Congrats to the 2020-21 Awardees of the Margerison Graduate Fellowship in History!

Photos of Margerison Fellowship awardees

The Texas State University Department of History is proud to announce this year’s awardees of the Kenneth and Patricia Margerison Graduate Research Fellowship in History. The Fellowship provides support to full-time graduate students enrolled in the master’s degree program in history. Recipients are awarded funds to fully cover graduate tuition and fees for the spring and fall semesters as well as research support—qualifying for in-state tuition. The Graduate Studies Committee considers all first-year students as well as continuing students who demonstrate great promise as historians. In addition to the fellowship, students may also be offered a graduate Instructional Assistantship (IA), which includes a monthly salary.

Please visit the History Department Scholarships website for specific details and requirements.

Learn more about Railey Tassin (top photo) and Madison Otte (bottom photo), this year’s recipients of this prestigious fellowship:

Railey Tassin is a first-year Texas State graduate student pursuing a Master’s in Public History. Railey graduated summa cum laude from Texas Christian University in May 2020 with a B.A. in History, minor in French, and emphasis in Comparative Race and Ethnic Studies. She has experience interning at the Houston Museum of Natural Science and studying abroad in Toulouse, France. After completing her degree, Railey would love to work in a museum dedicated to documenting diversity and engaging the general public with the history of underrepresented groups. 

How do you see this Margerison Fellowship helping you in your studies?

Railey: The financial aid provided by the Margerison Fellowship guarantees that I will be able to begin my graduate education completely focused on excelling in my personal studies and my duties as an Instructional Assistant. As a first-generation student, I strongly recognize the significance of generous financial support in helping students reach their highest potential. Receiving this fellowship has ensured that I feel supported and valued as a student at Texas State even before having officially entered.

As an undergraduate at Texas Christian University, you studied History, and French with an emphasis in Comparative Race and Ethnic Studies, can you tell us more about your research interests, and what got you interested in it in the first place?

Railey: Since a young age, I have been fascinated by studying the actions and words of those who came before us as a way to better understand the present. I began studying French in high school to feel a closer connection to my ancestry, and I loved the idea of having a wider range of writings/sources available to me in college by knowing a second language. Taking CRES classes gave me additional knowledge in analyzing race and ethnicity and inspired me to focus my historical research on traditionally marginalized/underrepresented groups. My senior History thesis focused on the works of three Black women, Paulette Nardal, Jessie Fauset, and Gwendolyn Bennett, whose France-inspired writings contributed to a rise in race consciousness across the African diaspora throughout the twentieth century. This project allowed me to combine theories learned from CRES, French primary sources, and my historical research interests.

What are you looking forward to the most about your graduate studies at Texas State?

Railey: I am most looking forward to making meaningful connections with professors and fellow students – all of us dedicated to continuous learning and working together to adapt during this abnormal semester. I can already sense that the Texas State community will be fully encouraging and helpful in all of my endeavors and will strive to make each student feel supported. I believe the study of history is meant to be shared with others, and I am eager to have the opportunity to engage in collaborative efforts to do so during my time at Texas State.

Madison Otte is a first-year graduate student, but is not new to the Texas State campus. Madison received her bachelor’s degree in History from Texas State University with a minor in Spanish and single-field teaching certification in History for grades 7-12. Madison is working towards her master’s degree in History, and plans to write a thesis about Early Modern Spanish and Colonial History. Madison is also an Instructional Assistant, and looks forward to merging her love of History and teaching to help students this semester. After finishing her degree, Madison hopes to continue her education and one day become a professor at the university level.

How do you see this Margerison Fellowship helping you in your studies?

Madison: The recognition of my hard work through the Margerison Fellowship makes me feel even more strongly motivated to succeed in my endeavors in graduate school. I am very thankful to be able to focus on my thesis wholeheartedly, without the stress of an extra job to juggle with my courses and research.

