In Spring of 2021 Professors Ellen Noonan, Sibylle Fischer, and Benjamin Schmidt along with graduate instructors Bárbara Pérez-Curiel, Alexia Orengo-Green, and Bryan Zehngut-Willits co-taught a class at New York University titled “Asylum in Crisis.” This course interrogated our contemporary place in the history of asylum through three main channels: narratives and the stories that are being told (and suppressed); history; and federal record keeping about the asylum process. Offered through the Polonsky Humanities Lab that brings together approaches from literary studies, public history, and digital humanities, the course explored narratives of asylum (in English and, for students with the facility, Spanish), placed the contemporary moment in the long history of immigration to the US, and helped students build new skills in working with data and public-facing digital history projects.
This project began as a weekly practicum component of “Asylum in Crisis.” The practicum, co-taught by Orengo-Green and Zehngut-Willits, examined the history of U.S. immigration policy over the course of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The practicum also aimed to help students develop practical skills, and in the case of the history practicum, we intended to provide students with experience and know-how in building a digital public history project. That project has evolved from its final state at the end of the class into Keeping the Records and the Golden Gate. The instructors and students have since published their reflections and final class projects in Esferas, the undergraduate student journal of the Spanish and Portuguese department at NYU. Further reflections on teaching this course and building this project are also available here.