Department of Mexican American and Latina/o Studies
Department of Mexican American and Latina/o Studies

C.J. Alvarez


Assistant ProfessorPh.D., University of Chicago

C.J. Alvarez

Contact

Interests


History of the U.S.-Mexico border

Biography


I am an assistant professor in the department of Mexican American and Latina/o Studies, and an affiliate of the Teresa Lozano Long Institute of Latin American Studies, the Center for Mexican American Studies, and the History Department. I studied at the University of ChicagoHarvard University, and Stanford University. I write and teach about the history of the U.S.-Mexico border. My book manuscript, The Shape of the Border: Policing, Infrastructure, and the U.S.-Mexico Divide, explains the history of police activity in the borderland. Both my writing and teaching are driven by the belief that the history of the border can help explain much larger conceptual questions relating to sovereignty, democracy, and inequality in both the United States and Mexico.

Read my work here:

“Inventing the U.S.-Mexico Border,” in James T. Sparrow, Stephen Sawyer, and William J. Novak, eds., Boundaries of the State in U.S. History (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2015).

The United States-Mexico Border,” Oxford Research Encyclopedia of American History, March, 2017.

Law and order fundamentalism and the U.S.-Mexico Border,” Oxford University Press blog, May, 2017.

Courses


MAS 364 • Hist Of Us-Mex Borderland

35645 • Spring 2018
Meets MWF 1:00PM-2:00PM PAR 203
(also listed as HIS 365G)

The borderland occupies a prominent space in the political and social imaginations of both the United States and Mexico. For nearly two hundred years the border has provoked intense hostility and rancor. But it has also engendered cooperation and has fueled prosperity. This course invites students to go well beyond the clichés, stereotypes, and anecdotes that inform most discussions of the border, and challenges them to use the historical record to think in innovative ways about the borderland.

MAS 307 • Intro To Mexican Amer Cul Stds

36135 • Fall 2017
Meets TTH 12:30PM-2:00PM PAR 206

This course is designed to provide an introduction to the history and culture of Mexican Americans in the United States from the early nineteenth-century to the present. We will work from the premise that Mexican American history is deeply intertwined with both “mainstream” U.S. and Mexican history. We will not study Mexicans Americans in isolation, nor will we assume the Mexican American population to be static or monolithic. On the contrary, we will strive for empirical precision and specificity in our discussions, always seeking to move past stereotypes, clichés, and anecdotes in an effort to build a sophisticated framework with which to understand the significance of the Mexican American presence in the United States. The primary disciplinary emphasis of the course is the field of history, though our study of the past will be informed by a analysis of culture and the ways in which historical and cultural studies inform one another.

MAS 374 • Environment And Mex America

36214 • Fall 2017
Meets TTH 2:00PM-3:30PM PAR 101

Commercial agriculture, mining, oil and gas extraction, and construction are all industries upon which American society depends, they all have major environmental consequences, and they have all been built in substantial ways on Mexican and Mexican American labor. This course traces the history of these complex relationships.

MAS 307 • Intro To Mexican Amer Cul Stds

35960 • Fall 2016
Meets TTH 12:30PM-2:00PM GEA 127

This course is designed to provide an introduction to the history and culture of Mexican Americans in the United States from the early nineteenth-century to the present. We will work from the premise that Mexican American history is deeply intertwined with both “mainstream” U.S. and Mexican history. We will not study Mexicans Americans in isolation, nor will we assume the Mexican American population to be static or monolithic. On the contrary, we will strive for empirical precision and specificity in our discussions, always seeking to move past stereotypes, clichés, and anecdotes in an effort to build a sophisticated framework with which to understand the significance of the Mexican American presence in the United States. The primary disciplinary emphasis of the course is the field of history, though our study of the past will be informed by a analysis of culture and the ways in which historical and cultural studies inform one another.

MAS 392 • Infrastructure Us-Mex Bordr

36080 • Fall 2016
Meets TH 2:00PM-5:00PM MEZ 1.104
(also listed as LAS 381)

Infrastructure of the U.S.-Mexico Borderland

 

This course examines the U.S.-Mexico border in terms of the built environment. We begin with the first mapping expedition of 1849-1855 and then trace the development of transportation and communication infrastructure, construction, and urbanization in the borderland through the Secure Fence Act of 2006. We will consider the ways in which the familiar borderland processes of international migration and economic exchange, as well as the corollary processes of incarceration, expulsion, and interdiction, can be understood in terms of the physical building projects that make them all possible. Case studies include: transcontinental railroads, federal highway systems, ports of entry, military bases, the power grid and oil and gas infrastructure, prisons/deportation facilities, and the various iterations of the border fence. 

MAS 374 • History Of Us-Mex Borderland

35270 • Spring 2016
Meets MWF 1:00PM-2:00PM PAR 1
(also listed as HIS 365G)

Please check back for updates.