You are interested in Early Modern Spanish and Colonial History, can you tell us more about your research interests, and what got you interested in it in the first place?

Madison: I am interested in researching the changes that occurred in the Spanish colonies in Latin America after the start of the Counter-Reformation. I am especially interested in the way this changed interactions between Spanish missionaries and the Native people they wished to convert to Catholicism. I have always been interested in Colonial History because the effects the has Old World on the New World that can still be seen today are fascinating to me. I became particularly interested in the religious effects on colonialism in the Americas during my undergraduate studies here at Texas State.

What are you looking forward to the most about your graduate studies at Texas State?

Madison: I am most looking forward to growing more as a writer as I construct my thesis. I also look forward to working with the professors in the History Department both on my research and as an Instructional Assistant. I really enjoy working with other students and using the skills I gained in my undergraduate degree as a candidate for teaching certification.

Black Lives Matter

Black Lives Matter Image

The Department of History at Texas State University affirms that #BlackLivesMatter. We study, teach, and strive to understand the historical continuum of racisms in this country. We recognize the many ways that racism is intertwined with deep and constantly evolving structures and cultures of inequity, domination, exclusion, and exploitation in the United States and across the globe, throughout the long expanse of modern history. We have learned from this history that, in order to advance the cause of anti-racism, we must identify the many forms of violence that sustain racial injustice and affirm both the dignity of Black lives and the interdependence of all human beings.

We stand in solidarity with our Black students, colleagues, and their families, and we are grieving and committed to act against racial injustice with you.

Dr. Thomas Alter
Dr. Gregory Andrews
Dr. Nancy Berlage
Dr. Elizabeth Bishop
Dr. Ronald Brown
Dr. Victoria Bynum
Adam Clark
Dr. Sarah Coleman
Dr. Sara Damiano
Dr. Peter Dedek
Dr. José Carlos de la Puente
Dr. Shannon Duffy
Trace Etienne
Dr. Bryan Glass
Dr. Dwonna Goldstone
Dr. Jeff Helgeson
Dr. Debra Law
Dr. Deirdre E. Lannon
Dr. Bryan N. Mann
Dr. Kenneth Margerison
Dr. John Mckiernan-González
Dr. James McWilliams
Dr. Jason Mellard
Dr. Margaret Menninger
Dr. Rebecca Montgomery
Dr. Angela Murphy
Dr. Joshua Paddison
Madelyn Patlan
Dr. Jessica Pliley
Dr. Leah Renold
Dr. Caroline Ritter
Dr. Joaquín Rivaya-Martínez
Dr. Allison Robinson
Dr. Anadelia Romo
Roberta Ruiz
Katie Salzmann
Dr. Ellen Tillman
Dan K. Utley
Dr. Louie Dean Valencia-García
Dr. Joseph Yick

A Congratulations to TXST’s Model Arab League

Photo of Model Arab League Students

A big congratulations to the Texas State’s Model Arab League! From their press release:

The Model Arab League Chapter at Texas State University competed in the Bilateral chamber regional competition February 15-16, winning awards and having two members serving as chair positions for the competition. Representing Syria, Texas State delegates participated in debates, discussions and wrote resolutions on Political, Economic, Social, and Environmental Affairs and Joint Defense Council.

Following two days of dedication and hard work, Texas State students received the following awards:

  • Distinguished Delegation Award for Syria’s representation of the Joint Defense Council awarded to Parker Weaver and Aaron Gaul
  • Distinguished Delegation Award for Syria’s representation of the Environmental Affairs Council awarded to Yehia Hafez and Macy Birdwell
  • Distinguished Delegation Award for Syria’s representation of The Political Affairs Council awarded to Patrick Moloney
  • Social Media Award given to Brittlin Richardson for her online engagement during the competition
  • Most Engaged School on Twitter Awarded to Texas State University for its social media engagement during the competition

Brittlin Richardson served as Chair for the Council of Political Affairs and Devin Barrett served as Chair for the Council on Economic Affairs Ministers

Group photo

Meet the Chairs: Dr. Murphy and Dr. Helgeson reflect on the History Department and its future

Photo of Drs. Murphy and Helgeson

Dr. Angela Murphy, who has served as chair of the department since 2017, reflects on her time as chair and shares some of her upcoming research. Incoming chair, Dr. Jeffrey Helgeson, gives us a glimpse into his vision of the future of the department.

