Faculty Profile: Maria Quintana

Faculty of the Center for the Study of Race, Indigeneity, and Transnational Migration represent a range of fields, departments, and areas of expertise. On a regular basis, this blog will feature profiles of those faculty.

This week’s profile is Maria Quintana, the postdoctoral associate in the Center for the Study of Race, Indigeneity, and Transnational Migration. In Spring 2017 she is teaching ER&M386 “History of U.S.-Mexico Border.”

Tell us about your research.

My research examines the limitations of state power in the management of guestworker migrant labor programs in the United States, Mexico, and the Caribbean.  What I enjoy most about my research is its broad scope.  Instead of writing an on-the ground local analysis of transnational migrant workers, I analyze Afro-Caribbean and Mexican migrant labor regimes and debates within the context of Atlantic Slavery, former U.S. interventions in Latin America and the Caribbean, and within the context of the U.S. civil rights movement.  This allows me to shed new perspective on the issue of “rights” and “legality,” to show how both have limited attempts toward social justice for guestworkers and constrained our definition of civil rights to one of national belonging.   I then turn to the perspectives of the workers, to unearth new visions for social justice beyond the state.

I want to expose students to a different story about Latino/a migration, one that is critically important, complex, and global.

How do you see your work fitting into broader scholarship on race, indigeneity, and transnational migration?

My manuscript, Contracting Freedom, is the first to examine the relational cycles of Afro-Caribbean, Mexican, and Puerto Rican labor migrations to the United States.  It speaks to numerous scholars in the fields of Immigration History, Labor Studies, Latino/a Studies, and Borderlands Studies, as well as to scholars interested in citizenship, migration, empire, and race in the United States.  It is also in conversation with a range of scholarship on civil rights, social justice activism, and border politics. What makes my research dramatically different from other scholars of the labor programs is how it turns away from the state and legality as a source of hope for migrant workers by tracing the limitations of liberal freedom as defined by the labor contract.

Tell us about a book in your field that has inspired you to think in new ways.

Most recently, I have enjoyed reading Tanya Golash-Boza’s book, Deported: Immigrant Policing, Disposable Labor, and Global Capitalism (2015), which addresses the larger political and economic trends that led to migration and mass deportation in the United States under neo-liberalism.

Tell us about the class you are teaching in Spring semester.

This spring I am teaching a course titled “Citizenship and Criminality in the Borderlands.”  I think it will attract a range of students interested in global labor migrations, social justice activism, civil rights, and border politics, as well as the politics of citizenship and race.

How do you see your role as professor? What do you hope your students get out of your class?

I heavily encouraged my students to question the role of state and institutional power in specific historical events, as this occurs by necessity in my own research in which I examine how U.S. foreign policy decisions are made, the lived subjectivities and identities of those who make them, and the processes of border-making that exclude people from having access to certain “rights.” My classes therefore critically examine the nation-state and the tendency towards self-contained national histories of “Latin America” or “the Caribbean.”

In my classes, students also address migrant labor resistance—against nation, against white supremacy, against labor exploitation, against capitalism, against patriarchy, against historical narratives that exclude, and against societal injustice and inequality.  Overall, I aim to impart to my students the courage and the knowledge to question “race” and embrace our common humanity.  I also hope to provide my students with the intellectual tools necessary to write effectively, think critically, and participate in the broader conversations that such a focus entails.

What do you like about being at Yale and in New Haven?

The warmth and welcome that I have felt at Yale from my mentors, faculty, and staff alike is out of this world. I have appreciated as well the openness of the students I have met and their willingness to engage with new ideas.

What have you most enjoyed this semester?

This past Fall semester, I attended many events, including the RITM Center Conference commemorating Professor Don Nakanishi. At this conference, Gary Okihiro mentioned bridging the divide among the Ethnic Studies subfields and I think that is something to strive for.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

I’m really looking forward to building connections between Latin American Studies and Latino/a Studies. I want to expose students to a different story about Latino/a migration, one that is critically important, complex, and global. The fact that Yale University now has a Center for the Study of Race, Indigeneity, and Transnational Migration really speaks to how much these issues are not an afterthought here.  I am thrilled to be a part of the Center during its inaugural year.  I am also elated just to be a part of this vibrant Center, with faculty that are intellectually engaged and committed to students. I feel very lucky to be in such a welcoming place and I’m excited to contribute to the intellectual life on campus.

The Center for the Study of Race, Indigeneity, and Transnational Migration advances work related to Ethnic Studies fields; to intersectional race, gender, and sexuality research; and to Native and diasporic communities in the United States and abroad.

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