International Symposium on Violence in the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands – CFP

We invite proposals for scholarly papers addressing the long history of violence along the U.S.-Mexico border, to be featured in a bi-national symposium bringing together scholars from both Mexico and the United States. Sponsored by the William P. Clements Center for Southwest Studies at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, and the Instituto de Investigaciones Dr. José María Luis Mora in Mexico City, the purpose of the symposium will be to demythologize the history of violence in the U.S-Mexico borderlands by exploring how shifting circumstances gave rise to different episodes of border violence over the course of several centuries. The end result will be an edited book featuring the best of modern scholarship on the topic.

The long border separating the two nations has earned an enduring reputation as a site of brutal violence, which can be seen in any number of popular venues, ranging from the western films of John Wayne to the writings of Cormac McCarthy and Philipp Meyer to the movies of Robert Rodríguez. In these popular visions, there is often a timeless quality to representations of carnage along the border, as though endemic violence has been the inevitable result of inequalities between the United States and Mexico that come crashing together in this tumultuous region.

Yet every episode of violence is rooted in a particular historical context, and one of the central goals of this symposium will be to understand how changing circumstances along the border have shaped the ebb and flow of
conflict within the region. The Drug Wars of the modern era, for example, have emerged from far different circumstances than those that gave rise to the violence of the Mexican Revolution, just as the forces that produced the bloodshed of the Texas rebellion of 1836 sprang from different contexts than the violence directed against Mexican immigrants smuggled across the U.S. border during the late 20th century. At the same time, we hope also to expose common threads and themes uniting these moments of violence, connecting insights from scholars on both sides of the border in service of a deeper understanding of what unites and divides these complex episodes.

We are especially interested in work that addresses the relationship between the United States and Mexico, and how changing conditions on both sides of the border combined to foster and suppress violence. We strongly encourage proposals that focus on the evolving role of the border itself—and the movement of people, goods, and ideas across it—in shaping these particular moments.

With its bi-national sponsors, the symposium will be organized as a transnational dialogue between scholars in the United States and Mexico. The symposium will begin with meetings and a public event in Mexico City in the fall of 2015, followed by a second round of conversation and public presentations in Dallas in the spring of 2016. (Translation services will be provided for participants in the symposium, although a reading knowledge of both English and Spanish is essential.) The final result will be an edited collection of essays to be published simultaneously in English and Spanish by prominent presses in both countries.

We welcome proposals from scholars of any rank – from graduate students to full professors – for original papers that engage the problem and history of violence in this borderlands region. (We also welcome history-focused
proposals from scholars outside the field of history and/or academia.) *Please send a proposal (up to five pages, describing the research and how it serves the goals of the symposium) along with your C.V. to by August 1, 2014*.

A selection committee will then choose 12-14 proposals, divided evenly between scholars from both countries. Please send any questions to the conference organizers, Andrew J. Torget ( and Gerardo Gurza (

Andrew J. Torget
University of North Texas