Join them both on 9 March 2020 from 5:30-6:30 PM in Taylor-Murphy Hall 101 for a discussion sponsored by Phi Alpha Theta History Honors Society.

Murphy and Helgeson FlyerA Note from Dr. Angela Murphy

It has been rewarding serving as chair of the History Department for the past few years. It has given me a chance to get to know students on a different level, beyond the classroom, and to help further the vision of my fellow faculty. Students should know that they are front and center in that vision. I am proud to say that although the department is made up of world-class researchers, student success has remained one of its highest priorities.  This can be seen not only in the way in which faculty interact with students both in and out of the classroom, but also in the type of people we have hired over the past three years, in the efforts that have been put into modernizing the curriculum, and in the accomplishments of our students both while they are enrolled with us and afterwards.

While I am grateful for the experience of serving as chair, I am very much looking forward to stepping back into to my old faculty role in which I get to teach more (hands down my favorite part of my work) and engage more heavily with my research. Next year I will return to teaching the first half of the U.S. history survey and upper level and graduate courses on the history of the United States during the Antebellum, Civil War, and Reconstruction Eras. I also will be able to dedicate more time to writing a monograph that has been long in the making – a biography of 19thcentury African American activist, Jermain Loguen, who was one of the primary Underground Railroad operatives in New York State.

I am excited to pass the torch to Jeff Helgeson, who is a natural leader in the department already and whose dynamism and commitment will surely take the department to new heights!

A Note from Dr. Jeffrey Helgeson

It is an incredible honor to be able to say that in September 2020 I will be beginning my eleventh year here at Texas State in a new role as chair of the department of history. Over the course of the past decade, I have had the great good fortune to learn from, and have the support of, our previous chairs: Dr. Frank de la Teja, Dr. Mary Brennan (now Dean of the College of Liberal Arts), and Dr. Angela Murphy. To a great extent, as leaders of the history department, they have created the foundation for my success here as a scholar and a teacher, and they have helped guide the energy I have put into helping to foster the growth of Texas State as a whole (the kind of work academics label, “service,” that includes not just serving on committees, but, among other things, making decisions about how we will teach our classes, who we will hire, and how the university can live as a community of inclusiveness and student growth in difficult times). I hope to follow in the footsteps of the previous chairs, to support my colleagues in their work.

The history department has a reputation for being a well-run department. This means that the chairs who have come before me have been highly successful at doing the work of managing the department. They lead the way on the work that happens behind the scenes to make sure that students have the classes, advising, and academic support they need. They work to ensure that our faculty has the resources they need to develop their research, as well as coursework and extracurricular programs (study abroad, study in America, student clubs, teacher training programs, etc.) that make the Texas State history department such a vibrant place.

The Department of History is a dynamic living community, the health of which depends upon the dedicated work of dozens of people. Our academic counseling and teacher training leaders are amongst the leaders in Texas and the nation. Our public history program has established itself as a national leader, placing graduates in internships and jobs with institutions like the National Park Service, the Smithsonian, and dozens of museums, archives, and history enterprises nationwide. Our undergraduate major in history prepares students to be leaders in the professional worlds of education, the media, public service, the arts, and much more. Moreover, through our connections with vibrant areas of study across campus—including, but not limited to, the Center for International Studies, the Center for Texas Music History, the Center for the Study of the Southwest, the Center for the Study of Gender and Diversity, and minors in African American and Latino/a Studies—the history department opens doors for students to have a grounding in sophisticated historical thinking while pursuing academic and career paths that could take them literally anywhere in the world. None of this wide-ranging work would be possible if not for the department’s outstanding administrative staff—I know I am going to learn so much from Madelyn Patlan, Roberta Ruiz, Adam Clark, and the student staffers in the office.

