Talking Terms: Immigration and Settler Colonialism in US History
Karen V. Hansen, Brandeis University
This panel will enable young scholars and leading faculty to converse together about how to think about the relationship between two major ways of talking about the movement of people to the United States and its predecessor colonies. For more than a century, historians have traced “immigration history,” and the history of immigration has been central to American self-conceptions and American political movements. Over the last decade, the study of settler colonialism has gained traction in studies of the United States, with much of the initiative behind this literature coming from scholars in American Indian and Indigenous studies. Settler colonial studies in many ways denaturalizes the process of migration to the U.S. It emphasizes that because the U.S. nation-state is itself an enduring colonial structure on Indigenous American lands, there can be no neat delineation between “settlers” of a supposedly long-gone “colonial era” and “immigrants” of the nineteenth, twentieth, and twenty-first centuries. These two different conceptualizations of the meaning of movement thus speak to core issues in the American past and present, and must shape the central narratives of American history. To facilitate a rich discussion of these issues, this panel brings together Erika Lee (a leading scholar of immigration history who has given much thought to settler colonial studies) and Karen Hansen (author of a major work on relations between Scandinavians and American Indians that speaks directly to these issues) with important new scholars in Mexican migration to the US (Yuridia Ramírez), settler colonialism and reproductive politics (Brianna Theobold), and African Americans and Native Americans in the Progressive Era (Kyle Mays). Ramirez, Theobold, and Mays will make brief presentations of five minutes each, after which Lee and Hansen will offer reflections on how this new work shapes how we can think about the relation between settler colonialism and immigration in U.S. history.