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Michael Stoff, Director 305 East 23rd St, CLA 2.102, (G3600) Austin, TX 78712-1250 • 512-471-1442

Fall 2009

T C 357 • Immigration and the Changing Face of America

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
43785 TTh
3:30 PM-5:00 PM
CRD 007A

Course Description

This seminar will trace the history of immigration to the U.S. since the late 19th century in an attempt to understand the competing visions of America as a "nation of immigrants" and also as an Anglo-Protestant "City on a Hill" worried that immigrants will fundamentally change what it means to be "American." In examining immigration and anti-immigration politics over the last 100 years, for example, we can gauge more generally what it means to be "American" at different periods in our history. We will be particularly concerned with post-1965 immigration from Asia and Latin America, and the ways in which these two immigrant streams have led to declining white majorities in states like Texas and California and continue to shape the future of the nation. The course will address such questions as: "What do we mean when we ask if a particular immigrant group is assimilating or not?" "What do we mean by 'assimilation'?" "How does the ratio of foreign-born to native-born affect our country in social, economic, and political contexts?" "How will continued immigration from Mexico affect the future of the nation?" "What do we mean by globalization and how might it be fashioning 'transnational' identities throughout the world?"

Grading Policy

1/3 of the grade is based on class discussion
1/3 on a three short papers, 3 pages each.
1/3 on a 25-30-page paper on some aspect of post-World War II immigration


Edward Ashbee, et al., eds, The Politics, Economics, and Culture of Mexican-U.S. Migration: Both Sides of the Border (2007)
Mae M. Ngai, Impossible Subjects: Illegal Aliens and the Making of Modern America (2004)
Erika Lee, At America's Gates: Chinese Immigration during the Exclusion Era, 1882-1943 (2003).
Dowell Myers, Immigrants and Boomers: Forging a New Social Contract for the Future of America (2007)

About the Professor

Neil Foley is associate professor of History and American Studies. He received his M.A. and Ph.D. in American Culture in 1990 from the University of Michigan. He also earned an M.A. in English and American literature from Georgetown University and a B.A. in English from the University of Virginia. Professor Foley's teaching interests include race and ethnicity in the U.S.; 20th century racial politics; borderlands history; Mexican immigration, comparative civil rights and human rights; U.S.-Mexico relations; Citizenship and Transnational Identity.

His first book, The White Scourge: Mexicans, Blacks, and Poor Whites in Texas Cotton Culture (Berkeley 1997), examines examined how the black-white racial binary of the U.S. South was transformed in first half of the twentieth century when cotton culture fused with Anglo-Mexican ranching culture in Texas. In this region the emergence of a rural class of "poor whites" made whites conscious of themselves as a racial group and fearful that if they fell to the bottom, they would lose the privileges that came with being accepted for what they were not--black, Mexican, or foreign born. Eugenicists had lost confidence in the social Darwinist notion of "survival of the fittest"; what worried them most was survival of the unfit. The scourge of the South was not cotton or poor whites, I argued, but the idea of whiteness itself--the complex social and economic matrix wherein racial power and privilege were shared, not always equally, by those who were able to construct identities as Anglo-Saxons, Nordics, Caucasians, or simply whites. The book won seven awards. He is now writing a book on civil rights struggles in the Southwest during World War II and a book on Mexican immigration in the context of U.S.- Mexico relations from 1848 to the present.

Professor Foley took the scenic route to graduate school, having spent 9 years in Europe and Asia before deciding what he wanted to be when he grew up. Right after college he worked on Capitol Hill for a senator for two years, and then he left the country to live on aircraft carriers for two years in the Mediterranean Sea where, as a civilian instructor, he taught Shakespeare classes and American literature to fighter pilots and their crews. Foley enjoys running, writing, reading, teaching, traveling, speaking in foreign tongues, and wishing he could be cool like his teenage daughters--Sabina, Bianca, and Sophia.


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