Project Overview

This is a SSHRC-funded research project entitled “Borderlands, Transnationalism, and Migration in North America.” The researchers involved in this project are Alexander Freund (Associate Professor of History, University of Winnipeg), Benjamin Bryce (SSHRC Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Toronto), and Roberto Perin (Professor of History, Glendon College, York University). The Robarts Centre for Canadian Studies at York University hosts this project. Benjamin Bryce, Daniel Ross, Roberto Perin, and Alexander Freund have organized the workshop component of the research project.

From the mid-nineteenth century onwards, mass migration has been a defining feature of Canadian and American societies, economies, and politics. The flow of people and ideas has accompanied the growing networks of world trade and technological connectivity. It has only been in the last decades, however, that historians have begun to examine human migration as a global phenomenon. Challenging the validity of nation-states for people who moved between continents and communicated across oceans, we have increasingly described migration using the framework of transnationalism. Yet parallel to transnational ties that bound immigrants to people in new and old countries, other networks emerged. Connections spanned not only oceans but also the political boundaries of North America.

Although many scholars in Canada and the United States engage in transnational and borderlands research methodology, our meeting seeks to create a greater dialogue between scholars who often still function within debates defined by national boundaries. This workshop brings together senior researchers, emerging scholars, and graduate students working on immigration history. Blending social, cultural, and political historical approaches, they ask how immigrants in Canada and the United States engaged in cross-border and transnational networks created by the circulation of money and ideas and by the movement of people between religious bodies, families, and labour organizations. Workshop participants will examine how international ethnic networks influenced community development, identity, gender models, religion, and language use as well as ask how the specificities of immigrants’ ethnicity and race created differences in this comparative context. The workshop strives to generate a discussion among Canadianists interested in the United States, Americanists interested in Canada, and Canadianists and Americanists interested in larger transnational networks. Together they will evaluate how transnationalism and borderland studies may reconfigure the study of immigration history.

The workshop pursues five interrelated objectives: First, to evaluate the current uses of borderland and transnational approaches in the study and writing of immigration history. Second, to develop a future research agenda that will enable a more systematic development and use of borderlands and transnationalism for migration history. Third, to establish a network of junior and senior scholars and to integrate graduate students in this network. Fourth, through two keynote addresses and a roundtable discussion, to bring innovative research on immigration, transnationalism, and borderlands to students and faculty members at York and to the broader community in Toronto. Fifth, to publish an edited collection of selected essays that will serve as a model for future research in a new immigration history shaped by transnationalism and borderland studies.

Dr. Freund and Dr. Perin both have substantial experience in organizing conferences on immigration and transnational ties and in publishing edited volumes. Through their leadership in the field of immigration history, their experience, and their willingness to host an event that seeks to create networks and offer mentorship between senior researchers, emerging scholars, and graduate students, this workshop promises to mobilize and disseminate research on immigration, borderlands, and transnationalism in Canada and the United States.