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Signature Courses

Wars, Wayfarers, and the Wall

US mexican wall 1x2

Wars, Wayfarers, and the Wall: A History of the U.S.-Mexican Border
01:506:260 (3 credits)
Core: CCO, HST
Professor Camilla Townsend, History

The U.S.-Mexican border is a potent political symbol.

Today, Americans are deeply divided in their assumptions about it. But it has not always been this way. Where did such strength of feeling come from? And what should we do about it?

This course examines changing American understandings of our border with Mexico.

In the early 1800s, the Southwest, including most of Arizona, California, New Mexico, and Texas, was Mexican territory. Many Americans wanted to move the U.S. border south and take this area from Mexico. Once that happened after the Mexican American War, American conceptions of what our border meant underwent significant change: where once people had wanted to cross the line and move onward, they now began to imagine the line as something to be defended. Yet in the first half of the twentieth century, the U.S. government worked hard to encourage the migration northward of many thousands of needed workers. It was only in the second half of the century that the government’s goal shifted to stopping the migrations that had been started. How and why did popular conceptions in North America change? Were these feelings related to changes in government policy?

This course is particularly recommended for students considering majors in American Studies, anthropology, comparative literature, economics, history, journalism and media studies, Latino and Caribbean Studies, Latin American Studies, political science, psychology, sociology, or Spanish language and literature. Wars, Wayfarers, and the Wall can be used to meet Core Curriculum Goals in Contemporary Challenges: Our Common Future [CCO] and Historical Analysis [HST].