Borderlands and Latino Studies Seminar: Eve Mayer, Harvard University and Kristin Hoganson, University of Illinois

Borderlands and Latino Studies Seminar
Thursday, November 12, 2009

5:00 pm to 7:00 pm

“ ‘Ours in Blood and Sympathy’: The Great Basin and Pacific Expansionism
Eve Mayer, Harvard University

My paper examines Mormon expansionism into Hawaii in the context of a competitive nineteenth-century religious marketplace. I argue that mid-nineteenth-century Hawaii became a “borderland of empires” in which states and religions fit Pacific Islanders into their respective conceptions of racial hierarchy and political alliance. The LDS Church developed its particular form of “Manifest Destiny,” expanding fundamental conceptions of indigenous kinship. Unable to escape their reputation as lawless polygamists, Mormon missionaries in the Pacific faced resistance based on demographic fears that linked Mormons to Native American insurgency in the U.S. West.

“ ‘Meat in the Middle’: The Borderlands Histories of Illinois Beef, 1835-1900”
Kristin Hoganson, Univeristy of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

When I proposed this paper, my working subtitle was “Overlapping Borderlands of Beef, 1835-1900.”  This captured my initial argument, which was that borderlands geographies are indeterminate, and even places that do not share land borders with other nations can be seen as having borderlands attributes.  However, on further reflection, I realized that my point was not to evacuate the term “borderland” of much of its meaning, but to illuminate some of the nineteenth-century transborder connections that bound the rural Midwest to Canada, Mexico, and Indian Territory.  As a result, I’ve changed both the subtitle and the argument.  Combining a commodity chain approach with an outward looking local history approach, my paper finds that their location in the middle of a major land mass led Midwestern farmers to position themselves along a north/south axis as well as an east/west one.  More specifically, my case study finds that the beef producers of Champaign, Illinois looked to Ontario for pedigreed cattle for breeding purposes and to the U.S./Mexico borderlands and Indian country for range animals to fatten.  But recognizing rural Midwesterners’ embeddedness in multidirectional commodity webs does not imply that their northern and southern transborder relations were commensurate.  Whereas farmers in Champaign recognized their many ties with Canada – extending beyond breeding circuits to labor migrations, railway routes, and farmers’ alliances –   they tended to overlook their ties to Indian Territory and Mexico, centered as they were on commodities rather than interpersonal relationships.  In contrast to accounts that domesticated Canada, depicting it as more familial than foreign, farmers’ descriptions of Mexico and Indian Territory drew very different, racially-inflected, conclusions, thought to apply both to people and animals.  By both revealing and contrasting such transborder relations, this paper sheds light on the ways that northern and southern  borders were defined in relation to each other.

Commentator: Ramón Gutierrez, University of Chicago