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How Race Is Made in America: Immigration, Citizenship, and the Historical Power of Racial Scripts  

Natalia Molina     

University of California, USA 

Professor Molina will present on her recently published book, How Race Is Made in America. The book examines Mexican immigration to the U.S. from 1924 to 1965 in order to understand how race and citizenship were constructed during this crucial period. A central goal of the book is to get us to see the connections among racialized groups. As such, she coins the term racial scripts to highlight the ways in which the lives of racialized groups are linked across time and space and thereby affect one another, even when they do not directly cross paths. How Race Is Made in America shows how the racial construction of one group affects others, sometimes simultaneously and sometimes at a much later date.

After discussing the theoretical intervention of the book, she presents a historical case study of how we have seen the power of racial scripts in action before. She examines the 1954 deportation campaigns that were a part of Operation Wetback, a campaign by the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) to deport an estimated one million undocumented Mexicans. While studies of this campaign have traditionally centered on Mexican agricultural workers in rural spaces, this presentation focuses on the deportation campaigns in an urban area, Los Angeles, which rounded up Mexicans and Mexican Americans alike and held them in public spaces in the city center. The Los Angeles Committee for the Protection of the Foreign Born publicly protested the deportations, making links between Operation Wetback and the denial of civil rights, Japanese internment, segregation politics, and the hollow promises of citizenship. These protests demonstrated the power of relational notions of race when the groups themselves make the connections to see the ways in which power operates to destabilize rights for other groups.

April 22, 2015