Joel Zapata

PhD Program





Educational Background

Ph.D. Candidate in History, Southern Methodist University, 2013-Present
M.A. in History, Southern Methodist University, 2014
B.A. in History summa cum laude, University of Texas at El Paso, 2012


I research and write on the long-term history of the greater U.S.-Mexico borderlands, the Southwest, the South, and the lands where these regions meet, the Southern Great Plains. My dissertation is titled “The Mexican Southern Plains: Creating an Ethnic Mexican Homeland on the Llano.” It engages several fields of history, including Chicana/o, U.S. West, Great Plains, U.S. South, borderlands, Mexico, migration, labor, civil rights, and colonialism. Overall, my dissertation project counters the depiction of ethnic Mexicans as recent immigrants to the United States, making clear their long-term presence in the nation beyond the Southwest and placing them as an integral part of Southern Plains history.

My work has also concentrated on women’s labor and organizing on the U.S.-Mexico border, African American and Mexican American social justice movements (broadly defined), historical memory, and the cultural ecology of the Southern Plains. Through the historical connections that a long-dureé approach reveals, I have brought, and continue bring, these various interests together.

Outside of the university setting, I have worked and volunteered in publicly accessible oral history projects and preservation projects focused on harnessing historical assets for community-oriented development. My research has also been included within publications for the wider public and historical agencies.

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