Aims McGuinness
Department of History
End-of-Year Fellowship Report for 2003-04

I am grateful to the Director and staff of the Center for Twenty-First Century Studies for a most productive and enjoyable academic year (2003-2004). The Center provided an enormously stimulating environment for me as I worked on my book manuscript, a study of the transformation of Panama into a nexus between the Atlantic world and the Pacific during the California Gold Rush (1848-1860).  I took advantage of my Center fellowship to complete four chapters of the six-chapter book manuscript and to finish two articles and one book chapter (see below).  I cannot imagine how I could have accomplished as much without the resources provided by the Center, including office space, research assistance, monetary assistance for a translation of the book chapter, and an invaluable break from my teaching schedule. 
Conversations with other Center fellows and speakers invited by the Center helped me to clarify arguments in the book but also to broaden the manuscript to reach audiences beyond Latin American history. I found that the Center’s theme for this year (and next), “Geographies of Difference,” provided an extremely effective way to bridge the fellows’ projects together.  I am especially indebted to the Center for comments I received at the fellows’ meeting devoted to my work in February of 2004.

While I found all the Center’s activities to be very enriching, I would like to single out “Museums and Difference” (November 2003) and “Colonial Cities” (April 2004), for special mention.  Thanks to the planning of the Director and the Center’s staff, both conferences (like all other Center events) came off flawlessly, and made me proud to work at UWM. The “Museums and Difference” conference gave me the opportunity to interact with a number of the most influential scholars in museum studies today. I came away from the experience brimming with ideas both for my own research and for teaching, and now plan to incorporate a brief discussion of Panamanian history museums into my own book manuscript.  I found myself similarly inspired by the conference on “Colonial Cities,” which has enabled me to develop comparisons between mid-nineteenth-century Panama City and other instances of imperial/colonial urban form that might never have occurred to me otherwise.

In the fall, I was honored to receive an invitation from the government of the Republic of Panamá to contribute a chapter to the Historia General de Panamá, an official national history that is currently being published by the República de Panamá in collaboration with the Universidad de Panamá.  I am very grateful to the Center for providing funds that enabled the translation of the chapter from English into Spanish.

In addition to my writing projects, I took advantage of my fellowship year to participate in the North American Labor History Conference as a commentator on a panel devoted to U.S. imperialism in Panama (Detroit, October 17-18) and to present a paper on the independence of Panamá at UWM (Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies, October 28) and a paper on reconceptualizing the California Gold Rush as an event in Latin American history at the University of Colorado-Boulder (Department of History, May 14).

The Center provided the ideal environment for the development of a project for my second book, an investigation into the global workers’ movement for an 8-hour-day from the mid-nineteenth to the mid-twentieth century.  In conjunction with this new investigation, I taught a course in the fall entitled “History of Socialism,” which included the participation of Frank Zeidler, who served as the socialist mayor of Milwaukee from 1948 to 1960.  Currently, I am working with Professor Jasmine Alinder on a documentary film that will explore the history of socialism in Milwaukee.  We will present a portion of the unfinished film as part of a larger presentation on the history of socialism that we will give to the university community next October as recipients of the 2004 Morris Fromkin Lectureship, which we were awarded in March 2004.  Again, I cannot conceive of how I could have embarked on this new avenue of research without the support of the Center.


“Defendiendo el Istmo: las luchas contra los filibusters en la Ciudad de Panamá en 1856.” Mesoamérica 24, 45 (Enero-Diciembre de 2003): 66-84.

 “The Trials of Sovereignty: Justo Arosemena’s Critique of the Nation in ‘El Estado Federal de Panamá.’” Istmo: revista virtual de estudios literarios y culturales centroamericanos 7 (nov.-dic. 2003): []

“Aquellos tiempos de California: el ferrocarril de Panamá y la transformación de la zona de tránsito durante la Fiebre del Oro,” Historia General de Panamá. Panama City: República de Panamá, in press.

conferences and presentations
Commentator.  “The Labor of Empire: Politics and Power in the Construction of the Panama Canal.” Panel at the North American Labor History Conference, Wayne State University (Detroit), October 17, 2004.

“Reflections on the Centennial of Panamanian Independence,” Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies,  University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. October 28, 2004.

“Telling Pasts: The California Gold Rush as Panamanian History,” Department of History, University of Colorado-Boulder, May 14, 2004.

Morris Fromkin Memorial Lectureship (co-recipient with Prof. Jasmine Alinder), Golda Meir library, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

Current department website




Center for 21st Century Studies

Merry Wiesner-Hanks

Center for 21st Century Studies
University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
P.O. Box 413, Milwaukee, WI 53201 USA
tel: 414-229-4141; fax: 414-229-5964; email:



  Last updated 9/2/08 by RVD