Jesse Alemán, interim dean of Graduate Studies, has been named the 2023-2024 Mellon Distinguished Scholar in Residence at the American Antiquarian Society (AAS) in Worcester, Mass. He will be the senior fellow in residence at the AAS, where he will participate in the social and academic program of the Society while conducting research in the library’s archives of 19th-century U.S. print cultures.

Alemán began his role in Graduate Studies as the associate dean in fall 2019, the semester before the pandemic broke, and in fall 2022, he held the appointment of acting dean. He has been serving as the interim dean of Graduate Studies since January 2023 semester. His term ends July 31 when he will take a sabbatical to begin his residency at the Society. 

“UNM is proud of Dr. Alemán’s accomplishments, and his residency at the AAS will provide him an unparalleled opportunity to advance his scholarship,” said James Holloway, provost and executive vice president for Academic Affairs.  “His service to graduate studies has been admirable, and he has my deep thanks.”

Having seen Graduate Studies through significant changes over the last year, Alemán is optimistic about the state of graduate education at UNM.

“Our graduate students are tenacious scholars, teachers, researchers, and professionals; our faculty are committed advisors and supportive mentors; and department staff and the Graduate Studies office team see to the success of our students, many of whom weathered the pandemic in pursuit of their degree.”

Established in 1812, the American Antiquarian Society houses one of the oldest, largest, and most renown collection of manuscripts, books, newspapers, and other ephemera printed in the US before the 20th century.

Alemán plans to use the year and the library’s resources to put the final touches on a book that analyzes Latino and Latina writings about the US Civil War.

“COVID disrupted the book’s progress. Libraries and archives closed, and the pandemic shut down much of the world. So, I’m grateful for the opportunity to get back to the research and writing of this book. I look forward to returning to the library’s collection of mid-19th century newspapers that were printed by or circulated for the US’s growing Latinx populations,” Alemán said.

The book recovers and analyzes the published and unpublished writings by Mexican Americans and Cubans in the United States who observed or participated in the US Civil War. Looking at letters, diaries, novels, editorials, autobiographies, official war correspondences, and other writings, Alemán argues that 19th-century Latinx writers were at civil war before the Civil War. They were conflicted about language transition from Spanish to English; pulled by competing forms of national belonging to Cuba, Mexico, the United States, and the Confederacy; and torn across different racial codes of power that fueled slavery, anti-indigeneity, and whiteness.

“For these early Latinx writers, the U.S. Civil War was the historical backdrop for working out the embattled process of becoming Mexican- or Cuban-American in the United States during the late 19th century: It was a conflicted process of identity formation that many writers expressed as a war with the self,” he said.

Alemán’s research covers writings from California, the New Mexico Territory, and Texas, as well as writings from the eastern seaboard, the U.S. south, and Cuba and Mexico. The book is appropriately titled Latinx Civil Wars.