MAS 392 • Policing Us-Mexico Border

35360 • Spring 2016
Meets M 3:00PM-6:00PM PAR 214

Please check back for updates.

MAS 307 • Intro To Mexican Amer Cul Stds

35080 • Fall 2015
Meets TTH 12:30PM-2:00PM MEZ 1.120

FLAGS:   CD

See syllabus.

MAS 319 • Drug History In The Americas

35125 • Fall 2015
Meets TTH 9:30AM-11:00AM BUR 112
(also listed as AMS 315, HIS 306N, LAS 310)

FLAGS:   CD  |  GC

DESCRIPTION:

The international traffic in illegal drugs is a phenomenon loaded with important implications for democracy, public health, and politics. Yet it is also freighted with misunderstanding, prejudice, and bad data. In an effort to demystify, this course examines the narcotics trade from a historical and transnational perspective, tracing the multiple and intertwined histories of psychoactive substances, law enforcement, and diplomacy. We will explore the origins of marijuana and poppy cultivation, the medical development of cocaine, the popularization of hallucinogens, the invention of synthetics, while also considering why other mind-altering substances like tobacco, coffee, sugar, and many pharmaceuticals remain legal. We will also examine the rise of the Columbian and Mexican crime syndicates and the dramatic expansion and internationalization of law enforcement and incarceration.

TEXT:

Andreas, Peter. "The Politics of Measuring Illicit Flows and Policy Effectiveness." In Sex, Drugs, and Body Counts, edited by Peter Andreas and Kelly Greenhill. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2010.

Mintz, Sidney. Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern History. New York: Viking, 1985.

Pendergrast, Mark. Uncommon Grounds: The History of Coffee and How It Transformed Our World. New York: Basic Books, 1999.

Gootenberg, Paul. "Talking About the Flow: Drugs, Borders, and the Discourse of Drug Control." Cultural Critique, no. 71 (2009).

Astorga Almanza, Luis. "Cocaine in Mexico: A Prelude to 'los narcos'." In Cocaine: Global Histories, edited by Paul Gootenberg, 183-191. New York: Routledge, 1999.

Camp, Roderic Ai. Mexico's Military on the Democratic Stage. Westport, Conn.; Washington, D.C.: Praeger Security International; published in cooperation with the Center for Strategic and International Studies, 2005.

GRADING:

Participation: 25%

Midterm: 25%

Debate: 25%

Final exam: 25%

MAS 374 • History Of Us-Mex Borderland

35469 • Spring 2015
Meets MWF 1:00PM-2:00PM MEZ 1.120
(also listed as HIS 365G)

Course Description: 

The borderland occupies a prominent space in the political and social imaginations of both the United States and Mexico. For nearly two hundred years the border has provoked intense hostility and rancor. But it has also engendered cooperation and has fueled tremendous prosperity. This course invites students to go well beyond the clichés, stereotypes, and anecdotes that inform most discussions of the border, and challenges them to use the historical record to think and write in innovative ways about the borderland. We will ask: What, if anything, is exceptional about the U.S.-Mexico border? Is there such a thing as either an "open" or "closed" border? Does the border need to be policed? In the borderland, where does hegemony reside?

 

Proposed Texts: 

James Lockhart, "A Historian and the Disciplines," in Of Things of the Indies: Essays Old and New in Early Latin American History (Stanford, 1999), 333-367.

Week 2: Studying Borderlands

Adelman, Jeremy and Stephen Aron. "From Borderlands to Borders: Empires, Nation-States, and the Peoples in Between in North American History," American Historical Review 104, no. 3 (1999): 814-41.

Pekka Hamalainen and Samuel Truett, "On Borderlands," Journal of American History 98, no. 2 (September 2011): 338-361. 

Week 3: Indigenous Borderlands

Pekka Hamalainen, "The Empire of the Plains," in The Comanche Empire (Yale University Press, 2009), 141-180.

Brian Delay, "Indians Don't Unmake Presidents," in The War of a Thousand Deserts: Indian Raids and the U.S-Mexican War (Yale, 2008), 141-164.

Week 4: Inventing the U.S.-Mexico Border

Rachel St. John, "A New Map for North America: Defining the Border," in Line in the Sand: A History of the Western U.S.-Mexico Border (Princeton, 2011), 12-38.

Rachel St. John, "The Space Between: Policing the Border," in Line in the Sand: A History of the Western U.S.-Mexico Border (Princeton, 2011), 90-118.

 

Week 5: Early African American Borderlands

Sarah Cornell, "Citizens  of Nowhere: Fugitive Slaves and Free African Americans in Mexico,1833-1857, 1833-1865," Journal of American History 100:2 (September 2013): 351-74.

