Assistant Professor of US Foreign Policy & Empire Studies
April’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. Sugr 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.
Since 1990 overdose deaths in the United States have increased five-fold, resulting in what is best described as an overdose crisis. Many of the states with the highest prescription opioid overdose deaths-and the greatest harms from crystal meth-also vote for Donald Trump in the 2016 election. In this course we will consider the historical contexts for the parallel rise of Trumpism and the overdose crisis. Trump appealed to economically and socially dislocated voters' xenophobia, using stereotypes about Mexican drug dealers to call for a return to law and order policing and immigration exclusion. The course moves beyond Trump's rhetoric to explore history and political economy. Topics include: economic decline, demographic transformation, and the crisis of whiteness in the rural heartland; drug production and prohibition in U.S.-Mexico relations; pharmaceutical and insurance company power; histories of pain management, addiction, harm reduction, and movements to end the war on drugs.