order to dispense with—colonialism, passing it off as a known, homogeneous, and universal phenomenon. In contrast to these gestures, which sanctimoniously elevate trivial assertions or summarily dismiss historical formations that require rigorous analysis, Patrick Wolfe’s own embodied presence in these videos gives viewers added insights into his razor-sharp intellect and into the passion for justice that animated his spirit, and that lives on in his scholarship.

#2016ASA - Racializing the National Home: Patrick Wolfe's "Traces of History"

"Comparing Colonial and Racial Regimes," 2013 CASAR

2012 Interview (Parts 1 and 2) 


A Collapsing Division: Border and Interior Enforcement in the U.S. Deportation System
Hannah Gurman

In the current battles over US immigration, the basic principle of border security comprises one of the few points of agreement among pro-immigration reformers and anti-immigration nativists. Arguments on behalf of border security typically rely on the presumption of a neat legal and geographical divide between the border and the interior. My essay challenges this presumption. It examines the inherent blurriness between territorial and racial practices of U.S.-Mexico border enforcement and traces the expansion of racialized border enforcement into the territorial interior over the course of the last century. In this context, we can see how the ideology and development of border enforcement has shaped the phenomenon of mass detention and deportation far beyond the territorial border. 

One of the phenomena I trace in the essay is “interior border enforcement.” Over the course of the twentieth century, the federal government incrementally extended the reach of warrantless border searches into the territorial interior. As a concrete example of the collapsing division within the U.S. deportation system, interior border enforcement is a useful entrée into the subject, especially for students.

The following links can help students visualize interior border enforcement as well as grasp its significance in current political debates about immigration.  

  •  In the 1940s, the U.S. Border Patrol began to erect a series of interior check points located between 25 miles and 75 miles of the border. This video includes a map of the southern checkpoints, an overview of the legal issues, and a statistical analysis of recent interior border enforcement.  
  • In the 1950s, immigration legislation extended the border zone to within 100 miles of the border. Two-thirds of the U.S. population currently resides within this jurisdiction. Here is a map of the 100-mile border zone:

 Photo courtesy of the American Civil Liberties Union.

  • In June 2012 former Arizona governor Raúl Castro was detained at an interior checkpoint in Tubac, Arizona. He was 96 year old at the time. Castro, the first Mexican-American to be elected governor to Arizona, describes his experience in this television news interview.
  • In this video, radio host Guillermo Jimenez resists interrogation at an interior checkpoint in Laredo, Texas, nicknamed “Checkpoint City.” His clash with Border Patrol officers dramatizes the racial profiling that characterizes interior border enforcement and articulates a constitutional argument against these searches.

In the latter part of the essay, I examine crimmigration—the merging of immigration and crime enforcement—as another example of the collapsing divide between border and interior enforcement in the U.S. deportation system. Since the 1980s and 1990s, the mutually reinforcing dynamic between increased border enforcement and the criminalization of immigration-related infractions has dramatically accelerated the expansion of border enforcement into the territorial interior. 

Here are some resources that you can share with students to introduce them to the concept of crimmigration and the ways in which it extends border enforcement beyond the territorial border:

  •  In this interview on Democracy Now, Aviva Chomsky offers a brief overview of the criminalization of border-crossing after the termination of the Bracero Program in 1965.
  • This Huffington Post piece includes a description of the simultaneous expansion of border security and the criminalization of immigration-related infractions under President Bill Clinton.
  • While the Obama administration claimed to focus immigration enforcement efforts on violent criminals, during his tenure, non-violent crimes, including unauthorized border crossing, accounted for the majority of deportations at and away from the border.
  • In calling for the construction of a massive wall along the U.S.-Mexican border, Donald Trump styled himself as a protector of innocent Americans against the violent crimes of Mexican border-crossers inside the United States. In this speech, President Trump describes new efforts to deport criminal aliens as a direct response to the crisis of open borders.
  • In February 2017, in opposition to Trump’s border wall, protesters in Mexico and the United States formed a human wall.


