Teaching Fellows

Keegan Boyar

Teaching Fellow in the Social Sciences Keegan Boyar

Area of Study

Department of History

Keegan Boyar

Teaching Fellow in the Social Sciences

Keegan Boyar is a historian working on policing, citizenship, and informality in urban Latin America. His current book project draws on extensive archival research to analyze the negotiation and contestation of police authority by residents of Mexico City from the nineteenth century to the middle of the twentieth century, tracing the social and institutional history of policing with a focus on how different actors negotiated state power at the street level and how these negotiations shaped inequalities in access to citizenship rights. He earned his Ph.D. in History at the University of Chicago (2022). Boyar teaches courses on Global Society and Colonizations. 

  • Conference Presentation: "Entre la espada y la pared: comerciantes, policía, y redes de protección en la Ciudad de México, c.1930," in a panel on new directions in the history of the police in Mexico at the XVI Reunión Internacional de Historiadores de México, 2 November 2022. For the conference program, see: <https://xvireunion.utexas.edu/programa/>
  • Book Review, H-Net/H-LatAm, on Benjamin T. Smith's The Mexican Press and Civil Society (Chapel Hill, University of North Carolina Press, 2018): <https://www.h-net.org/reviews/showrev.php?id=53581>

Boyar in conversation with Dialogo, the magazine of the Division of the Social Sciences:
What is one significant research question you hope to advance this year?

I hope to advance on the twin questions of how police discretion creates informal norms to order urban life, and how this informal order shapes the experience of, and limits on, citizenship. I will be pursuing these questions in the context of Mexico City from the late nineteenth to the mid-twentieth century, a period of rapid urban, social, and legal change during which many of the police practices of the present day came to be entrenched. In doing so, I hope to offer insight into broader questions of violence, rights, space, and their relationship with legal and extralegal power.

Describe one object you have in your office space at home that helps you in your work.
Hanging on the wall next to my desk is a large print of a map of Mexico City from 1880. Most maps of Mexico City from the era are extremely abstract when it comes to the rapidly-expanding city's limits, usually tracing a grid of blank block divisions over what is portrayed as featureless space ripe for development. While certain quadrants of the 1880 map do the same, in other areas, the map displays with a surprising level of detail the actually existing periphery—a maze of twisting alleyways and canals running between a mix of scattered shacks, larger buildings, and farmers' fields and corrals usually thought of as belonging more to the rural world. Although the exact accuracy of the map's details can be questioned, it nonetheless sheds light on the lived experience of the city and its spaces in the period for many city dwellers. It is useful not just for pinpointing locations that show up in the court cases and administrative records at the heart of my work, but for thinking about questions of ideas of the city, the interrelation of urban and rural, and the legibility of space by different actors during a period of dramatic change.