Department of History
Abstract: What can the sugar beet industry tell us about the relationship between agriculture and American empire? Between 1870 and 1945, over 160 beet sugar factories opened in rural towns from Michigan to the Pacific Coast. Hoping to cash in on a crop then touted as “white gold,” landowners allocated millions of acres to beets to feed their local factories. Looking at the expansion of the industry in southeastern Colorado at the turn of the twentieth century, this talk examines how the sugar beet industry furthered the aims of U.S. settler science, an expansive governmental effort to discipline “nature” and heterogenous human communities into a knowable, controllable, hierarchical, and predictable system.
Bio: Bernadette Pérez is a graduate student in the History Department and an ICGC fellow. She is currently completing on her dissertation, entitled: “Before the Sun Rises: Contesting Power and Cultivating Nations in the Colorado Beet Fields, 1861-1964.” Her project is a social, environmental, and cultural history of the sugar beet industry in the U.S. West. She looks at issues of race, migration, the environment, and state and corporate violence against multi-ethnic and Indigenous migrant workers in the industry. Her dissertation has been supported by ICGC, the Office for Diversity in Graduate Education, the Council for Library and Information Resources’s Mellon Fellowship for Research in Original Sources, and dissertation awards from the Organization of American Historians and the Western History Association.