Instructor: Professor Michel Hogue

Walls and borders are in the news these days. Since January 2017, the questions about immigration and border enforcement that simmered during the previous year’s American presidential election campaign have emerged as the most pressing and vital questions facing the United States. The heated discussions about banning migrants, building walls, and accelerating deportations—though remarkable for their scope, scale, and intensity—are not entirely unprecedented. Questions about who should be allowed to move across national boundaries—to travel, trade, raid, marry, work, or settle—have long provoked fierce debate. Indeed, the process of constructing and enforcing borders in North America has typically prompted searching questions about belonging. Along the territorial edges of nation-states, such questions about belonging resonate in profound ways.

This course focuses on the historical experiences of migration and border-making in an effort to place current conversations about border enforcement in the United States in a broader historical context. It will examine the efforts to construct and enforce the country’s boundaries with Mexico and Canada, and along the Pacific Rim, in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries and the ways that Indigenous peoples, settlers, and migrants both shaped and where shaped by those efforts. In so doing, we will seek to explore both the policies designed to regulate the movement of people across borders and the actual practices that emerged on the ground. By paying close attention to the migration stories from these borderlands we will see how national boundaries have long been the sites of struggles and how these historical struggles can shed new light on modern debates.

Required Readings (note that these are subject to change):

  • Judy Yung and Erika Lee, Angel Island: Immigrant Gateway to America. New York: Oxford University Press, 2012.
  • Margaret Regan, Detained and Deported: Stories of Immigrant Families Under Fire. Boston: Beacon Press, 2015.

Course Requirements and Assignments:

I have not yet settled on the course assignments. In the past, the assignments for this course have included book reviews, blog assignments, and exams.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me at