Natalia Molina

Distinguished Professor of American Studies and Ethnicity

-History, Latinx Studies, Immigration, Foodways, Gender, Urban Studies, & Public Health

University of Southern California

2020 MacArthur Fellow

about Dr. Molina

Professor Molina’s work lies at the intersections of race, gender, culture, and citizenship.

Natalia Molina is a Distinguished Professor in the Department of American Studies and Ethnicity at the University of Southern California. She is the author of two award-winning books, How Race Is Made in America:  Immigration, Citizenship, and the Historical Power of Racial Scripts and Fit to Be Citizens?: Public Health and Race in Los Angeles, 1879-1940, as well as co-editor of Relational Formations of Race: Theory, Method and Practice. Her work examines the interconnectedness of racial and ethnic communities through her concept of “racial scripts” which looks at how practices, customs, policies and laws that are directed at one group and are readily available and hence easily applied to other groups. She continues to explore the themes of race, space, labor, immigration, gender and urban history in her forthcoming book Place-making at the Nayarit: How a Mexican Restaurant in Los Angeles Nourished its Community (University of California Press, 2022). Professor Molina is working on a new book, The Silent Hands that Shaped the Huntington: A History of Its Mexican Workers.

Professor Molina is a 2020 MacArthur Fellow. Her work has been supported by various organizations including the National Endowment for the Humanities, Ford, Mellon and Rockefeller Foundation. She is a Distinguished Lecturer for the Organization of American Historians. In 2018, she was the Organization of American Historians China Residency scholar. She has also been the recipient of various awards for her diversity work, including by Diverse: Issues in Higher Education.

During her tenure at the University of California, Professor Molina served as the Associate Vice Chancellor for Faculty Diversity and Equity. She has also served twice as the Associate Dean for Arts and Humanities and before that as the Director for University of California Education Abroad Program in Spain. She previously served on the Faculty Advisory Committee for the University of California’s President’s Postdoctoral Fellowship Program, as well as a six-year term on the board of California Humanities, a non-profit partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Professor Molina enjoys opportunities for intellectual and cultural exchanges and has lectured in Latin America, Asia, Europe, as well as over 30 of the 50 United States. She is also a certified mediator.

Books

How Race is Made in America

How Race Was Made in American

How Race Is Made in America:  Immigration, Citizenship, and the Historical Power of Racial Scripts, University of California Press, 2014

Molina demonstrates that despite the multiplicity of influences that help shape our concept of race, common themes prevail. Examining legal, political, social, and cultural sources related to immigration, she advances the theory that our understanding of race is socially constructed in relational ways—that is, in correspondence to other groups. Molina introduces and explains her central theory, racial scripts, which highlights the ways in which the lives of racialized groups are linked across time and space and thereby affect one another. How Race Is Made in America also shows that these racial scripts are easily adopted and adapted to apply to different racial groups.

Reviews

Awards

  • Texas A and M

    Susanne M. Glasscock Humanities Book Prize for Interdisciplinary Scholarship

Relational Formations of Race: Theory, Method, and Practice

Relational Formations of Race brings African American, Chicanx/Latinx, Asian American, and Native American studies together in a single volume, enabling readers to consider the racialization and formation of subordinated groups in relation to one another. These essays conceptualize racialization as a dynamic and interactive process; group-based racial constructions are formed not only in relation to whiteness, but also in relation to other devalued and marginalized groups. The chapters offer explicit guides to understanding race as relational across all disciplines, time periods, regions, and social groups. By studying race relationally, and through a shared context of meaning and power, students will draw connections among subordinated groups and will better comprehend the logic that underpins the forms of inclusion and dispossession such groups face. As the United States shifts toward a minority-majority nation, Relational Formations of Race offers crucial tools for understanding today’s shifting race dynamics.

Fit to Be Citizens?

Fit to Be Citizens

Fit to Be Citizens?: Public Health and Race in Los Angeles, 1879-1940, University of California Press, 2006

Meticulously researched and beautifully written, Fit to Be Citizens? demonstrates how both science and public health shaped the meaning of race in the early twentieth century. Through a careful examination of the experiences of Mexican, Japanese, and Chinese immigrants in Los Angeles, Natalia Molina illustrates the many ways local health officials used complexly constructed concerns about public health to demean, diminish, discipline, and ultimately define racial groups. She shows how the racialization of Mexican Americans was not simply a matter of legal exclusion or labor exploitation, but rather that scientific discourses and public health practices played a key role in assigning negative racial characteristics to the group.

