“Student Research Round-Up: Transnational Histories of the Americas” By Dr. Lisa Covert
The students in my spring 2017 capstone seminar, “Transnational Histories of the Americas,” completed papers on a fascinating array of topics and their research serves as a testament to the analytical skills and creative thinking that our major produces. Their projects represented a variety of methodological approaches to history, with sources as diverse as government reports, memoirs, and commemorative coins to recipes and videos of modern dance. Although all of the projects had to have some kind of link to the Americas, students were free to select the time period and topic. Conor Fogarty’s project went back hundreds of years to examine the role played by Franciscan missionaries in the effort to spread Spanish influences across colonial Peru. LéGrande Gaskins uncovered the frustrations and motivations of Tejanos in the conflicts that eventually resulted in Texas’s separation from Mexico, a perspective that he argues is often overshadowed by an emphasis on either the U.S. or Mexican point of view.
Other students focused on the twentieth century. Connor Fahy’s paper analyzed the curious history of banana consumption in the United States and how historically it has related to worker repression in a number of Latin American countries. Similarly, Dani Cox’s analysis of the Charleston Exposition thoroughly situates Charleston within histories of early twentieth-century imperialist expansion. Noa Levin and Rebecca Brown both focused on different facets of U.S.-Latin American relations in the post-WWII era. Levin explores a fascinating diplomatic episode that unfolded during the final days of World War II and, as her paper demonstrates, had a lasting impact on American perceptions of Argentina. Brown utilized her background as a dancer to analyze the role played by the Jose Limon dance company in Cold War cultural diplomacy.
The Cold War also served as the backdrop for papers by Grace Barry, Jack Vurpillat, Rick Wilson, and Troy Parmeter. Barry’s ambitious comparative study examined how Che Guevara influenced the Black Panther Party and the Viet Cong. Vurpillat’s paper was a fascinating study of how American cars became central to Cuban identity, including a look at the creativity necessary to keep these cars alive during the decades of the trade embargo. Wilson’s paper traced changes in American foreign policy between the Vietnam War and the Gulf War. Finally, Parmeter’s project explores the important role played by Christian witness bearers in Sandinista Nicaragua, and in the process he highlights the many facets of late twentieth-century Catholicism. Together, these projects reflect the hard work, creativity, and intellectual curiosity of our department’s best and brightest.