OAH Distinguished Lecturer Profile

OAH Distinguished Lectureship program 40 years 1981-2021

Michael Innis-Jiménez

Portrait of Michael Innis-Jiménez

Michael Innis-Jiménez is Professor in the Department of American Studies at the University of Alabama. Before coming to Alabama, he taught in the Department of History at William Paterson University. He has also served as a consultant with the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute's Latino New South Project and as a consultant with the lead museum of the project's consortium, the Levine Museum of the New South in Charlotte, North Carolina. My book projects include Steel Barrio: The Great Mexican Migration to South Chicago (NYUP, 2013), "Made in Chicago: Mexican Food, Tourism, and Cultural Identity" (in progress and under contract with the University of Texas Press), and "The Latinx South: A History of Migration and Race in Pursuit of the American Dream" (in progress). Additionally, I have published various refereed book chapters and refereed journal articles. Steel Barrio examines how the fortunes of Mexicans in South Chicago were linked to the environment they helped build and offers new insights into how and why Mexican Americans created community. I argue that Mexican immigrant and Mexican American men and women who came to South Chicago created physical and imagined communities to defend against the ever-present social, political, and economic harassment and discrimination to grow in a foreign, polluted environment. "Made in Chicago" analyzes the centrality of culturally distinct food to ideas of “authenticity,” community, and belonging by examining local Mexican restaurants as sites of culinary tourism, cultural tourism, and Mexican community building. Mexican food, and, by proxy, the establishments that sold it, became fundamental to the culture, society, and identity of the Mexican newcomers to Chicago. "The Latinx South" analyzes the twentieth- and twenty-first-century histories of Latin American immigrants to the Deep South and puts twenty-first-century anti-immigrant fervor into historical perspective.

Featured Lecture

OAH Lectures

This talk discusses how public shops, foodways, and spaces in the Mexican community were evolving sites of culinary and cultural tourism, community building, and cultural production. Local marketplaces, created by Mexican immigrants or Mexican Americans, became both cultural anchors for the community and tourist attractions for the visitor. Mexicano demand for food and experiences from home drove these marketplaces that, in turn, influenced the eating habits of outsiders who entered the area as tourists.
This talk discusses the ways in which engaged teaching and scholarship can take moments of trauma and disempowerment and change them into opportunities for students and educators, to not only better understand but also confront the use of power in their own lives.
Focusing on the sections of the industrial Far Southeast Side reserved for the newest immigrant laborers before World War II, this talk discusses the physical and cultural environment that surrounded Mexican settlement in the area through 1940 and how Mexicans shaped their surrounding sights, sounds, and smells, to make these sections distinctly Mexican.
Learning lessons from the experiences of the Mexican and Mexican American community and the actions of “white” society during the Great Depression, The Great Recession, the Trump crisis, and other times of strong anti-immigrant rhetoric can help immigrants, scholars, and advocates find ways to redirect the national immigration debate away from the current “us” versus “them” rhetoric towards a constructive dialogue about the role of immigrants in American society today.