The book skillfully moves beyond the binary oppositions that usually structure works in ethnic studies by deploying comparative and relational approaches that reveal the racialization of Mexican Americans as intimately associated with the relative historical and social positions of Asian Americans, African Americans, and whites. Its rich archival grounding provides a valuable history of public health in Los Angeles, living conditions among Mexican immigrants, and the ways in which regional racial categories influence national laws and practices. Molina’s compelling study advances our understanding of the complexity of racial politics, attesting that racism is not static and that different groups can occupy different places in the racial order at different times.

Reviews

Awards

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    Pacific Coast Branch of the American Historical Association’s Norris & Carol Hundley Award

How Race Was Made in American

Awards

  • Texas A and M

    Susanne M. Glasscock Humanities Book Prize for Interdisciplinary Scholarship

How Race is Made in America

How Race Is Made in America:  Immigration, Citizenship, and the Historical Power of Racial Scripts, University of California Press, 2014

Molina demonstrates that despite the multiplicity of influences that help shape our concept of race, common themes prevail. Examining legal, political, social, and cultural sources related to immigration, she advances the theory that our understanding of race is socially constructed in relational ways—that is, in correspondence to other groups. Molina introduces and explains her central theory, racial scripts, which highlights the ways in which the lives of racialized groups are linked across time and space and thereby affect one another. How Race Is Made in America also shows that these racial scripts are easily adopted and adapted to apply to different racial groups.

Reviews

Relational Formations of Race: Theory, Method, and Practice

Relational Formations of Race brings African American, Chicanx/Latinx, Asian American, and Native American studies together in a single volume, enabling readers to consider the racialization and formation of subordinated groups in relation to one another. These essays conceptualize racialization as a dynamic and interactive process; group-based racial constructions are formed not only in relation to whiteness, but also in relation to other devalued and marginalized groups. The chapters offer explicit guides to understanding race as relational across all disciplines, time periods, regions, and social groups. By studying race relationally, and through a shared context of meaning and power, students will draw connections among subordinated groups and will better comprehend the logic that underpins the forms of inclusion and dispossession such groups face. As the United States shifts toward a minority-majority nation, Relational Formations of Race offers crucial tools for understanding today’s shifting race dynamics.

Fit to Be Citizens

Awards

  • icon

    Pacific Coast Branch of the American Historical Association’s Norris & Carol Hundley Award

Fit to Be Citizens?

Fit to Be Citizens?: Public Health and Race in Los Angeles, 1879-1940, University of California Press, 2006

Meticulously researched and beautifully written, Fit to Be Citizens? demonstrates how both science and public health shaped the meaning of race in the early twentieth century. Through a careful examination of the experiences of Mexican, Japanese, and Chinese immigrants in Los Angeles, Natalia Molina illustrates the many ways local health officials used complexly constructed concerns about public health to demean, diminish, discipline, and ultimately define racial groups. She shows how the racialization of Mexican Americans was not simply a matter of legal exclusion or labor exploitation, but rather that scientific discourses and public health practices played a key role in assigning negative racial characteristics to the group.

The book skillfully moves beyond the binary oppositions that usually structure works in ethnic studies by deploying comparative and relational approaches that reveal the racialization of Mexican Americans as intimately associated with the relative historical and social positions of Asian Americans, African Americans, and whites. Its rich archival grounding provides a valuable history of public health in Los Angeles, living conditions among Mexican immigrants, and the ways in which regional racial categories influence national laws and practices. Molina’s compelling study advances our understanding of the complexity of racial politics, attesting that racism is not static and that different groups can occupy different places in the racial order at different times.

Reviews

Selected Articles

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    “Medicalizing the Mexican: Immigration, Race, and Disability in the Early Twentieth Century United States”

    Radical History Review, December 2005, pp. 22-37.

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    “The Importance of Place and Place-makers in the Life of a Los Angeles Community: What Gentrification Erases from Echo Park”

    Southern California Quarterly, Volume 97, Spring 2015 No. 1, pp. 69-111.
    Best article award, Historical Society of Southern California

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    “The Long Arc of Dispossession: Racial Capitalism and Contested Notions of Citizenship in the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands in the Early Twentieth Century``

    Western Historical Quarterly, Winter 2014 issue, 45.4.

