Teaching The Atlantic, Pacific, and In-Between: Bringing Transnational History to the United States Survey Course through the Study of Immigration

AHA Session 145
Saturday, January 3, 2015: 2:30 PM-4:30 PM
Concourse A (New York Hilton, Concourse Level)
Hasia R. Diner, New York University

Session Abstract

The United States survey course is the bread-and-butter of most community college history departments; however, due to heavy teaching loads, multiple course preparations, subject generalization over specialization, and institutional inflexibility in curriculum development, professors teaching these courses often are unable to incorporate readily new scholarship in the classroom. This proposed panel suggests that there may be traditional subjects already taught in the survey, which may be utilized to emphasize the increasingly transnational perspective of the American experience. One of these subjects is that of immigrant experience, which serves to connect the contemporary to the historic, the local to the global, and the national to the transnational. Originally conceived from the work of the American Historical Association’s Bridging Cultures at Community Colleges project focusing on the Atlantic and Pacific Worlds (2012-2015), this proposed project discusses how topics already covered in the U.S. history survey may be visualized differently by instructors to explain global processes to undergraduate students.

                Suzanne Borghei’s presentation focuses on the connections between Los Angeles and the broader Pacific World. She argues that “Angelenos showed enthusiastic and sustained awareness of their Pacific location, making the city a valuable window into grassroots responses to globalizing trends of the early- to mid-twentieth century.” In part this process involved transforming intercultural relations, such as “re-envisioning immigrants” during times of socio-cultural change and crisis. Timothy Dean Draper’s presentation continues the story of global encounters and transformations from the Pacific Coast to the desert of southwestern Wyoming, where he argues Pacific and Atlantic worlds met in various types of encounters, including cooperation, conflict, and community from the 1880s through 1920s. While the 1885 anti-Chinese Massacre in Rock Springs expressed then contemporary aspects of class, ethnic, and racial tensions, Draper suggests that on a broader scale it reflected the meeting of transoceanic communities in a new place that necessitated a re-imagining of immigrants’ roles in industrializing America. Finally, Lesley Kagawuchi provides a broader narrative in relation to the encounters among diverse peoples as they moved to and throughout the Americas. She argues that “both the Atlantic and Pacific worlds met in a number of different ways and places from the earliest colonial times into the 19thcentury, highlighting ways in which the location of a particular ethnic group resulted in experiences that differed from the usual narrative.” Therefore, whether in coastal regions or the interior, enclaves or diversified neighborhoods, the dynamics and contours of the immigrant experience are central to understanding the development of American society largely because that experience reflected historically transnational processes.

                The Immigration and Ethnic History Society (IEHS) has agreed to sponsor this session.

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