Research

The Age of Encampment examines how the development and reuse of federally-funded camps and camp architecture throughout the 20th century facilitated where and how racialized migrant populations became forced and coerced to live.

At Dartmouth College, Dr. Cortez is working on a book proposal for their in-progress manuscript The Age Of Encampment. The project focuses on the role of encampment — broadly defined as the concentration of populations — as a political practice, as a cultural phenomenon, and as spatial mechanism through which the social lives of racialized migrants are manufactured throughout the United States and its empire between 1933-1965.

Jonathan approaches their research from a relational ethnic studies framework. By zooming out to understand the figure and space of “the camp” over its lifetime, overlapping histories of communities of color are revealed. In the manuscript, they take up the histories of Mexican American and African American agricultural laborers during the 1930s, British West Indian and Puerto Rican labor migrations, Japanese American incarceration of the 1940s, Mexican national labor migration, and various refugee resettlement projects of the late 20th century. Funded by the Ford Foundation, The Age of Encampment draws on labor, migration, race and race-making, carcerality, critical architecture, and geography to produce an interdisciplinary project that pushes disciplinary and thematic boundaries in Ethnic Studies, American Studies, and U.S. History.

In their manuscript, Jonathan shows how camp architecture gave physical form to racialized migrants in the U.S. and its empire. Camps designed and constructed during the New Deal set forth an architectural model which became a tool used at the discretion of the U.S. government at any moment to surveil bodies deemed threatening to local communities and the settler-state – a theory Dr. Cortez calls spatial scripts. This theory reveals how various bureaucracies transferred their knowledge of encampment between each other even as specific missions at hand changed. This systematic and institutional relaying of land and the built environment between government agencies impacted the lives of predominantly poor people and people of color. The Age of Encampment highlights these moments of transition.

Jonathan underscores encampment as a unique spatial formation because it exposes how long the U.S. has been facilitating the production of migrant space through encampment. The history in The Age of Encampment is crucial to understand how federally-funded camps of the 20th century are institutional precursors to modern-day migrant detention by showing how camp architecture informs and is informed by immigration policy, racial capitalism, national security, and the global market of racialized labor. 

What is it exactly they write about? Find out here.

Documenting, displaying, and preserving the histories of communities of color.

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