Distinguished Lecturers
Natalia Molina

Natalia Molina

Natalia Molina is a Professor of American Studies and Ethnicity at the University of Southern California. She is the author of two award winning books. Her first book, Fit to be Citizens? Public Health and Race in Los Angeles, 1879-1939, explored the ways in which race is constructed relationally and regionally. Her second book, How Race Is Made in America: Immigration, Citizenship, and the Historical Power of Racial Scripts, examines Mexican immigration–from 1924 when immigration acts drastically reduced immigration to the U.S. to 1965 when many quotas were abolished–to understand how broad themes of race and citizenship are constructed. Through the use of a relational lens, How Race Is Made in America demonstrates that racial scripts are easily adopted and adapted to apply to different racial groups. She extends her work on racial scripts in her co-edited volume, Relational Formations of Race: Theory, Method, and Practice. She continues to explore the themes of race, space, labor, immigration, gender and urban history in her book in progress. With the support of a National Endowment for the Humanities Public Scholar Fellowship, she is expanding her award-winning article, “The Importance of Place and Place-makers in the Life of a Los Angeles Community: What Gentrification Erases from Echo Park” into a book. During her tenure at the University of California until 2018, Professor Molina served as the Associate Vice Chancellor for Faculty Diversity and Equity. She has also served twice as the Associate Dean for Arts and Humanities and before that as the Director for University of California Education Abroad Program in Granada, Córdoba, and Cádiz, Spain. She is a Distinguished Lecturer for the Organization of American Historians. She previously served on the Faculty Advisory Committee for the University of California’s President’s Postdoctoral Fellowship Program, as well as a six-year term on the board of California Humanities, a non-profit partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

OAH Lectures by Natalia Molina

As the coronavirus spread across the globe, we witnessed the rise of xenophobia, much of it aimed at Asian and Asian Americans, but also Jews, Latinx, African American and even LGBTQ populations. I argue that such a virulent response is because we are seeing the re-activation of what I term "racial scripts," which once unleashed can be more easily applied to other marginalized groups.

In this lecture, Molina examines how our understanding of “Mexican” as a racial and ethnic category in the United States has roots in policies that began over 100 years ago — and whose legacy continues to shape our institutions, our policies, and our racial and ethnic landscape today. Molina explains her central theory, racial scripts, which highlights the ways in which the lives of racialized groups are linked across time and space and thereby affect one another.


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