Distinguished Lecturers
John Mckiernan-González

John Mckiernan-González

John Mckiernan-González is the Director of the Center for the Study of the Southwest, the Jerome and Catherine Supple Professor of Southwestern Studies, and Associate Professor of History at Texas State University.  His first book, Fevered Measures: Public Health and Race at the Texas-Mexico Border, 1848-1942 (2012), treats the multi-ethnic making of a U.S. medical border in the Mexico-Texas borderlands. He co-edited the volume, Precarious Prescriptions: Contested Histories of Race and Health in North America (2013) which examines the contradictions and complexities tying medical history and communities of color together. Mckiernan-González's broad takes on Latina/os in U.S. medical history can be found in American Latinos in the Making of the United States and in Keywords in Latina/o Studies (2017). He has worked collaboratively with the National Museum of American History, the National Minority AIDS Council, the Austin Co-ed Soccer Association, the Workers Defense Project, Hillsborough County ISD, the SSRC – Mellon Mays Advisory, and Whole Women’s Health leading to projects on 1848, Puerto Rican material culture, Latina/o youth in Tampa, translating reproductive rights, soccer and segregation in Texas, and workplace conditions and construction workers in Austin. His next project, Working Conditions: Medical Authority and Latino Civil Rights tracks the changing place of medicine in Latina/o/x struggles for equality. Born in the U.S., he grew up in Colombia, Mexico, and the U.S. South, and graduated from Oberlin and the University of Michigan. He brings a migrant eye and experience to his projects in public history, medical history, immigration history and Latina/o studies. 

OAH Lectures by John Mckiernan-González

In this pandemic age, many people treat the absence of COVID or Monkey Pox as proof of health; others consider the disproportionate impact of these two illnesses on vulnerable and marginalized communities proof that racism, xenophobia, ableism and homophobia also kill. This is not new, as this debate regarding the process of defining and preventing illness has also been particularly central to civil rights and labor movements in Latina/o communities across the United States. By attending to the process in the Progressive Era, the New Deal and the Cold War, we can see how a push for equality by marginalized communities challenged the unequal distribution of disease in the United States.

From 1848, federal health authorities have been called on to determine who needs to be protected from disease and illness. When authorities act in a place like Texas where people cross rivers, live, love and work together and consider themselves to be part of their communities and their nations, public health becomes a key site to understand and enact health and disease, citizenship and community, inclusion and exclusion.

In the 1890s, British managers, Mexican workers, German migrants and Irish craft people brought Association Football to urban Texas, building a vibrant club scene where they could all seize a moment of rest and community together. The strengthening of Jim Crow after World War I pushed soccer out of most public parks; communities along the rail lines connecting Texas to Mexico kept the game going. The Cold War added U.S. soldiers, foreign trainees and refugees to the mix of people playing in army communities; the Civil Rights Act and the Higher Education Act opened public parks and university fields; Title IX opened up schools and parents to soccer; NAFTA brought a whole new set of managers and workers to the field. Association Football became futbol/soccer, a recreational sport shaped by the tensions between opportunity and inequality in the United States.

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