Publication Date

June 10, 2015

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 Todayfeatures a regular AHA Member Spotlightseries.

Lim_photoJulian Lim is a postdoctoral fellow at Washington University in St. Louis and will become an assistant professor of history at Arizona State University in the fall of 2015. She lives in Clayton, Missouri, and has been a member since 2006.

Alma matersPhD, Cornell University, 2013; MA, Cornell University, 2007; JD, University of California at Berkeley, 2003; BA, University of California at Berkeley, 1998

Fields of interestImmigration, the U.S.-Mexico borderlands, and race.

When did you first develop an interest in history?

I’m embarrassed to admit this, but I did not develop an interest in history until law school. It was only in law school that I first realized how much history mattered—how much the history of race and national identity had shaped American law and society. It was also during law school that I audited an undergraduate history course on African American history and read Theodore Rosengarten’s All God’s Dangers: The Life of Nate Shaw. Then I was hooked.

What projects are you working on currently?

I’m currently working on a manuscript titled Porous Borders, Forged Boundaries: Multiracial Migrations in the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands. In it, I trace the movements of Mexican, Chinese, and African American men and women to the border region during the 19th and early 20th centuries and identify the U.S.-Mexico border as the crossroads of multiple political, legal, social, and economic boundaries. I also pay attention to the processes of immigration law making from both sides of the border, as each country developed increasingly exclusionary policies based on race. Ultimately, the book presents a social and legal history of how the borderlands underwent a sweeping transformation, whereby the “open borders” of the 1880s hardened into much more racially discriminating boundaries—locally, nationally, and internationally—by the 1930s.

Have your interests changed since graduation?  If so, how?

It’s only been a year since I graduated, so my research interests are still very closely connected to my dissertation research.

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

I recently revisited Michel-Rolph Trouillot’s Silencing the Past for a class that I’m currently teaching about American Diversity. The students responded enthusiastically to the book, and it was also useful for me to reflect on my own methodological approaches to researching and writing my current book, as well as some of the difficulties I’ve encountered in trying to write a multiracial history of the borderlands.

What do you value most about the history profession?

Having the time and space to pursue the historical questions that continue to inform much of our society today and hopefully sharing that information with others through the classroom, publications, conferences, and other public venues. I also value the diversity of perspectives, and that there is always something new that I can learn and that can change my understanding of the past and the present.

Why did you join the AHA?

To better understand the profession and how it works, to meet other historians and hopefully build lasting and collaborative relationships, and to keep abreast of new developments and trends in my fields.

Do you have a favorite AHA annual meeting anecdote you would like to share?

They all have to do with being on the job market, so no.

Other than history, what are you passionate about?

American pop culture. And tacos.

This post first appeared on AHA Today.

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