Clements Center Monthly Talks

It's Written in the Stars: Calculations and Confrontations along the Nineteenth-century U.S.-Mexico Border

Celeste Menchaca
Clements Center Fellow for the Study of Southwestern America

Wednesday, October 24, 2018 |   Heroy Hall #153, 3225 Daniel Avenue, SMU   |  12 noon to 1 pm  |  No registration necessary.

Since the passage of the Secure Fence Act of 2006, the United States has fortified the U.S.-Mexico border with additional fencing, lighting, unmanned aerial vehicles, and state-of-the-art surveillance cameras. The technologies of sight—scientific, visual, and bureaucratic systems—that affix and inform the material and imagined production of the current U.S.-Mexico boundary line, however, have an extensive history, one that begins well before the creation of the Border Patrol in 1924.This talk explores how surveying, natural history, ethnography, and border surveillance during the second-half of the nineteenth-century made the southwest meaningful to an expanding nation. It describes how state officials and scientists used scientific, visual, and bureaucratic methods to manufacture a border into a space to be explored, charted, and brought under control. In turn, their spatial construction was met with challenges from not only the environment, but also borderland inhabitants who envisioned a different landscape.

Celeste Menchaca is a Clements Fellow for the Study of Southwestern America and is an assistant professor of history at Texas Christian University where she specializes in nineteenth-century U.S. borderlands history, examining science and technology, immigration, performance studies, and race, gender and sexuality.  She received her PhD in American Studies and Ethnicity for University of Southern California.  Her book manuscript which she will further duiring her Clements Center fellowship, "Borderland Visualities: Technologies of Affixing and the Nineteenth-Century Southwest Borderlands," unearths the interplay between vision and science, spatial and social landscapes, and the regulation of bodies and borders along the nineteenth-century U.S.-Mexico border region. In addition to the Clements Center Fellowship, Celeste is a current Ford Postdoctoral Fellow, and is the past recipient of both the Pre-doctoral and the Dissertation Ford Fellowships.  


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