History 26213: Migrations and the Americas, Conquest to Present

Photo Credit: 
© Tomas Castelazo, www.tomascastelazo.com

HIST 26213:  Tuesday / Thursday 1:30PM-2:50PM

Casey Lurtz

This course examines migration as a central theme of the broader American experience over the past half millennium. Beginning with the Spanish conquistadors and ending with a discussion of contemporary issues of illegality in the United States, we look at the great diversity of migrant narratives that have shaped life in the Americas, both North and South. We follow migrants across oceans and borders and into new homes, building an understanding of migration that takes into account countries of origin as well as destination. Questions of adaptation, assimilation, community, racialization, xenophobia, and return will all help us shape our investigation of movement to and within the Americas. The stories of migrants of all sorts – voluntary, involuntary, single, in families, rich, poor, from all continents – provide the backbone for this course, and over the quarter we will seek to understand the circumstances, both societal and personal, that motivated their emigration and conditioned their successes and failures in new homes.

The quarter is divided into three great migrations. First, we will look to the growth of forced migration by way of slavery that attended the ascension of plantation economies in the 17th and 18th centuries and the transformations brought about by 19th century emancipations. Next, we will turn to the great European (and global) migratory moment of the mid to late-19th century, focusing on the communities of shared origin that developed to accommodate and facilitate these processes. Then, looking to the late 19th and early 20th centuries, we will examine a shift to regional and internal migration that reshaped the demographic make up of both places of departure and destination within the Americas. This will transition into a final discussion of contemporary issues of migration to the United States, examining in particular the intensification of legal discourses around immigrants.

Students will be active participants in deepening our engagement with the experience of individual migrants through the discovery and introduction of primary materials to their classmates. They will practice research skills through the close reading of these primary materials, their incorporation into the class discussion, and the building of a bibliography of secondary material around them in preparation for a final paper. The final paper itself will provide students the opportunity to move beyond assigned materials for the course to delve into the literature regarding a particular mass migration, migrant experience, or response to migrant arrival.

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