Publication Date

November 26, 2014

Perspectives Section

Member Spotlight, Perspectives Daily

AHA members are involved in all fields of history, with wide-ranging specializations, interests, and areas of employment. To recognize our talented and eclectic membership, AHA Today features a regular AHA Member Spotlight series.

Catherine (Casey) Christensen is the academicMS_Christensen coordinator of the UCI History Project and a lecturer at the University of California, Irvine. She lives in Costa Mesa, California, and has been a member since 2003.

Alma maters: BA, UCLA, 1998; PhD, UC Irvine, 2009

Fields of interest: US West, women’s history, borderlands, race and sexuality.

When did you first develop an interest in history?

I discovered history in fourth grade when my class participated in a week-long California history field study in Old Town (San Diego). I was totally captivated by stories about Spanish explorers, local indigenous tribes, and early American settlers. However, I should admit that my interest in the program was heightened by the fact that the year prior, students had stumbled upon a dead body during a nature hike. Our class was not as lucky.

What projects are you working on currently?

I’m working on the manuscript for my first book that examines the role of Euro-American women in the construction of territorial and ideological borders between the United States and Mexico in the early 20th century. I argue that American prostitutes and women reformers figured centrally in the establishment of a fortified international boundary and in the making of racial and national identities in California between 1910–30.

Have your interests changed since graduate school? If so, how?

My interests have probably broadened more than changed. While I’m still primarily interested in the story of race in America, lately I’ve felt kind of overwhelmed by its complexity. Recently, I find myself more attuned to traditional political history than I was in graduate school, although it has not influenced my scholarship in any significant way.

Is there an article, book, movie, blog etc. that you could recommend to fellow AHA members? 

As for historical monographs, the list is too long. However, I can say that I just re-read The Great Gatsby. It’s fantastic—for teaching, for pleasure, whatever—it’s wonderful. 

What do you value most about the history profession? 

The ability to tell people’s stories that are not often told.

Why did you join the AHA? 

To stay connected to other historians and to stay current with scholarship.

Other than history, what are you passionate about?

Although it probably sounds pretentious, or maybe predictable, I’ve become increasingly interested in wine. I’m fascinated by the history of viticulture in California and am determined to find the perfect (and affordable) Syrah.

This post first appeared on AHA Today.

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