My name is Andy Urban. I use this site to share research and writings, exhibits, teaching materials, and other projects I’m involved in as a professor (along with the occasional hiking photo). Since 2012, I have been employed 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.”
Rutgers’ students also curated content for States of Incarceration, a collaborative project organized by the Humanities Action Lab (the successor to the GPMP). Students 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.
This material can be seen on the States of Incarceration website and in person as part of the project’s travelling exhibition. The exhibit was on display at Rutgers in Douglass Library from January 22 to March 9, 2018, and was accompanied by a conference, tours, and other programming.
I also worked with Rutgers’ undergraduate and graduate students on “Invisible Restraints,” an online exhibition that is currently hosted by the New Jersey Digital Highway.
Seabrook Farms has been at the center of a number of projects I am now currently working on.At Seabrook Farms, paroled Japanese American internees worked alongside Barbadian and Jamaican guestworkers, migrant laborers contracted from the American South, and a small contingent of German POWs, groups whose freedom of mobility and job choice were 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.
During the summer of 2018, I will be directing The Company Town at Seabrook Farms, NJ: Internment, Migration, and Resettlement in the WWII Era, a two-week summer institute for K-12 teachers taking place at Rutgers, funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities. At the institute, Seabrook Farms will be used as a case study into different histories of relocation during the World War II era. At a moment when debates about the United States’ policies toward immigrants, refugees, and guestworkers have become a matter of national concern and unavoidable topic of discussion in schools and homes across the country, a goal of this institute is to train teachers to become intermediaries who can direct these conversations to the analysis of historic evidence while also calling attention to the economic, political, and social issues at stake in the present.
Institute participants will be encouraged to compare Seabrook Farms to other locations where released internees, migrant workers, and refugees were sent to during World War II and its aftermath.
Peer-reviewed articles or article-length reviews that I have written have appeared in the Journal of Policy History, Gender and History, Journal of American History, Journal of American Ethnic History, Journal of Asian American Studies, nj.com, pri.org, 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.
In May 2016, I spent an amazing two months working as a Term VI Visiting Professor at Deep Springs College, in Inyo County, California.