University of Southern California

Graduate Students

David-James Gonzales

Contact Information


Biographical Sketch

A native Southern Californian, I was born in Oxnard and raised by public school educators in the San Diego suburb of Chula Vista. I began my undergraduate education at Southwestern Community College and completed a bachelor's degree in History (Phi Beta Kappa) at UC San Diego. After graduation, I relocated to South Pasadena with my wife and children to begin the P.h.D in History at USC. In addition to my academic pursuits I have worked in mortgage finance and for-profit higher education.

At USC I have continued to pursue my interests in California and the West, U.S.-Mexico migration, and Latina/o identity and politics under the direction of George Sanchez.  As of May 2014 I advanced to candidacy for the Ph.D. in History. Currently, I am outlining a dissertation prospectus on Mexican American grassroot politics and the desegregation of public schools in Orange County after World War II.


  • B.A. History, University of California, San Diego, 06/2011
  • M.A. History, University of Southern California, 05/2014


Summary Statement of Research Interests

  • I am a U.S. historian with a temporal focus on the mid-twentieth century and a geographic emphasis on California and the West. In particular, I apply borderlands theory to multi-cultural/racial spaces in Southern California to better understand the identity formation and political mobilization of Mexican Americans from the 1930s to the 1960s. I am most interested in the grassroots organizing efforts of Mexican Americans prior to the Chicana/o Movement of the late-1960s and 1970s. Overall, my work seeks to complicate binary representations of Mexican American identity and politics by illuminating the temporal, spatial, and social circumstances of intra-group conflict and inter-racial and cross-class cooperation in Chicana/o-Latina/o efforts for social justice. Ultimately, my research strives to integrate Chicana/o-Latina/o organizing with the larger Civil Rights Movement of the 20th century.

Research Specialties

  • 20th century U.S.; California and the West; U.S.-Mexico migration; Chicana/o-Latina/o identity and politics.

Honors and Awards

  • Academic Professional Development Award, Enhancing Diversity in Graduate Education, USC Graduate School, Office of the Provost, 5/19/2014-8/17/2014  
  • Research Fellow, Institute for California and the West / Hearst Foundation, 5/20/2012-8/19/2012  
  • Research Fellow, EDGE-First Summer Institute, National Science Foundation and USC Graduate School, 2011-2012   
  • Hispanic Scholarship Fund Recipient, UC San Diego, 2010-2011   
  • Phi Beta Kappa Honory Society Inductee, UC San Diego, 2010-2011   
  • McNair Scholars Program, U.S. Department of Education, UC San Diego, 2009-2010