As you can see, I am a big believer in the ongoing work of the Department of History. I have seen my colleagues dramatically transform the lives of thousands of students over the years. I want to do nothing that will slow down those achievements. Indeed, one of my goals is to sustain the department’s record of continuous excellence, and to build upon recent gains we have made in funding graduate student research and travel, in creating resources to foster undergraduate research, and to support our faculty in their awe-inspiring research on historical themes that span thousands of years of global history.

In addition to maintaining our ongoing success, I also pledge my energies to the tasks of making the Department of History a place where even more students—undergraduate and graduate, alike—can find a path for themselves, while gaining the kinds of skills and worldview that will give them the power to constantly reinvent themselves in the face of life’s inevitable challenges. This means that I am committed both to the fostering of a community of scholars, even as I show up day in and day out to ensure that the nitty gritty work of making the department run well gets done.

Looking forward, I have to admit that I find my new role to be somewhat daunting. Yet I return to advice I received years ago from none other than my own mom. She said, if you want to take on big challenges in life, be sure to surround yourself with people whom you respect and who are doing interesting things. The Department of History is a complex institution, it is also my academic home—a place where I look forward to learning from, and working alongside, fellow faculty members, deeply competent and friendly staff, as well as curious and profoundly interesting students.


Funding Opportunities

Funding opportunities

Check out some of these scholarship opportunities for Texas State University History Scholarships: Apply Here

Texas State Undergraduate and Graduate Level Scholarships

Alton G. Brieger Scholarship $950 Undergraduates History Majors  

3.3 GPA in History

Taylor-Murphy Scholarship $950 Undergraduates History Majors  

3.3 GPA in History

Dennis and Margaret Dunn Scholarship  


Entering Freshmen, Undergraduates,

Graduate students.

History or International Studies Majors 3.5 GPA
FitzPatrick-Clayton-Kissler Scholarship $1700  


Graduate Students


History Major 3.5 GPA

Texas State Departmental Nominations

Outstanding Undergraduate Student In Liberal Arts TBA 30 hrs Completed/

18 in Major

Department will nominate a junior or senior from our Majors for this Liberal Arts College Opportunity 3.75 GPA
Presidential Upper Division Schoalrhsip TBA 60 hrs Completed/

30hrs at TxState

Department will nominate a junior or senior from our Majors for the Univeristy Wide Opportunity

Graduate Level Only History Scholarships

Brunson Family Endowed Scholarship $1000 Graduate Students History Majors 3.5 GPA
Minnie Knispel Scholarship $660 Graduate Students History Majors/Social Studies Teachers

James W. Pohl Scholarship


$1800 Graduate students working on a Thesis in History. History Majors 3.5 GPA

Kenneth and Patricia Margerison Graduate Research Fellowship

The Fellowship is intended for use in recruiting master’s students of the highest quality to Texas State University. It provides support to full-time graduate students enrolled in the master’s degree program who demonstrate great promise as historians. All newly admitted students are automatically considered. Recipients will be awarded funds to fully cover graduate tuition and fees for the spring and fall semesters as well as limited research support. Fellows will also qualify for in-state tuition. In addition to the fellowship, students may also be offered a graduate Instructional Assistantship (IA) to create an attractive financial aid package for top applicants. Recipients who maintain a 3.7 cumulative GPA may have their fellowship renewed for up to three consecutive years.

Learn more about the 2019 inaugural fellows on our Texas State History blog.


Transatlantic Migration History with Visiting Fulbright Fellow Dr. Torsten Feys

Today we interview Dr. Torsten Feys, who will be a Visiting Fulbright Fellow at Texas State from the Netherlands beginning spring 2020. Look for his class Transatlantic Migration (History 4318N), 11am-12:20pm, Tuesday/Thursday, in Spring 2020!

