There’s a lot to say about this module as it comes to an end. When I registered for it, I really hadn’t grasped just how new of an experience this would turn out to be for me. It really wasn’t what I thought it would be (honestly I don’t know what I thought it would be). I can’t deny that transnational history was a somewhat difficult topic to navigate in the beginning. This was probably due to several misconceptions I’d had about transnational history, the most notable of which being that transnational history was the same thing as international history. This is an idea which has certainly been corrected, but which I also had a hard time letting go of for probably the first 2 or 3 classes of this module. Nevertheless, I arrived in this module excited to do international history and I ended up with something totally different.

Transnational history wasn’t necessarily in my comfort zone of scholarship. Half the time I didn’t really think what I was doing even counted as transnational history. It wasn’t until I was getting ready to present my final project that I actually thought that I had something that was viable and that I could work with. You can’t imagine how many times I went back to Patricia Clavin because I was pretty sure I’d gotten myself off track again. In retrospect, I’m really grateful for the hurdles that I worked to jump. I think they made me a better history student. I’m glad that instead of writing essays about Nazi occupation–something that has been done more times than I can count–I was writing blog posts and project proposals about things that I had hand-picked because I felt they were historically fascinating and important to learn.

Without this module, I would never have known that Mexicali was built by a Chinese diaspora community. The border between the United States and Mexico was never an area that I associated with migration from third-party nations. This may sound bad, but I’d honestly figured the borderlands were a place few people ever wanted to live, especially since the militarization of the border on behalf of the United States. Looking at the borderlands for transnational elements was something I’d decided to do because it sounded more possible than connecting the entire Chicano community to transnationalism–evidence for this kind of exists, but not to an extent that I could write 5,000 words on it. It ended up turning out that all I really had to do to find what I wasn’t even necessarily looking for was turn to the 19th century global economy and read into how this facilitated migration. It turned out that these lines that demarcate territory can actually inspire the unique growth of civilizations. The rest came together like a puzzle, which is really the most satisfying way to do history at the end of the day and something that truly rarely happens to me.

The thing that I loved the absolute most about this class was that it wasn’t a scramble for evidence that backed up some sort of thesis that really wasn’t amazingly original. It’s not always the most easy thing to come up with original ideas in a modern history class. I don’t know if you guys have noticed, but modern history is REALLY popular nowadays and has been for decades. This class was more of a test in just how much history we can uncover for ourselves when it’s not readily available to us in a secondary source. I’ve had classes kind of like this before, but I rarely ever felt like I had actually succeeded in what I’d set out to do. This time, I felt like I really got into what I was trying to accomplish. Every time I found something new I was like oh, cool! It was really this class that gave me the feeling that made me understand why historians really love to do what they do.

Final Thoughts

2 thoughts on “Final Thoughts

  • April 27, 2018 at 1:03 pm

    Thank you so much, Marissa, for your extensive and honest thoughts on the modules. We are aware that it is a long and deep plunge to start with, that the confusion between for instance inter/transnational takes a while to grapple with. I found it fascinating to see your project developing over the past 2-3 months, to see moments of progress, of thinking, stopping, redirecting. The most recent twists towards the nineteenth century, cotton, labour migration from China were great discoveries – and they were your discoveries. Credit to you! And I learned a lot from the Conference Presentation last week.

  • April 27, 2018 at 2:18 pm

    This post really resonated with me, especially the part about your discovery of the ‘borderlands’ as more than just some sort of no man’s land that people didn’t want to live in. Like you, I found that studying transnational history introduced me to aspects of history that had otherwise been overlooked (in your case, the Chinese influences in Mexicali; in mine, the Spanish flu). I think that as history is so often confined to the national the transnational elements are often brushed aside. I also agree with what you have said about pieces of a puzzle fitting together: it’s very satisfying to see things fall into place, especially when it’s you discovering them and not reading about them in a textbook!

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