Karl Jacoby, "Between North and South: The Alternative Borderlands of William H. Ellis and the African American Colony of 1895," in Continental Crossroads:  Remapping U.S.-Mexico Borderlands History, Truett and Young, eds. (Duke, 2004), 209-240.

WRITING WORIKSHOPS

Week 7: Sonora/Arizona

Samuel Truett, "Industrial Frontiers," in Fugitive Landscapes: The Forgotten History of the U.S­ Mexico Borderlands (Yale, 2008), 55-77.

Geraldo Cadava, "La Fiesta de los Vaqueros," in Standing on Common Ground: The Making of a Sunbelt Borderland (Harvard, 2013), 57-95.

Week 8: Comparative Borderlands

Kornel Chang, "Policing  Migrants and Militants: In Defense of Nation and Empire in the Borderlands," in Pacific Connections: The Making of the U.S.-CanadianBorderlands (California, 2012), 147-178.

Edith Sheffer, "On Edge: Building the Border in East and West Germany," Central European History, Vol. 40, no. 2 (June 2007), 307-339.

Week 9: International  Migration

David Fitzgerald, "Colonies of the Little Motherland," in A Nation of Emigrants: How MexicoManages its Migration (California, 2009), 103-124.

Sarah Lopez, "The Remittance House: Dream Homes at a Distance," The Remittance Landscape: Spaces of Migration in Rural Mexico and Urban U.S.A. (Chicago, 2014).

SPECIAL SESSION:  DISCUSSION WITH THE AUTHOR

Week 10: Atomic Borderlands

Joseph Masco, "Econationalisms: First Nations in the Plutonium Economy," in The Nuclear Borderlands: The Manhattan Project in Post-Cold War New Mexico (Princeton University Press, 2006), 99-159.

Joseph Masco, "Mutant Ecologies: Radioactive Life in Post-Cold War New Mexico," in The Nuclear Borderlands: The Manhattan Project in Post-Cold War New Mexico (Princeton University Press, 2006), 289-327.

 Week 11:

 WRITING WORKSHOPS

 Week 12: Policing the U.S.-Mexico Border

 

 Kelly Lytle-Hemandez, "The Early Years," Migra! A History of the US Border Patrol (California, 2010), 19-44.

 Timothy Dunn, "Operation Blockade/Hold-the-Line: The Border Patrol Reasserts Control," in Blockading the Border and Human Rights: The El Paso Operation that Remade Immigration Enforcement (University of Texas Press, 2009), 51-96.

Week 13: Policing the U.S.-Mexico Border II

Peter Andreas, "The Escalation of Drug Control," in Border Games: Policing the US-Mexico Divide (Cornell, 2009), 51-84.

Peter Andreas, "The Escalation of Immigration Control," in Border Games: Policing the U.S­ Mexico Divide (Cornell, 2009), 85-114.

Week 14: Beyond Borders

Wendy Brown, "Waning  Sovereignty, Walled Democracy," in Walled States, Waning Sovereignty (Zone Books, 2010), 7-42.

Saskia Sassen, "Shrinking  Economies, Growing Expulsions," in Expulsions: Brutality and Complexity in the Global Economy (Harvard, 2014), 12-79.

 

Porposed Grading Policy:

Participation (25%)

This is a discussion-based course that depends on active and engaged participation from each student. I expect everyone to come to class having read and contemplated the day's readings (this means not only having read the texts, but also taken notes on them), ready to raise questions and speculate about their importance. Questions to ask yourself in preparation:  what did I found particularly surprising? Troubling? Confusing? Inspiring? Bring those reactions to our class discussions!

 

Writing Workshop, Paper 1 (25%)

Each student will write a 3-5 page narrative based on a common primary document. We will then hold a writing workshop in class during which students will exchange, read, and comment on each other's work. Since each student will have written on the same document

 

Paper 2 (25%)

The second paper (5 pages) will be based on original research. Each student is responsible for locating a primary source (a document or physical object written or created during the time under study. These sources were present during an experience  or time period and offer an inside view of a particular event that exemplifies how culture influences daily life. Examples include: diaries, speeches, manuscripts, letters, interviews, news film footage, autobiographies, official records, poetry, drama, novels,

music, art, or even pottery, furniture, clothing, buildings, etc.) and then offering a brief (5

minute) presentation to the class that explains its historical context and cultural significance. This paper is designed to apply the skills and best practices generated from the first paper/workshop.

 

Paper  3 (25%)

The final paper (10 pages) will expand upon the first, incorporating new primary and secondary sources to build both a historical narrative and make a historical argument.

Students will also be required to distill their sources and argument into a presentation at the end of the course.

 

MAS 307 • Intro To Mexican Amer Cul Stds

36370 • Fall 2014
Meets TTH 3:30PM-5:00PM MEZ 2.124

FLAGS:   CD

See syllabus.

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