Co-Researching and Authoring Across National Borders, Part I, by Andrae Marak and Laura Tuennerman

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I am pleased to begin today with the first of a three-part series on both how scholars can collaborate to increase their research output and on transnational work on the U.S.-Mexican borderlands. Andrae Marak is the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences & Graduate Studies and a Professor of History and Political Science at Governors State University. Laura Tuennerman is a Professor of History at California University of Pennsylvania. They are co-editors (with Clarissa Confer) of Transnational Indians in the North American West (Texas A&M Press, 2015). Their blog posts will discuss the way they utilize both scholars’ strengths to do the transnational research that made this and other works possible.

Co-Researching and Authoring Across National Borders, Part I

In the summer of 2005, I (Andrae) returned from a research trip to the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration’s Pacific Region Records Center facility in Laguna Niguel, California. I had been sent there by David Rich Lewis, a generous professor of history at Utah State University and the 13-year editor of the Western Historical Quarterly (WHQ). Professor Lewis had written me in response to an article that I had submitted to the WHQ telling me that he didn’t think that he could send it out for peer-review because many of the records for the story that I was trying to tell about the Mexican government’s attempts to educate the Tohono O’odham Nation were on the U.S. side of the border, and I had not consulted them. In fact, up until that moment I didn’t quite know where they were, even if I vaguely knew that they existed.

I was trained as a Mexicanist with a pretty strong background in Political Science – especially comparative politics and international relations - and U.S. foreign policy, but with little formal training in U.S. history. In fact, I dropped the one U.S. history class that I had signed up for as an undergraduate. However, Professor Lewis’s suggestion that I do additional research in Laguna Niguel, on the Tohono O’odham Nation Reservation, and at a number of locations in nearby Tucson, Arizona, was my initial step in becoming a borderlands/transnational historian rather than a Mexican historian who happened to do research on subjects that crossed the U.S.-Mexico border.

My findings in Laguna Niguel did another two things. First, they convinced me that I needed to go back to dig through even more material. Second, they introduced me to Bureau of Indian Affairs “Outing Matrons” who, among other things, maintained a model home on or near Indian reservations as a means of “modernizing” indigenous girls and women in hopes that they would serve as conduits of Western culture with the broader indigenous community. My colleague and then department chair, Laura Tuennerman, was trained as a U.S. historian with a focus on women’s history and the Progressive Era who had written about settlement houses in the Midwest (see her Helping Others, Helping Ourselves: Giving, Community, and Power in Cleveland, 1880 - 1930 [Kent State University Press, 2001]). . . . an obviously closely related topic to the Outing Matrons. It was then I realized we might be able to collaborate in order to do the topic justice. In other words, my findings in Record Group 75 turned me into a co-researcher and co-author with an even larger and more expansive research agenda.

Laura and I would like to use this blog to explore the ways in which we worked together to both do archival research across borders and fields of expertise and the ways in which we wrote a book – At the Border of Empires: The Tohono O’odham, Gender, and Assimilation, 1880 – 1934 (University of Arizona Press, 2013) - together based on that research. It didn’t take long for me to convince Laura to research and write this book together . . . and we knew that Laura had a potential sabbatical coming up and that we could likely use a mix of local Faculty Professional Development grants, departmental travel funds, and state-level research grants to pay for our work. I had already done a bunch of work on the Tohono O’odham in Mexico City and Hermosillo, Sonora for my dissertation as well as Laguna Niguel for my first book – From Many, One: Indians, Peasants, Borders, and Education in Callista, Mexico, 1924-1935 (University of Calgary Press, 2009). We started by sharing my archival notes with Laura so that we could figure out what we each found most compelling for further research. We then agreed to a co-created reading list so that we could become better informed by each other’s go-to historiography and began reaching out to other scholars to see which archives we still needed to go to. We then created an action plan which included the following:

  1. We would write a local Faculty Professional Development Grant to fund the next summer’s work.
  2. Andrae would return to Laguna Niguel to do more work on RG 75.
  3. Laura would go to the National Archive in D.C. to explore other records in RG 75 not at Laguna Niguel.
  4. We would assess our findings, determine the next archives we needed to go to, and write a book proposal.

Our next blog will explore our experiences at the archives, how we collaborated working across different archives, and how we used that collaboration to write a book manuscript.

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