April Merleaux

Associate Professor of Historical and Environmental Studies
April Merleaux
Contact April

Mail Code CSI
April Merleaux
Franklin Patterson Hall 202

On leave of absence fall 2022 and spring 2023.

April Merleaux, assistant professor of historical and environmental studies, has a B.A. in history from Reed College, a Ph.D. in American Studies from Yale University, and an M.S. in agriculture, food, and environment from the Tufts University Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy. Before joining the Hampshire College faculty, she taught at Florida International University in Miami, Florida for seven years.

Merleaux’s research and teaching focus on the 20th century United States in an international context, with particular interests in the Caribbean and Latin America. She is interested in cultural politics, the cultures of capitalism, race, and empire; critical food studies; environmental studies and transnational environmental justice movements; immigration and ethnicity; consumer cultures; rural history; and transnational and cultural research methods.

Her book, Sugar and Civilization: American Empire and the Cultural Politics of Sweetness, was published by the University of North Carolina Press in 2015. The book tells the story of sugar from the Spanish American War through the New Deal of the 1930s, describing how workers and consumers in multiple locations came to eat huge quantities of sugar. The cultural logic connecting imperial, trade, and immigration policies was the same one that facilitated new habits of sugar consumption within the United States and its territories. Sugar and Civilization won the 2016 Myrna Bernath book prize from the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations.

Her current research is on the environmental history of the war on drugs in the United States, Latin America, and Asia from the 1920s through the 1980s. Exploring the agrarian origins of drug prohibition reveals new ways to think about the social and economic consequences of more than a century of public policy.

Recent and Upcoming Courses

  • Environment and society interact on scales from the local to the global. This course explores these interactions and introduces students to the interdisciplinary methods of environmental studies. We will investigate the social, political, and historical aspects of the environment- including environmental racism, settler colonialism, climate change, and more. We will survey policy-making and activism in a variety of contexts and will examine art, literature, film, music, maps, advertisements, and other cultural objects. Throughout the course, we will ask how unequal distributions of power affect people and environments. Readings, discussions, and field exercises will help students develop their understanding how natural systems influence and are influenced by human activities. Keywords: climate, environment, justice, nature, environmental justice