Can you tell us a bit about your background and your research into transatlantic steam shipping and migration?

Dr. Torsten Feys: My dissertation analyzed how the transport of millions of transatlantic migrants turned into a big business managed by passenger shipping companies between the 1840s and its decline in the 1920s. It looks at the business aspects of how such companies competed to attract passengers to their homeports. The research analysed how the most important shipping companies formed a powerful cartel to coordinate the lucrative passenger market, ranging from price agreements, set routes, advertising rules, fixed passengers’ quotas between its members while trying to prevent outsiders from entering the market. By the turn of the century, the biggest threat to their trade became the growing anti-immigration movement in the U.S., which pressured for more legal restrictions and stricter enforcement. The research shows how the shipping cartel became the driving force of the American pro-immigration lobby influencing the enactment of the laws. Shipping companies, much like airline companies today, also played a central part in the enforcement of the laws. To compensate for its lack of resources, the U.S. immigration administration transferred part of its controlling responsibilities to shipping lines. This principle of imposing carrier penalties on transport companies for bringing in irregular passengers is still in use today. This commercialization of border control put the shipping companies in a privileged position to assist passengers to pass controls and develop alternative travel means to evade inspections.

My postdoctoral research focused on this impact on migration laws by drawing comparisons between the transatlantic migration system and the transpacific migrations from Asia to the U.S. It highlights how two migration regimes and policies developed simultaneously to govern European and Asian migrations. It led to different means of bypassing restrictions that, however, gradually collided at the land borders through routes via Canada and Mexico. They pioneered strategies and routes of illegal migration that are still very much in use today.

What you are hoping to do with your Fulbright and what brings you to Texas State?

Dr. Feys: Meet new people, exchange ideas, add to my teaching experience in a totally new environment, do some research and writing—in sum, having fun! I have had the opportunity to spend time abroad with various exchange programs in the past in Italy, Spain, Norway and the United States (Colorado and Pennsylvania). Each of these experiences has been very enriching and rewarding and now, as in most past occasions, the place tends to pick me than the other way around. Texas State was suggested by Prof. Jessica Pliley who I met at various conferences and I am very grateful she did. Many people in the History department and beyond contributed to the successful application of the Fulbright grant. They made it possible and I really look forward to finally meet everyone in person, experience the campus life of Texas State and discover San Marcos and Austin. It is my first trip to Texas and my first research stay abroad with the whole family, traveling with my wife, Malika, who is also doing a research stay and my son Basil who should be learning to walk and speak his first words in Texas. We are curious to hear what language that will be in!

We have a robust public history program here; can you tell us a bit about your work at the Red Star Line Museum in Antwerp?

Dr. Feys: The Red Star Line is the name of the shipping company who transported more than 2 million people, mostly migrants, across the Atlantic between Antwerp and New York from 1872 until 1934. The museum tells their story through the eyes of the shipping company and how Antwerp functioned as a transit hub. I have collaborated with the museum as a member of the scientific committee of the Red Star Line since 2004, from its inception, development until its opening (in 2013). After completing my PhD, I also worked as full-time freelance researcher for various months. The experience offered me a unique opportunity to translate academic findings to a broader public. It allowed me to contribute to the development of the museum’s storyline, provide contents and materials, and translate these in different installations within and outside the museum walls. The latter consisted of collaborating to documentaries, museum catalogues, public talks etc. Because of the prominent place that migration has taken into the public debates, the responsibility of migration historians to provide historical context has increased. My experience and research topics lend themselves to continue doing so in and around Austin.

Tell us a bit about your Transatlantic Migration course; what students can expect?

