Barbara Y. Welke is a Distinguished McKnight University Professor, a professor of history, and a professor of law at the University of Minnesota, where she codirects the program in law and history. She is the author of Law and the Borders of Belonging in the Long Nineteenth-Century United States (2010), which considers the history of legal personhood and citizenship, and Recasting American Liberty: Gender, Race, Law, and the Railroad Revolution, 1865–1920 (2001), winner of the American Historical Association’s Littleton-Griswold Prize. Her current research on consumer product injury in the twentieth-century mass consumption economy has appeared in an article, "The Cowboy Suit Tragedy: Spreading Risk, Owning Hazard in the Modern American Economy," in the Journal of American History (June 2014) and a related podcast, as well as a play, "Owning Hazard, A Tragedy," in the UC Irvine Law Review (2011). She is also working on a book that traces the history of the curriculum vitae and its role in constructing the boundaries of knowledge.
Questions of belonging rest at the heart of the modern liberal democratic state. What does belonging mean? Who belongs? Does belonging depend on there being others who do not belong? What is their relationship to the polity? Does it matter what the basis for belonging is, what the defining characteristics of belonging are? Who decides? What does law have to do with it? The answers to these questions are critical in establishing who can make claims on the polity and who cannot; on relationships among those who live in a policy; and in making a population a people. They highlight what I call the "borders of belonging." Weisenfeld traces the borders of belonging through the long nineteenth century focusing especially on race, gender, and disability.