My name is Andy Urban. Since 2012, I have been employed as an Assistant Professor in the American Studies and History departments at Rutgers University, New Brunswick.


As of December 2017, my book, Brokering Servitude: Migration and the Politics of Domestic Labor during the Long Nineteenth Century, is available from New York University Press (it can also be purchased on Amazon). Brokering Servitude examines how labor markets for domestic service were shaped and governed by philanthropists, missionaries, commercial offices, and the state, and how workers responded and adjusted to attempts to restrict their freedom of movement and contract during the period from 1850 to 1924.

I received my PhD in History from the University of Minnesota, where I worked with Donna Gabaccia and Erika Lee.

After Minnesota, I worked as a postdoctoral fellow with the Transforming Community Project at Emory University, where I researched, taught, and led public humanities projects exploring the institutional history of race relations at the school. In the fall 2014, a portion of the research that I conducted was published in the Journal of Asian American Studies. See here.

Under my direction, Rutgers was a founding member of the Guantánamo Public Memory Project (GPMP). The GPMP was a collective of faculty and students at eleven universities who worked together to curate a traveling museum exhibition interpreting and documenting the layered histories of the US Naval Base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. The exhibit explores the base’s history from its acquisition during the War of 1898, to its use as a detention center for Cuban and Haitian refugees seeking asylum in the United States in the 1990s, to its central role as a “legal blackhole” in the post-9/11 “War on Terror.”


Poster promoting the Curating Guantanamo exhibition and conference at Rutgers, March 2013. Designed by Nicole Heater.

Under my instruction, Rutgers students have also curated content for the States of Incarceration project, a collaborative project organized by the Humanities Action Lab (the successor to the GPMP). They have focused on the history of captive labor at Seabrook Farms, an agribusiness in southern New Jersey that specialized in frozen vegetables and employed up to 6,000 people during peak production periods in the late 1940s.

Seabrook Farms promotional flyer, distributed in internment camps, 1944. War Relocation Authority Records, National Archives, Philadelphia.

Seabrook Farms promotional flyer, distributed in internment camps, 1944. War Relocation Authority Records, National Archives, Philadelphia.

At Seabrook, paroled Japanese American internees worked alongside black Barbadian and Jamaican guestworkers, black migrant  laborers contracted from the American South, and a small contingent of white German POWs, groups whose freedom of mobility and job choice were similarly constrained. In 1946, Seabrook Farms also accepted Japanese Peruvians brought to the United States and imprisoned by the federal government and Japanese American detainees at Tule Lake stripped of their citizenship. In 1948, Seabrook Farms would add to its ranks of workers Estonian Displaced Persons, whom the company sponsored as refugees. By looking at these different groups and their housing and treatment as workers, we have begun to explore how Seabrook Farms, as a company town, relied on various sources of labor that managers – often incorrectly – deemed controllable.

This material can be seen on the States of Incarceration website and in person as part of the project’s travelling exhibition. The exhibit will be at Rutgers an on display in Douglass Library from January 22 to March 9, 2018. Details to follow!

I am also continuing work on “Invisible Restraints,” an online exhibition that is currently hosted by the New Jersey Digital Highway. There will eventually be a book!

With Rutgers students, I also curated the exhibition: “Chinese Exclusion in New Jersey: Immigration Law in the Past and Present,”

Image from Chinese Exclusion in New Jersey exhibit.

Image from Chinese Exclusion in New Jersey exhibit.

Peer-reviewed articles or article-length reviews that I have written have also appeared in the Journal of Policy History, Gender and History, Journal of American History, Journal of Asian American Studies,,, Radical History Review, International Labor and Working-Class History, Journal of Urban History, and American Studies.

When not working, I enjoy walking around Brooklyn and Manhattan. I’m known to have tricked unsuspecting friends into almost ridiculously long walks. I also like hiking.

Colby Pass, the High Sierra.

Colby Pass, the High Sierra.


North Cascades, Washington

In May 2016, I spent an amazing two months working as a Term VI Visiting Professor at Deep Springs College, in Inyo County, California.




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