Judith Perera, Ph.D. Candidate, Arizona State University

Proposal Type


  • Seeking Additional Presenters
  • Seeking Specific Expertise
  • Seeking General Feedback and Interest
Related Topics
  • Inclusion
  • Oral History
  • Place

The borderlands present a unique opportunity for exploration and documentation for the public historian. Yet, the complexity of documenting and archiving a place of fluidity and peoples in motion interrupted by arbitrary barriers, the public historian faces numerous challenges. This roundtable attempts to use several different oral history projects including immigrant detention in Arizona and various borderland realities in New Mexico to raise questions of the possibilities, limitations, and challenges presented by the documentation and preservation of borderland stories.


Along with David Lee at New Mexico State University, this roundtable will seek to address the possibilities, limitations and challenges faced by public historians attempting to document and archive stories along the borderlands.

Immigrant detention in Arizona (Judith)

Everyday thousands of immigrants are held captive in an expansive circuit of private and public facilities across the country. Insulated from theoretical constitutional protections afforded to criminal defendants, most immigrants so held fight their cases alone in court and many will ultimately lose. Over the last three decades, hundreds of thousands have languished inside the nation’s immigrant detention system while facing removal. Yet, how has this brutal regime sustained itself for decades? What power lines have intersected to keep detention centers open and expanding, money flowing into private prison companies despite changes in political regimes, and jobs for some rural communities that would not have otherwise survived? Would exploring these questions through oral histories of those connected to and entrapped by the immigrant detention regime in Arizona provide insight and a possible way forward?

Borderland realities in New Mexico (David Lee)

For many, disparities of poverty, homelessness, and hunger in New Mexico are interconnected borderland realities. In light of historical Bracero programs, Mexican-American agricultural labor communities, and today’s maquiladora industrial complex, concerns of binational ethics can become lost in the state’s narrative. With rising costs of living, and an increasingly limited access to food and health care, how do New Mexicans perceive a hardly manageable minimum wage within its own boundaries which contradict and ignore the inequities of workers across the border? How does oral history risk oblivion, erasure, irrelevancy within the archive, and what precautions and advancements can today’s public historians make to provide greater access points unbounded by these social and political complexities?

Types of feedback

We seek additional members for a roundtable who can speak to these disruptions and fractures which public historians must confront when documenting stories from those experiencing crisis and can address additional oral histories projects and/or issues along the borderlands. We are also looking for general feedback for our proposal and/or other questions we may consider for our final proposal.

If you have a direct offer of assistance, sensitive criticism, or wish to pass along someone’s contact information confidentially, please get in contact directly: Judith Perera, [email protected]

If you have general ideas or feedback to share, please feel free to use the comments feature below.

All feedback and offers of assistance should be submitted by July 2, 2017.


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