Spring 2016 - HIST 486 D100

Studies in History II (4)

Borders/Borderlands in N.A.

Class Number: 5857

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Jan 5 – Apr 11, 2016: Wed, 9:30 a.m.–1:20 p.m.

  • Prerequisites:

    45 units including nine units of lower division history.



Special topics.


Borders and Borderlands in North America

The crossing of national borders has become increasingly regulated in a post 9/11 world, even as goods of various kinds move across them with a facility that could not have been imagined in the past. With the boundaries that transect the continent of North America as our primary focus, we will consider the power of shared national borders to divide and to connect, to define and to exclude, at various stages in the history of Canada, the United States and northern Mexico. What does a focus on borders and borderlands history reveal that a singular focus on national history may obscure? How have the 49th parallel and the U.S.-Mexico border been imagined in popular culture and film, and how has this shaped what they signify and the ways each has been managed? How does the power of borders vary depending on where one is positioned in relation to them and what role does gender or class play in determining who may readily cross? And finally, how have recent border and borderlands histories complicated our understanding both of ways in which national borders function and key moments in Canadian, U.S. or Mexican history? Specific topics to be addressed include the racialization and medicalization of the Canada-U.S. and U.S.-Mexico borders; their environmental and economic impact; indigenous rights in relation to these borders; the Pacific as borderland; the impact of immigration law and policy and its enforcement over time; and efforts to avoid or subvert constraints that exclusion laws have imposed on movement across international borders at different moments in history.


This is a history course designed to help students develop a critical understanding of both border and borderlands histories in North America and of comparative and transnational methodologies. This course will also provide students with an opportunity to hone their ability to critically evaluate historical evidence and scholarly arguments, and to develop scholarly arguments of their own.


  • Participation 20%
  • Presentation & Outline 20%
  • Readings Analyses 40%
  • Book Review Essay & Presentation 20%



Benjamin H. Johnson and Andrew R. Graybill, eds. Bridging National Borders in North America: Transnational and Comparative Histories (Duke University Press, 2010).  

Assigned articles and materials available through SFU Electronic Journals and Canvas.

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