Bernadette Pérez is a historian of the United States. She focuses particularly on the histories of Latinx and Indigenous peoples in the West. Her work is situated at the intersection of multiple subfields of history, from race and environment to labor, migration, and colonialism. In other words, she studies empire and capitalism in action.
Migrant sugar beet workers are at the heart of her current work. In her manuscript, she follows corporate sugar into southeastern Colorado at the turn of the twentieth century and trace its efforts to hold diverse working communities within a highly unequal and hierarchical land and labor regime for the better part of a century. In doing so, she unearths the long and entangled histories of Indigenous, Mexican, Asian, and white peoples in a space structured by U.S. expansion, Indian removal, and anti-Blackness. Her book reveals the fundamental role that occupying, transforming, and controlling the land played in the evolution of the American state and racial capitalism in the post-Civil War period.
Before joining the faculty at Berkeley, she was the Cotsen Postdoctoral Fellow in Race and Ethnicity Studies at the Princeton Society of Fellows in the Liberal Arts from 2017-2020, where she taught courses in History and American Studies. She has received fellowships and awards from the Mellon Foundation, the Council on Library and Information Resources, the Organization of American Historians, and the Western History Association. In 2018, her dissertation won the W. Turrentine Jackson Dissertation Award from the Pacific Coast Branch of the American Historical Association and the Outstanding Dissertation Award from the Immigration and Ethnic History Society.