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Emma Amador

Doctoral Candidate in History - Defended

1029 Tisch Hall, Ann Arbor MI, 48109-1003

  • Fields of Study
    • Latin American, Caribbean, and U.S. history, Latino/a and Ethnic studies, migrations, race, gender and sexuality
  • About

    I am a historian of Latin America, the Caribbean, and Latino/as in the United States. I have research and teaching experience in Latin American and Latino/a studies, comparative ethnic studies and women’s and gender studies, all with an emphasis on migration and transnationalism.

    My dissertation, Welfare is Work: Social Welfare, Migration, and Women’s Activism in
    Puerto Rican Communities after 1917 tells the history of welfare and social work in Puerto Rico, rethinking the ideologies, politics, and practices of the colonial relationship to the United States through a close examination of the ways that Puerto Ricans negotiated their inclusion into federal public assistance programs. Congress granted nominal citizenship to natives of Puerto Rico in 1917, but the continued territorial status of the island restricted the terms of this citizenship. Puerto Ricans had limited political rights, and as the federal government began to expand in the 1930s, it only partially extended social welfare policies to the territories, inscribing colonial differences in the emerging welfare state. Puerto Ricans responded by organizing and demanding access to social welfare provisions, including child welfare funds, veterans benefits, and old-age assistance. I argue that, in the Puerto Rican case, debates over the right to welfare, and social practices of public assistance, were fundamentally transnational, because both social workers and clients moved extensively to and from the US mainland, and because advocates and policy makers saw the question of welfare as inseparable from the issue of migration. My project investigates how social welfare programs, and ideas about social rights, actually came into being and how policy makers, activists, and clients participated in shaping their formation and meaning.  It reframes Puerto Rican history around women – clients, social workers, and advocates – offering a new way to understand the evolution of a “colonial citizenship.”


    Ford Foundation Dissertation Fellowship
    Center for Puerto Rican Studies Dissertation Fellowship
    Rackham Humanities Dissertation Fellowship
    Boyd/Williams Fellowship on Women and Work, IRWG
    Rackham Centennial Spring and Summer Fellowship Award
    Afredo Guiterrez Dissertation Award, CLACS
    Community of Scholars Fellowship, IRWG and Rackham
    Rackham Humanities Candidacy Fellowship
    Center for the Education of Women Research Grant, CEW
    Rackham Merit Fellowship


    Selected Recent Presentations

    2014 “‘Women Ask Relief for Puerto Ricans’: The Transnational and Colonial History of the U.S. Welfare State.” Global American Studies Symposium, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, December 11.

    2014 “Training Migrant Domestics: African American and Puerto Rican Women's Work Regulating Puerto Rican Contract Labor, 1940-1960.” Berkshire Conference of Women Historians, Toronto, ON, CA, May 22-25.

    2014   “Activists, Social Workers, Historians: Tracing Puerto Rican Feminist Historiography in Social Welfare Scholarship” BI-Annual Meeting of the Puerto Rican Studies Association, Denver, CO, October 23-26.

    2014   “Working for Rehabilitation: Migrant Household Workers and the Puerto Rican Government, 1948-1968” Annual Meeting of the Organization of American Historians, Atlanta, GA, April 10-14.

    2013 “‘The Jane Addams of Insular History’: Beatriz Lassalle del Valle and the Transnational History of Social Welfare and Social Work in Puerto Rico.” Puerto Rican Studies Association 2nd Biennial Symposium, Rutgers University- Newark
    Campus, October 18.

    2013   “Transnational Casework: Social Workers, Contracted Care Workers, and Labor Policy in Puerto Rico’s Expanding Welfare State, 1940-1970”. Annual Meeting of the Latin American Studies Association, Washington, DC, May 29- June 1.

  • Education
    • BA, Liberal Arts, Sarah Lawrence College, 2004
    • MA, Latin American Studies, University of Connecticut, 2006