Summer 2017 - HIST 486 D100

Studies in History II (4)

Borders/Borderlands in N.A.

Class Number: 3954

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    We 9:30 AM – 1:20 PM
    BLU 11901, Burnaby

  • Prerequisites:

    45 units including nine units of lower division history.



Special topics.


As Canada’s southern neighbor proposes to reinforce its own southern border to further restrict undocumented migration, promises to build a massive wall reverberate through-out North America. Concerns include those of members of the Tohono O’odham Nation that their community, whose traditional lands are already transected by the U.S.-Mexico border, will be further disrupted by still more intrusive physical barriers that will disrupt the movement of both people and wildlife.

With the international borders that transect the North American continent as our primary focus, members of this seminar will consider the power of such boundaries to divide and to connect, to define and to exclude, at various stages in the history of Canada, the United States and Mexico. What can borders and borderlands history reveal that a singular focus on national history may obscure? How have both the U.S.-Mexico border and the 49th parallel been imagined in popular culture and film, and how has this shaped what they signify and the ways each has been managed? What role do class and gender play in determining who may readily cross particular boundaries and how does the way in which one is positioned in relation to a border affect its power? And how has the work of border and borderlands historians complicated our understanding of both 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 individual migrants’ efforts to avoid or subvert constraints that exclusionary law and policy has imposed on movement across these international boundaries 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.

Students who do not have the necessary prerequisites may contact the instructor to ask for permission to enrol.


  • Participation 20%
  • Presentation & Response Paper 20%
  • Book Review Essay & Presentation 20%
  • Paper Proposal & Research Plan 10%
  • Final Paper 30%



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.

Registrar Notes:

SFU’s Academic Integrity web site is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating.  Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the University community.  Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the University. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the University.