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Southwest Studies

The U.S. Southwest and Mexico Program provides students the opportunity for intensive study and research of the Greater Southwest, an area encompassing the American Southwest and northern Mexico.

Collaborating with partnership organizations on both sides of the border, as well as within political and state borders, students actively engage in interdisciplinary research directed and supported by the program. Classrooms are based in numerous locations, presenting students with opportunities to explore intensely the complex cultural, political, economic, and scientific issues that contribute to the unique diversity of the Greater Southwest.

This hands-on involvement is key to Hampshire College's commitment to fostering a productive arena for students to explore the transnational implications and consequences of border dynamics.

Affiliated Faculty

Student Project Titles

  • Nos(otros): Art Questioning Borders
  • Four Days in the Valley: The Archeology and Oral Histories of Downtown Chaco
  • Cultural Citizenship in Transnational Spaces
  • The Coca-colonization of Native Americans: Diabetes and the Loss of Traditional Food Systems
  • Dams as Detriments to the Colorado River and the Southwest
  • Mexican Migrants and Human Rights Violations Near the Border
  • Occupational Stress, Corn Grinding and Gender: An Exploration
  • The Role of Food Storage as an Agricultural Adaptation in the Prehistoric San Juan Basin, Colorado and New Mexico

Sample First-Year Course


Anzaldua describes the U.S.-Mexico border as a "thin edge of barbwire una herida abierta where the Third World grates against the first and bleeds." Nowhere else in the world is there such a close physical juxtaposition of a post-industrial nation with a developing one. While capital and goods are now freely traded with Mexico, the movement of people northward into the U.S. is strictly regulated, and deeply held notions of racial, ethnic, and cultural boundaries—and their policy implications—are challenged by the growth of transnational communities on both sides of the line. Emphasizing historical and contemporary processes of nation-state formation and deterritorialization, globalization, and identity construction, the course will challenge students to investigate a range of political and legal controversies of the border area, including labor, immigration, drugs, environmental, and cultural issues.

Sample Courses at Hampshire
  • Al Otro Lado
  • Border Crossings: Mexico & its Northern Frontier
  • Borderlands
  • Border Matters: Mexico & the U.S
  • Geological Controversies.
  • Geology 2: Evolution of the Landscape
  • Social Movements and Social Change: Zapatismo
  • Southwest Field Seminar: Investigating Violence
  • Southwest Field Seminar: Living in the Sonoran Desert
  • Violence & Conflict in Prehispanic America
Through the Consortium
  • Aspects of American History: The American Southwest (SC)
  • Colloquium: Politics & the U.S.-Mexico Border (SC)
  • History of Mexico (UMass)
  • Indigenous Peoples of North America (MHC)
  • Modern Mexico (MHC)
  • U.S. Latina/o History (AC)
  • U.S. Mexican Borderland (AC)
  • Western American History (AC)

Facilities and Resources

Integration of Science Studies
A unique feature of the Southwest Studies Program is a focus on the integration of science studies within a cultural and political-economic arena. Placing scientific studies within a broader context, students hone their scientific skills in traditional areas of study such as biology or geology, and then apply it to real problems and real people.

For example, health data can be looked at for women working in factories on the borders and analyzed within a context of NAFTA and other economic changes. As another example, tree-coring techniques for the reconstruction of rainfall in the past can be applied to an analysis of the effects of drought on crop productivity and nutritional status for rural farmers today. Political borders that define reservations and access to resources, as well as economic borders that dictate employment and health also figure prominently in the kinds of questions that can be examined in a less scientifically driven concentration. Mexico and the U.S. share one of the longest borders on earth, and this presents, as one journalist stated, the "laboratory of our future."

Network for Research and Education
Hampshire is a charter member of the Mexico-Norte Red de Investigacion y Educacion (Network for Research and Education) established in 1997 by numerous institutions on both sides of the border. The network provides language training, internship placement, research development and support, funding, logistical support, and opportunities to work with local people on both sides of the border on problems of mutual interest. One current project involves working with the Tarahumara Indians in the Copper Canyon region which is currently being developed for tourism (on par with Cancún and Disneyland). This presents major problems for the local people who are largely rural subsistence farmers. The network is organizing a series of internships so that these potential problems can be studied before the changes are initiated by the Mexican Government.

Crossroads in the Study of the Americas (CISA)
Crossroads in the Study of the Americas (CISA) is a center dedicated to new teaching and scholarship on the Americas. Founded in 1997, CISA brings together faculty from the Five Colleges who work together to explore relational aspects of identity in the Americas. Instead of adopting a North-South approach, CISA has developed a triangular model for its work, where the three sides are formed by the Old World (Africa, Asia, Europe), the polities of the New World, and the indigenous peoples of the Americas. This conception of the Americas as a crossroads seeks to promote an awareness of the historical and material inter-relationality of citizenship, migration, diaspora, and nationhood.

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