Doing Immigration History in the Present Political Climate

Chair: Jack Chin, University of California, Davis School of Law
Commentator: Thomas Guglielmo, George Washington University

From Research to Civic Engagement: Practical Steps for Historians and Everybody
John O’Keefe, Ohio University–Chillicothe

Rethinking and Retelling Immigration and Citizenship in Public History
Rachel Feinmark, Lower East Side Tenement Museum

Mexican-American, Agricultural Child Laborers in the Southwest and the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938
Ivón Padilla-Rodríguez, Columbia University

This panel will seek to use our panelists’ historical research on immigration as a jumping-off point to think about what it means to do history in the present political climate, broadly conceived, and how to engage more broadly with our communities in the public at a time when controversies over migration have been a political flash point in the United States and beyond. What does it mean to create an ambitious new exhibit focused on more recent immigrant history, challenging the distinction between "legal" and undocumented immigration? How does our work as historians embroil us in civic controversy, and how can we best contribute to the debate? How can research on twentieth-century migrant farm workers inform engagement with the present or work with the federal government? What to do about the feeling that your research doesn’t just speak for itself—what does it mean to be an expert on migration in the early American republic but that expertise engaging with the broader public or pushing for change? This panel seeks to address these questions, and work with the audience to get somewhere toward some answers.

Although we are submitting as a paper session, we intend to “experiment with the form of presentations,” as this annual meeting hopes to do. Our presentations will seek to use tools of classroom engagement and public history to make the audience’s experience less one of passive listening and more one of engagement with the panelists and with each other.

Recorded in April 2018 at the OAH Annual Meeting held in Sacremento, California as part of the Mellon-funded Amplified Initiative.

Full Session


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Doing Immigration History in the Present Political Climate / System Administrator / February 12, 2019

OAH Members can access all of the recorded panels by logging into the member portal at the OAH website.