Dr. Feys: The course uncovers how migration processes function, breaking these down into economic, social, cultural and especially political aspects. Who migrated, why and how did transatlantic migration patterns develop (1815-1930)? What actors steered it and how did the enactment, enforcement and evasion of American migration policies take shape? This will be linked to current debates by opening each class week with a discussion of migration in media during the past week.

The class uses both literature and primary sources. Each week the students will analyse a primary source ranging from migrant letters, a file of a deported migrant, reports of the United Nations, newspapers, interviews, etc. learning to draw valuable information from these, while at the same learning to assess the pitfalls and apply historical criticism. The discussion on these will be tested with academic articles using such sources to uncover parts of the process of transatlantic migration.

The assessment will consist of the class participation, a short presentation for ‘Migration in Media this week’, a research paper based on an oral history assignment interviewing a migrant and mid-term and final exams.

Background image from The New York Public Library Digital Collections.

“Chasing Slavery” Participant Spotlight: Dr. Robert T. Chase

Photo of Dr. Chase

In preparation for the upcoming symposium, Chasing Slavery: The Persistence of Forced Labor in the Southwest, to be held at Texas State University from 24-26 October, in Flowers  Hall 230, we will be running a series of posts focused on the conference participants and organizers. The conference will bring together dozens of scholars, with a keynote from Ambassador Luis C.deBaca (ret.). See the conference website for more details.

Today, conference participant Dr. Robert T. Chase, Associate Professor of History at Stony Brook University, shares with us a bit about his forthcoming book. 

We are Not Slaves coverTell me in four sentences why I should read your book.

Dr. Robert T. Chase: We Are Not Slaves will be the first study of the southern prisoners’ rights movement of the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s and the subsequent construction of what many historians now call the era of mass incarceration. By placing the prisoners’ rights movement squarely in the labor organizing and civil rights mobilizing traditions, my work reconceptualizes what constitutes “civil rights” and to whom it applies.  My book shows that this prison-made civil rights rebellion, while mounting a successful legal challenge, was countered by a new prison regime – one that utilized paramilitary practices, gang intelligence units, promoted privatized prisons, endorsed massive prison building programs, and embraced 23-hour cell isolation—that established what I call a “Sunbelt” militarized carceral state approach that became exemplary of national prison trends.  In this two-part narrative of resistance and punitive reconstitution, prison labor is treated as more than work; rather, prison labor constituted a regime of carceral discipline and power that ordered prison society, sexuality, white privilege and racial hierarchy.   By drawing on newly released legal documents and over 80 oral histories with prisoners, this book considers the intersectional nature of prison labor as a cite of power that intersected with spatial control, gender identity, sexuality and sexual violence, and race and racial privileges.  Rather than consider prison rape as an endemic feature of individual prisoner pathology, my study uses legal testimonies to excavate a changing prison society centered on labor division that controlled an internal sex slave trade that amounted to what what I call “state-orchestrated prison rape.”

What was the most surprising thing you encountered when researching your book?

Dr. Chase: The most surprising thing I encountered is the degree to which our criminal justice system relies on prevarication and outright lying to craft false narratives that incarceration offers modernization and rehabilitation, when, in point of fact, incarceration is, at its base, a system of state violence and coerced labor that ultimately eliminates people as citizens and as human beings.  As a civil rights scholar, I expected to find in these civil rights cases the all-too frequent allegation of corporal punishment and physical abuse.  But I never expected to find a system where fellow prisoners operated as guards over other prisoners where these “convict-guards” engaged in torture, maiming, daily abuse, and the sexual assault of other prisoners in a system that was sanctified by state power.   By drawing on legal testimonies and by conducting oral histories with the incarcerated, I learned that prison rape was a system of state-orchestrated sexual assault as a state reward for those prisoners who acted as guards.  As I shifted through personal papers, diaries, letters, and affidavits from the incarcerated, I became astounded at how these people who had so little formal education, learned to educate themselves, to become what are known as “jail house attorneys,” and how deeply these self-taught prisoners read philosophical and political treatises, and how such individual acts of “mind change” lent themselves to inter-racial political organizing in a racially segregated prison system that constituted a twentieth century “prison plantation” system that rendered these prisoners as literal “slaves of the state.”