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    “Examining Chicana/o History through a Relational Lens,” part of the special issue on “Chicana/o History”

    Pacific Historical Review, Vol. 82, No. 4, November 2013, 520-541.

  • null

    “Deportable Citizens: The Decoupling of Race and Citizenship in the Construction of the ‘Anchor Baby'``

    in Deportation in the Americas: Histories of Exclusion and Resistance (note: in Italics just like the journal citation information
    Best article award, Western History Association

  • icon

    “Borders, Laborers, and Racialized Medicalization: Mexican Immigration and US Public Health Policy in the Twentieth-Century”

    American Journal of Public Health, 101 no. 6 (2011), 1024-1031.

  • icon

    “The Importance of Place and Place-makers in the Life of a Los Angeles Community: What Gentrification Erases from Echo Park”

    Southern California Quarterly, Volume 97, Spring 2015 No. 1, pp. 69-111.
    Best article award, Historical Society of Southern California

  • icon

    “The Long Arc of Dispossession: Racial Capitalism and Contested Notions of Citizenship in the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands in the Early Twentieth Century``

    Western Historical Quarterly, Winter 2014 issue, 45.4.

  • icon

    “Examining Chicana/o History through a Relational Lens,” part of the special issue on “Chicana/o History”

    Pacific Historical Review, Vol. 82, No. 4, November 2013, 520-541.

  • null

    “Deportable Citizens: The Decoupling of Race and Citizenship in the Construction of the ‘Anchor Baby'``

    in Deportation in the Americas: Histories of Exclusion and Resistance (note: in Italics just like the journal citation information
    Best article award, Western History Association

  • icon

    “Borders, Laborers, and Racialized Medicalization: Mexican Immigration and US Public Health Policy in the Twentieth-Century”

    American Journal of Public Health, 101 no. 6 (2011), 1024-1031.

  • icon

    “Medicalizing the Mexican: Immigration, Race, and Disability in the Early Twentieth Century United States”

    Radical History Review, December 2005, pp. 22-37.

Curriculum Vitae

Academic & Administrative Appointments

Academic

  • 2021-

    Distinguished Professor of American Studies and Ethnicity

  • 2020-2021

    Huntington Library Fellowship

  • 2018-

    Professor, Department of American Studies & Ethnicity, University of Southern California

  • 2017-2018

    National Endowment for the Humanities Public Scholar Fellowship

  • 2015-present

    Professor, Department of History & Urban Studies Program, University of California, San Diego

  • 2010-2015

    Associate Professor, Department of History & Urban Studies Program, University of California, San Diego

  • 2006-2010

    Associate Professor, Department of Ethnic Studies & Urban Studies Program, University of California, San Diego

  • 2001-2006

    Assistant Professor of Ethnic Studies & Urban Studies, University of California, San Diego

Administrative

  • 2019–2020

    Inaugural Dean’s Administration Mellon Foundation Fellow

  • 2016-2017

    Associate Dean, Division of Arts and Humanities

  • 2014-2015

    Associate Vice Chancellor for Faculty Diversity and Equity

  • 2011-2014

    Associate Dean for Faculty Equity, Division of Arts & Humanities

  • 2008-2010

    Director of Graduate Studies, Ethnic Studies Department

  • 2007-2008

    Director for University of California Education Abroad Program, Spain

Education

  • B.A.

    History & Women’s Studies Double Major University of California, Los Angeles

  • M.A.

    U.S. History University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

  • Ph.D.

    U.S. History University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

Education

  • B.A.

    History & Women’s Studies Double Major University of California, Los Angeles

  • M.A.

    U.S. History University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

  • Ph.D.

    U.S. History University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

Teaching

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    Chicana/o History

    350 student lecture course

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    Dimensions of Culture: Diversity

    350 student lecture course Thurgood Marshall College Freshmen course

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    Gender & Immigration

    Senior Seminar & Graduate Seminar

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    The History of Race in the United States; Race and the City

    Senior Seminar & Graduate Seminar

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    Race, Disease and Globalization; Race, Health and Inequality

    Upper Division & Graduate Seminar

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    Masters Theses Preparation

    Graduate Seminar

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    Multicultural Pedagogy

    Teacher Credential Program

Contact

For speaking engagements, please contact
Kevin Mills
The Tuesday Agency
404 East College Street, Suite 408
Iowa City, Iowa 52240
o: 319-338-5640

kevin@tuesdayagency.com