 Beyond “Latinx History outside the American Southwest and Borderlands”
Jennifer Macias

The review essay “Latinx History outside the American Southwest and Borderlands” featured in the June 2017 publication of the American Quarterly evaluates five important monographs that collectively add to the scholarship of Latinx history, pushing it outside the boundaries of areas such as California, Texas and New Mexico, arguably the more predominantly written about states. Collectively, these books encourage scholars to not only research and write about new areas, but to also include this new research as a part of their lectures and diversify the content that students receive. As argued in the review essay, each book provides an opportunity for students to analyze new methodological directions that scholars of Latinx history are taking, engaging heavily with oral histories as a way of better understanding important historical events in the twentieth and twenty-first century. Furthermore, the books serve as a staunch reminder that there is “no single trajectory or account of Latinx history in the United States, and perhaps most important, that regional, state, and local knowledge and experiences are much more expansive and complex, often giving voice to underrepresented populations such as women and children who have been overlooked in larger narratives.” This companion piece builds on the review essay by providing some online resources that scholars should integrate into their teaching for not just Latinx History classes, but also classes based on methodologies, race, gender, or particularly as a way of diversifying general American History courses.

Julie Weise’s book Corazon de Dixie: Mexicans in the US South since 1910 is not only well written, but includes a fully developed supplementary website to accompany the book for scholars to use. The Primary Sources section features a breakdown of each of the chapters, where you can find primary sources to supplement the chapters reading material. For example, Chapter 1 features copies of manuscript census pages that students could use to track the author’s primary sources and methodologies for mapping her argument. Additionally, the map tab links to an interactive map that visually illustrates the various migrations of Mexicanos that are discussed in the book, and would be a particularly useful tool during a lecture.The blog feature on the website is also particularly useful, where Weise posts about contemporary issues affecting Latinx populations, including recent concerns about immigration politics, such as a recent post in January 2017 where Weise reiterates the importance of Corazón de Dixie, since it “details the social and economic forces that kept Southern power brokers open to (or explicitly encouraging of) Latino immigration through most of the twentieth century.”  Weise has set a commendable standard for authors to set up a website to accompany the monograph that others would be adept to follow.

In a similar vein, Angela Stuesse’s website includes a thirteen page PDF Teaching Guide that works in tandem with the book. The guide includes important questions to help foster conversations related to the book, and even “contains a list of complementary resources—films, art, and interactive websites—and ideas for action.” The website also includes links to a number of media and op-ed pieces that would be useful in providing it as a supplementary material for students. The video trailer for her book would also be an excellent starting point for students to view prior to reading the book.

Another important avenue for making the book accessible is for scholars and students to be able to listen to the author talk more about the book itself. Mario Sifuentez provides this in an October 2016 with the University of Oregon.

The video features Sifuentez speaking about Of Forests and Fields: Mexican Labor in the Pacific Northwest, and provides a useful narrative of the author’s background and how that influenced and shaped the writing of the book. An important online forum available for Latinx scholars is under the New Books Network, which interviews authors about their new books in Latino Studies. An excellent interview is available there with Michael Innis-Jimenez which details more about the book, and the importance of continued work on Latinx history. Interviews can also be found on the New Books Network website for both the Sifuentez and Weise books. Keeping in mind the importance of engaging with local listeners, Theresa Delgadillo also has an interview available online with a local radio station in Wisconsin where she talks about adding to the archive of Latinas in Milwaukee and the Midwest through oral histories, and the continued importance of including their stories in everyday conversations.

Methodologically the internet provides an accessible venue for scholars to encourage their students to use and engage with oral histories. The Bracero History Archive website has hundreds of oral histories uploaded and searchable by students. Typing in the topic or geographic location that students are looking to learn more about into the search engine brings up a list of oral histories related to that topic, including many oral histories with references to Bracero experiences outside of the Southwest. Similarly, the Civil Rights in Black and Brown Oral History Project is a public and free website that houses digital video clips from interviews conducted in the Dallas/Fort Worth region, and areas of East Texas and the Rio Grande Valley, which the website argues remain underrepresented in the historical record. The searchable mechanism allows viewers to learn more about the transnational lives of many of these interviewees. The Center for Folklore Studies at the Ohio State University is working on the Oral Narratives of Latin@s in Ohio, a statewide initiative to “collect, catalog, and preserve oral narratives of Latinos/as in Ohio in collaboration with the Ohio Hispanic Heritage Project and the Center for Folklore Studies.” The Institute for the Study of the Americas at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill also has a New Roots: Latino Oral Histories page that highlights interviews related to Latinx immigration into North Carolina.