What do you hope people will take away from our conference on trafficking, forced labor and labor exploitation? 

Dr. Chase: I really appreciate the thematic approach of this conference that has taken normally separate fields of study – sexual trafficking, mass incarceration, and coerced labor – to instead put these fields in dialogue with one another to show how taken together these topics all too often operate as overlapping systems of oppression and dehumanization.   Too often we think of “labor” as merely “work,” rather than the more comprehensive role that labor plays as a critically constitutive system that tends to divide society along strictly policed lines of race, ethnicity, class, gender, and sexuality.  When we think about labor as more than work and as a constitutive process of division, we can better reimagine our collective “work” as crossing these socially constructed divides to build bridges and collective communities to combat such societal divisions.

What challenge(s) raised by your research are you still trying to reconcile?

Dr. Chase: When I started this research in the early 2000s, there were relatively few historical studies of twentieth-century prisons and almost none of the prisoners’ rights movement. Despite the development of a “long civil rights movement” historiography, I found that the literature simply did not discuss the ways in which what we now call mass incarceration has turned the gains of the civil rights revolution into another age of racial disparity.

My contribution to this rethinking of post-1965 narratives is to demonstrate that the civil rights rebellion reached prisoners as well and that their collective efforts extend the struggle for civil rights into the decades of the 1970s and 1980s.  Moreover, my use of oral histories, legal depositions and affidavits, and courtroom testimony provides an example to students of the ways in which they can uncover the voice and agency of the prisoners themselves.  Despite winning the nation’s largest civil rights victory against unconstitutional prison systems, however, the Texas prisoners’ rights movement found that the ground had shifted underneath their feet and that just as the southern prison plantation fell, the new “Sunbelt” militarized prison arose from its ashes like a carceral phoenix.

When activists, abolitionists, policy makers, and reformers attempt to curb mass incarceration, they must seek redress not only at the federal level through national legislation but perhaps more importantly they must encounter the ways in which policing and mass incarceration are governed at the local and state level where the American state is indeed strong. One suggestion that my book offers is that social justice movements against mass incarceration should continue to focus as much attention on changes in local and state government as the civil rights movement once did when it sought civil rights as a matter of national and federal intervention. To dismantle this encompassing thicket of mass incarceration, we must utilize the spade of history to reveal just how deep we must cut to reach the roots of intertwining carceral states.

Also check out:

“Chasing Slavery” Participant Spotlight: Dr. Christian Zlolniski

In preparation for the upcoming symposium, Chasing Slavery: The Persistence of Forced Labor in the Southwest, to be held at Texas State University from 24-26 October, in Flowers  Hall 230, we will be running a series of posts focused on the conference participants and organizers. The conference will bring together dozens of scholars, with a keynote from Ambassador Luis C.deBaca (ret.). See the conference website for more details.

Today, conference participant Dr. Christian Zlolninski, Associate Professor, Sociology and Anthropology at the University of Texas at Arlington, shares with us a bit about his research. 

Book cover for "Made in Baja"

Tell me in four sentences why I should read your book.

Dr. Christian Zlolniski:

  • To learn about where much of our the fresh tomatoes, strawberries, and other fresh-produce are grown, you consume come from, especially during the winter.
  • To find out how people in living in northern Mexico have been affected — positively or negatively — by the production of fresh-produce for consumers markets in the United States, including positive and negative results.
  • To learn about the environmental effects caused by growing water-intense fresh crops in arid Baja California.
  • Read from farmworkers’ own voices what they say about the opportunities and costs that export agriculture has brought to their lives and their families.

What was the most surprising thing you encountered when researching your book?

Dr. Zlolniski: The social lives of farmworkers beyond the workplace.

