Summer 2020 - HIST 486 D100

Studies in History II (4)

Borders/Borderlands in N.A.

Class Number: 3283

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    May 11 – Aug 10, 2020: Wed, 9:30 a.m.–1:20 p.m.

  • Prerequisites:

    45 units including nine units of lower division history.



Special topics.


At a time when Canada’s southern neighbor is engaged in the construction of a massive wall along its southern border in an attempt to bar the entry of undocumented migrants, concerns about the impact that wall will have on border communities of all kinds reverberate throughout North America. These include the concerns 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 an intrusive physical barrier that will interfere with the movement of both people and wildlife in the region.  

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, race 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 include the racialization of the Canada-U.S. and U.S.-Mexico borders; the environmental and economic impact of these borders; their impact on Indigenous communities located along them; the impact of the enforcement of exclusionary law and policy at the borders over time and efforts by individual migrants to avoid or subvert the constraints imposed on movement across them.  

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 & Response Paper 20%
  • Book Review Essay & Discussion 20%
  • Weekly Journal & Final Assessment of Readings 40%



Assigned articles and materials available through SFU Library databases 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.


Please note that all teaching at SFU in summer term 2020 will be conducted through remote methods. Enrollment in this course acknowledges that remote study may entail different modes of learning, interaction with your instructor, and ways of getting feedback on your work than may be the case for in-person classes.

Students with hidden or visible disabilities who believe they may need class or exam accommodations, including in the current context of remote learning, are encouraged to register with the SFU Centre for Accessible Learning ( or 778-782-3112) as soon as possible to ensure that they are eligible and that approved accommodations and services are implemented in a timely fashion.