Miroslava Chávez-García is a professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara in the history department, with affiliations with the Chicana/o Studies and Feminist Studies departments, as well as Latin American and Iberian Studies. She is the author of Negotiating Conquest: Gender and Power in California, 1770s to 1880s (2004) and States of Delinquency: Race and Science in the Making of California’s Juvenile Justice System (2012). Her most recent book, Migrant Longing: Letter Writing across the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands (2018), is a history of transnational migration, gender, courtship, and identity as told through more than 300 personal letters exchanged among family members and friends across the U.S.-Mexico borderlands. As private sources of communication hidden from public consumption and historical research, the letters provide a rare glimpse into the deeply emotional, personal, and social lives of ordinary Mexican men and women as recorded in their immediate, firsthand accounts. Chávez-García demonstrates not only how migrants struggled to maintain their sense of humanity in el norte but also how those remaining at home made sense of their changing identities in response to the loss of loved ones who sometimes left for weeks, months, or years at a time, or simply never returned. In 2020, Migrant Longing was named a 2019 Choice Outstanding Academic Title and in 2019, it received the Barbara “Penny” Kanner Award from Western Association of Women’s Historians (WAWH). In 2017, “Migrant Longing, Courtship, and Gendered Identity in the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands,” published by the Western History Quarterly (Summer 2016), was awarded the Judith Lee Ridge from the WAWH. The essay also received the Bolton-Cutter Award in 2016.
Race and Science in California’s Early Juvenile Justice System
Using scientific research methods to identify, predict, and suppress crime is common today in criminology, penology, and crime mapping and statistics. One century ago, however, the use of science-based investigations was seen as the latest innovation in the fight against rising juvenile deviance in an increasingly diverse society. Miroslava Chávez-García’s presentation demonstrates how public and juvenile prison officials, among others in the early 1900s, viewed science as the cure for society’s ills, including crime. In embracing and harnessing the power of scientific thought, state officials nurtured the emerging carceral state, giving rise to a complex, research-based juvenile justice system in California.