Indigenous workers not only grow the fresh produce we eat, but they also play a key role in settling and developing the arid lands of the San Quintin Valley that until was regarded as recently were seen as inhospitable and impossible to make a living. In the process, farmworkers have also developed a sense of belonging and community, adopting this land as their own with pride. Reducing them to the one unidimensional category of farmworkers prevents us from doing justice to the multiple ways in which they have enriched the region culturally, socially, and politically.

What do you hope people will take away from our conference on trafficking, forced labor and labor exploitation? 

Dr. Zlolniski: To see the connections, continuities and discontinuities between different labor regimes across time and space. Capitalist agriculture keeps reinventing old labor configurations while creating new ones with the introduction of new production technologies. My critical and historically informed analysis allows us to understand how forms of labor exploitation change and evolve over time, often sparking novel forms of labor resistance and class struggle.

What challenge(s) raised by your research are you still trying to reconcile?


Dr. Zlolniski: Combining my scholarly work with a more public approach that disseminate its findings beyond the walls of academia. As an anthropologists whose research and scholarship depends on the collaboration with the peoples and workers I study, I realize that we need to reciprocate and make our studies meaningful to a larger audience to bring change. This means balancing our intellectual labor with the moral imperative to make our research relevant to the people who contributed to our studies and academic careers. It also means to use our voice to shape public policies to improve the conditions of the people we study as they themselves define them.

Also check out:

“Chasing Slavery” Participant Spotlight: Dr. William S. Kiser

William Kiser photo

In preparation for the upcoming symposium, Chasing Slavery: The Persistence of Forced Labor in the Southwest, to be held at Texas State University from 24-26 October, in Flowers  Hall 230, we will be running a series of posts focused on the conference participants and organizers. The conference will bring together dozens of scholars, with a keynote from Ambassador Luis C.deBaca (ret.). See the conference website for more details.

Today, conference participant Dr. William S. Kiser, Assistant Professor of History at Texas A&M University-San Antonio, shares with us a bit about his research. 

Book coverTell me in four sentences why I should read your book.

Dr. William Kiser: This book broadens our historical understandings of slavery during and after the Civil War era by examining two relatively obscure forms of involuntary servitude:  Indian captivity and Hispanic debt peonage.  It focuses on American legal and political understandings of slavery and free labor in the 19th century, and the impact that the Hispanic Southwest’s alternative slaveries had on abolitionist ideology and jurisprudence.  People should read this book because it challenges prevailing conceptualizations of slavery and free labor by emphasizing the expansion of Thirteenth Amendment jurisprudence to include peonage and captivity in addition to the more familiar chattel slavery of the Old South.

What was the most surprising thing you encountered when researching your book?

Dr. Kiser: The most surprising thing to me was just how little had previously been written about debt peonage in the American Southwest. In the past 20 years, historians have increasingly taken notice of Indian captivity and slavery in North America, but peonage in the Hispanic Southwest has somehow managed to linger in the shadows of public and academic awareness until very recently.

What do you hope people will take away from our conference on trafficking, forced labor and labor exploitation? 

Dr. Kiser: The main takeaway that I’d like to see is a better understanding of just how complex and complicated slavery is in the modern world and that, contrary to popular belief, forced labor remains prevalent but largely invisible throughout parts of the United States.  In this sense post-Civil War Reconstruction truly is, to borrow Eric Foner’s words, an unfinished revolution that continues to impact modern America.

What challenge(s) raised by your research are you still trying to reconcile? 

Dr. Kiser: The paper I am presenting at this conference actually address this very issue.  In Borderlands of Slavery, I took the story of peonage into the late 19th century, but I did not follow it into the 20th century.  I am currently researching the persistence of forced labor—particularly the peonage and partido systems–in the modern American Southwest and attempting to reconcile the national ban on debt peonage in 1867 with the ongoing existence of the system, in disguised forms, into the late 20th century.


Also check out: