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Marjorie Becker

Associate Professor of History

Contact Information
E-mail: mbecker@usc.edu
Phone: (213) 740-1674
Office: SOS 269
Office Hours: M, W : 1--3, by appointment and through email.

 

Biographical Sketch

Marjorie Becker holds a doctorate and two of her three masters in Latin American History from Yale University. Her Yale dissertation, long taught in graduate courses, reveals the material cultural roots of Lazaro Cardenas, Mexico's most important twentieth century president's approach to government. Long viewed as highly popular, her multi-archival and oral historical work revealed the complex authoritarianism characteristic of his rule. Her monograph, Setting the Virgin on Fire, focuses on the grass roots resistance movement to the post-revolutionary government's efforts to transform its citizens. That movement, in fact, altered modern Mexican political culture. Her other m.a. is in History with a focus on the Deep South, African American History, the multiple relationships between Mexican poet Octavio Paz and the Mexican revolution; this m.a. is from Duke University. She served in the Peace Corps in rural Paraguay, teaching nutrition, textile arts, health and first aid to Paraguayan women and girls, and she did so in the unwritten indigenous Guarani language. She was invited to return to Paraguay to direct the program in which she served. She also worked as a former print journalist writing about race relations, health, the emerging nature of Southern life and culture. She has written and published about the Mexican revolution, its attendant counter-revolution, aboutthe artist Frida Kahlo, about Mexico's distinctly gendered time which she has named "ghost time." She is also a creative writer as historian and poet, and has written widely and deeply about longing, redemption, heroism, and most especially, dance. Her most recent poetry collection, "Glass Piano, Piano Glass," was published in 2010; her previous collection, Body Bach, came out in 2005.
 

Education

Ph.D. , Yale University, 1/1988
M. Phil. , Yale University, 1/1983
M.A. , Yale University, 1/1982
M.A. , Duke University, 1/1980
 

Description of Research

Summary Statement of Research Interests

An expert in Latin American history, Professor Becker researches the Mexican Revolution and counter-revolution, issues involving gender, ethnicity and class, and African American slavery in the U.S. South. For many years, she has conducted research into the poetics of Mexican poet Octavio Paz assessing his connections to Mexico's 1910 revolution.
 

Other Research

One of my central, long-standing research projects has focused on the architecture of emotional life experienced by impoverished, frequently illiterate, ethnically divided Mexican women. In particular, my recent articles challenge assumptions about revolutionary approaches to race and ethnic relations. They also ponder the ways in which Mexican women, denied equality before the law, nonetheless challenged both historical and historiographic efforts to silence them., 2009-2010   
My current research project, tentatively entitled "Opening the Eye of Water," draws on my original researh into the economic and ethno-history of Michoacan's Tarascan indigenous population. Reconstructing, analyzing, seeking to re-name Tarascans' modern situations, situations historically based on colonial theft of Tarascan property, on laws and customs denying Tarascan women and many men property ownership and Spanish-language literacy, this work envisions a reclamation of the Tarascan world. This work draws on the documentary and oral research I conducted in multiple Mexican urban, rural, local, and private archives. For a number of years I have conducted an oral history project, interviewing a number of Macon, Georgia African Americans, German Jews and Russian Jews. I was able to draw on some of this research for my Rethinking History articles, "A Meta-Reflection on 'Talking Back to Frida'" and "Talking "Talking Back to Frida: Houses of Emotional Mestizaje" This work is part of a larger project that seeks to reconstruct and analyze the complex communities forged by southern outsiders., 2008-2009   
During my sabbatical leave, I engaged in complex, multi-lingual and multi-disciplinary research, utilizing documents I was fortunate enough to discover, including in Mexican archives I was fortunate enough to have opened. These documents, and my original approach to La Purisima, particular illiterate Mexican women's complex and vibrant approaches to her, form part of the reseach and writing I have developed. Another crucial element of this research has enabled me to consider potential connections between Mexican women's literacy and longing during the post-revolutionary period., Spring 2008   
 

Publications

Book

Becker, M. R. (1995). Setting the Virgin on Fire: Lazaro Cardenas, Michoacan Peasants and the Redemption of the Mexican Revolution. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.
 

Book Chapter

Becker, M. (2004). When I was a child, I danced as a child, but now that I am old, I think about salvation: Concepcion Gonzalez and a past that would not stay put. (Vol. Experiments in Rethinking History). New York, New York: Routledge.
Becker, M. (2004). Afterword to When I was a child, I danced as a child, but now that I am old, I think about salvation: Concepcion Gonzalez and a past that would not stay put. (Vol. Experiments in Rethinking History). New York, New York: Routledge.
Becker, M. (1996). Black and White and Color: Cardenismo and the Search for a Campesino Ideology in Daniel H. Levine, ed., Constructing Culture and Power in Latin America. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press.
Becker, M. (1994). Torching La Purísima, Dancing at the Altar: The Construction of Revolutionary Hegemony in Michoacán, 1934-1940", Everyday Forms of State Formation: Revolution and the Negotiation of Rule in Mexico. pp. 247-264. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press.
 

Book Review

Becker, M. R. (2010). Imagining la Chica Moderna. Journal of Social History.
Becker, M. (2010). Stephanie A. Smith, Gender and the Mexican Revolution: Yucatan, Women, and the Realities of Patriarchy. American Historical Review.
Becker, M. R. (2008). Book review of Susan Kellogg, Weaving the Past: A History of Latin America's Indigenous Women from the Prehispanic Period to the Present. The American Historical Review.
 

Encyclopedia Article

Becker, M. (2002). "Lazaro Cardenas" in David Carrasco, Oxford Encyclopedia of Mesoamerican Cultures". (David Carrasco, Ed.). New York, New York: Oxford University Press.
 

Journal Article

Becker, M. (2012). "Mexican Women and Their Revolutionary Dance in Two Parts: 'Though It Seemed To Be a Lie, the Women, (even the Shy One,) Danced on the Pulpit that Night: What Mexicans Made of the Revolutionaries among Them, 1934--1940," and 'The Most Languid, Untold Pleasure.'". Rethinking History.
Becker, M. (2011). "Though They Would Be Reviled, the Women Invaded the Church, Seized Their Partners, and Danced: the Genesis of a Mexican Female Choreography, 1934-1940."e. Journal of Women's History.
Becker, M. (2008). As Though They Meant Her No Harm, María Enríquez Remade the Friends Who Abandoned Her-Their Intentions, Their Possibilities, Their Worlds--Inviting Them (Perhaps, It Is True,) To Dance. Rethinking History.
Becker, M. (2002). Talking Back to Frida: Houses of Emotional Mestizaje. History and Theory. Vol. 41
Becker, M. (2002). Talking Back to 'Talking Back to Frida:' A Meta-reflection. History and Theory. (41)
Becker, M. (1997). When I was a child, I danced as a child, but now that I am old, I think about salvation: Concepcion Gonzalez and a past that would not stay put. Rethinking History.
Becker, M. (1989). Cardenistas, Campesinos and the Weapons of the Weak: The Limits of Everyday Resistance in Michoacan. Mexico, 1934--1940. Peasant Studies. Vol. 16 (4)
Becker, M. (1987). El cardenismo y la busqueda de una ideologia campesina. Relaciones: Estudios de Historia y Sociedad. (29)
Becker, M. (1987). Black and White and Color: Cardenismo and the Search for a Campesino Ideology,". Comparative Studies in Society and History/Cambridge University Press. Vol. 29 (3)
 

Poetry Collection

Becker, M. (2011). Writing on Napkins at the Sunshine Cafe: An Anthology of Poets Writing in Macon. (Kevin Cantwell, Ed.). Macon, Georgia. Mercer University Press.
Becker, M. Archive of Dreams.
Becker, M. (2010). Piano Glass/Glass Piano. Huntington Beach, California. Tebot Bach.
Becker, M. (2005). Body Bach. Huntington Beach, California. Tebot Bach.
 

Poem

Becker, M. (2012). "Suddenly the Future," and "They brought her grapes". Los Angeles, CA.. Chaparral.
Becker, M. (2012). "The Most Languid, Untold Pleasure". New York, New York. Rethinking History.
Becker, M. (2011). "Open and Early Buttered Biscuits". (Susan Terris, Ed.). Huntington Beach, CA. Spillway.
Becker, M. (2011). "Sea-green Ease," "Capturing Sighs and Gemstones in Bundles, in Baskets,". The Southern Poetry Anthology, Vol. 5, Georgia.
Becker, M. (2010). "Explosion of Gardenia Meat". (Marsha de la O, Phil Taggart, Ed.). Ventura, CA.. Askew.
Becker, M. (2010). "Since Anything Can Always Always". Los Angeles, CA.. Chaparal.
 

Multimedia Scholarship and Creative Works

In collaboration with USC Dornsife English Professor David St. John, I began preparation for the "Drawn to Language" conversation at USC's Fisher Museum, I turned to my grass roots research and teaching about gender in Bolivia and Peru, about Latin America's cultural history, and my assessment of St. John's recent Andean-inflected poems. , Spring 2012   
In order to introduce my Yale mentor Florencia Mallon's historical, theoretical and literary work at the History Department event for which she read from her novel, assessing links between history and fiction, I entered the scholarly worlds she has pioneered (and those we have together developed,) and created an extensive introduction to her work., Spring 2012   
Poetry collection, Piano Glass/Glass Piano, 2010-2011   
Poetry collection, Body Bach, 2005-2006   
article in editted volume with new afterword, Afterword and selected republication of "When I Was a Child, I Danced as a Child, but Now that I Am Old, I Think about Salvation: Concepcion Gonzalez and a Past that Would Not Stay Put," (selected commmissioned article from Rethinking History," in Experiments in Rethinking History, 2004-2005   
encyclopedia article, "Lazaro Cardenas," in The Oxford Encyclopedia of Mesoamerican Cultures.", 2001-2002   
Journal article, "When I Was a Child, I Danced as a Child, but Now that I am Old, I Think about Salvation: Concepcion Gonzalez and a Past that Would Not Stay Put," Rethinking History. Nominated for Conference of Latin American History article prize. This article is one of my collection of innovative dance articles., 1997-1998   
 

Honors and Awards

nominated for USC Mellon Mentoring Award for Graduate Students, 2011-2012   
USC Mellon Mentoring Award for Undergraduate Students, 2012, 2011-2012   
"Listening," "Suddenly the Future," and "A Broken Untold World of Dance" named runners up in Second Annual Beyond Baroque Poetry Contest, 2010-2011   
Piano Glass/Glass Piano nominated for California Book Awards, Commonwealth Club of California, 2010, 2010-2011   
Piano Glass/Glass Piano nominated for California Book Awards, Commonwealth Club of California, 2010, 2010-2011   
Piano Glass/Glass Piano nominated for Cleveland Foundation, Anisfield-Wolf Book Award, 2010, 2010-2011   
USC Phi Kappa Phi Faculty Recognition Award, Piano Glass/Glass Piano nominated for USC Phi Kappa Phi Faculty Recognition Award by Professor David St. John, 2010-2011   
Arts and Letters grant to teach ARLT g.e. course, "Magical Realism in Latin American History and Literature", 2009-2010   
College Faculty Development Award, 2009-2010   
Invited Guest Lecturer for Professor Robert Rosenston's Post-Structural History course based upon research and narrative innovations displayed in my monograph Setting the Virgin on Fire: Lazaro Cardenas, Michoacan Peasants and the Redemption of the Mexican Revolution and Rethinking History article, "As though they meant her no harm, Maria Enriquez remade the friends who abandoned her--their intentions, their possibilities, their worlds--inviting them (perhaps, it is true) to dance,", 2009-2010   
nominated for USC Mellon Mentoring Award, 2009-2010   
"As though they meant her no harm, Maria Enriquez remade the friends that abandoned her--their intentions, their possibilities, their worlds--inviting them (perhaps, it is true) to dance," nominated for Conference of Latin American History article award, 2008-2009   
College Faculty Development Award, 2008-2009   
Arts and Letters Research Grant to Create, Develop and Teach "Magical Realism in Latin American History and Literature", Spring 2009   
Poetry reading with internationally renowned poet Jane Hirshfield with nationally celebrated poets, U.S.C. students, and the general public, Fall 2008   
Certificate of Appreciation, USC Chapter, Alpha Lambda Delta, exemplary performance for professors, 2007-2008   
College Faculty Development Award, 2007-2008   
Invited guest professor at Cal Tech in Professor Robert Rosenstone's post-structural and innovatie history course. Invited to teach my Setting the Virgin on Fire and recent Rethinking History article reproducing what I have named "ghost time," a woman's courageous generosity in the fact of sexual assault, and revolutionary dance., Spring 2008   
Ahmanson Foundation Award, "The Many Faces of Frida.", 1998-1999   
nomination, Raubenheimer, Outstanding Junior Faculty Award, 1995-1996   
Phi Kappa Phi recognition, Setting the Virgin on Fire: Lazaro Cardenas, Michoacan Peasants and the Redemption of the Mexican Revolution, 1995-1996   
Invited Visiting Research Fellowship, Center for U.S.-Mexican Studies, University of California, San Diego, 1990-1991   
Fulbright Award, This national dissertation fellowship was awared in recognition of my original Mexican research project., 1989-1990   
Invited Visiting Scholar-Teacher, Colegio de Michoacan, Zamora, Michoacan, 1989-1990   
American Council of Learned Societies Fellowship Recipient, 1988-1989   
USC Zumberge Research and Innovation Fund Award, 1988-1989   
National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship Recipient, summer stipend, summer 1989, Spring 1989   
Inter-American Foundation Doctoral Fellowship, extension, 1985-1986   
Woodrow Wilson Foundation, Charlotte Newcombe Doctoral Dissertation, 1985-1986   
 

Service to the University

Other Service to the University

Guest professor in Prof. Robert Rosenstone's Post-structural History course, California Institute of Technology. Drawing on expansive historical research tools to excavate elements of Mexico's buried women's histories, asking what illiterate women tell us, what physical language reveals, and how., Spring 2012   
Guest professor in Prof. Robert Rosenstone's Post-structural History course, California Institute of Technology. Drawing on expansive historical research tools to excavate elements of Mexico's buried women's histories, asking what illiterate women tell us, what physical language reveals, and how., Spring 2010   
Guest professor in Prof. Robert Rosenstone's Post-structural History course, California Institute of Technology. Drawing on expansive historical research tools to excavate elements of Mexico's buried women's histories, asking what illiterate women tell us, what physical language reveals, and how., Spring 2008   
Developed and Administered grad student training for Teaching assistants for Thematic Options class on comparative racial history, (Race Matters: From Malinche to Cornel West), 1996-2005  
 
 
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