Natalia Molina

Distinguished Professor of American Studies and Ethnicity

Research & Practice Areas

Professor of American Studies and Ethnicity, History, Latinx Studies, Immigration, Foodways, Gender, Urban Studies, & Public Health


Natalia Molina is a Distinguished Professor in the Department of American Studies and Ethnicity at the University of Southern California. She is currently serving as Interim Director of Research at the Huntington. Her research explores the interconnected histories of race, place, gender, culture, and citizenship. She is the author of the award-winning books, How Race Is Made in America:  Immigration, Citizenship, and the Historical Power of Racial Scripts and Fit to Be Citizens?: Public Health and Race in Los Angeles, 1879-1940. Her most recent book is A Place at the Nayarit: How a Mexican Restaurant Nourished a Community, on immigrant workers as placemakers —including her grandmother—who nurtured and fed the community through the restaurants they established, which served as urban anchors. She co- edited Relational Formations of Race: Theory, Method and Practice, and is now at work on a new book, The Silent Hands that Shaped the Huntington: A History of Its Mexican Workers. In addition to publishing widely in scholarly journals, she has also written for the LA Times, Washington Post, San Diego Union-Tribune, and more. Professor Molina is a 2020 MacArthur Fellow.

Professor Molina is also proud of her efforts to advance diversity in higher education. At the University of California, San Diego, she served as the Associate Vice Chancellor for Faculty Diversity and Equity and as the Associate Dean for Arts and Humanities; her work was recognized by Diverse: Issues in Higher Education. She was also Director of the University of California Education Abroad Program in Spain and a member of the Faculty Advisory Committee for the University of California’s President’s Postdoctoral Fellowship Program. She served a six-year term on the board of California Humanities, a non-profit partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities, and currently serves on several boards, including those of the Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens and the Scholars Council for the Library of Congress.

Professor Molina’s work has been supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities as well as the Ford, Mellon, and Rockefeller Foundations. A Distinguished Lecturer for the Organization of American Historians and an elected member of the Society of American Historians, she has given lectures in Latin America, Asia, Europe, as well as over 30 of the 50 United States. In 2018, she was the Organization of American Historians China Residency scholar. A certified mediator, she enjoys opportunities for intellectual and cultural exchange, whether in the classroom, lecture hall, or over a restaurant table.   

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  • B.A. Gender Studies and History, UCLA
  • M.A. History, University of Michigan
  • Ph.D. History, University of Michigan
  • Summary Statement of Research Interests

  • Book

    • Molina, N. (2022). A Place at the Nayarit How a Mexican Restaurant Nourished a Community.
    • Molina, N. (2014). How Race Is Made in America: Immigration, Citizenship, and the Historical Power of Racial Scripts. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California.
    • Molina, N. (2006). Fit to Be Citizens?: Public Health and Race in Los Angeles, 1879-1939. Berkeley: University of California Press.

    Journal Article

    • Molina, N. (2018). Understanding Race as a Relational Concept. Modern American History. Vol. 1 (1)
    • Molina, N. (2016). Fear and Loathing in the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands: The History of Mexicans as Medical Menaces, 1848-Present. Aztlán: A Journal of Chicano Studies. Vol. 41 (2), pp. 87-112.
    • Molina, N. (2015). The Importance of Place and Place-makers in the Life of a Los Angeles Community: What Gentrification Erases from Echo Park. Southern California Quarterly. Vol. 97 (1), pp. 69-111.
    • Molina, N. (2014). The Long Arc of Dispossession: Racial Capitalism and Contested Notions of Citizenship in the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands in the Early Twentieth Century. The Western Historical Quarterly. Vol. 45 (4), pp. 431-447.
    • Molina, N. (2013). Examining Chicana/o History through a Relational Lens. Pacific Historical Review/University of California Press. Vol. 82 (4), pp. 520-541.
    • Molina, N. (2011). Borders, Laborers, and Racialized Medicalization: Mexican Immigration and US Public Health Practices in the 20th Century. American Journal of Public Health. Vol. 101 (6), pp. 1024-1031.
    • Molina, N. (2010). ‘In A Race All Their Own’: The Quest to Make Mexicans Ineligible for U.S. Citizenship. Pacific Historical Review. Vol. 79 (2), pp. 167-201.
    • Molina, N. (2010). The Power of Racial Scripts: What the History of Mexican Immigration to the United States Teaches Us about Relational Notions of Race. Latino Studies. Vol. 8, pp. 156-175.
    • Molina, N. (2010). Constructing Mexicans as Deportable Immigrants: Race, Disease, and the Meaning of “Public Charge”. Identities. Vol. 17 (6), pp. 641-666.
    • Molina, N. (2006). Medicalizing the Mexican: Immigration, Race, and Disability in the Early-Twentieth-Century United States. Radical History Review/Duke University Press. (94), pp. 22-37.
    • Molina, N., Birn, A. (2005). In the Name of Public Health. American Journal of Public Health. Vol. 95 (7), pp. 1095-1097.
    • Molina, N. (2003). Illustrating Cultural Authority: Medicalized Representations of Mexican Communities in Early-Twentieth-Century Los Angeles. Aztlan: A Journal of Chicano Studies. Vol. 1, pp. 127-143.


    • Molina, N. (2018). Deportable Citizens: The Decoupling of Race and Citizenship in the Construction of the ‘Anchor Baby’. Deportation in the Americas: Histories of ExclusionTexas A&M Press.
    • MacArthur Fellow, 2020/10/05
    • Distinguished Speaker, Organization of American Historians, 2010
    • Society of American Historians, Elected member, 2021-2022
    • Huntington Library Research Fellowship Recipient, 2020-2021
    • The Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi , 2020-2021
    • Inaugural Faculty Fellow, “The Humanities and the University of the Future,” Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, 2019-2020
    • The China Residencies Program, Exchange program between the Organization of American Historians and the American History Research Association of China (AHRAC), Wuhan University, Wuhan, China, 2018-2019
    • Public Scholar Award, 2017-2018
    • Richter Avery Fellow, Fall 2015
    • The Research Network for Latin America, Köln, Germany, Spring 2015
    • Academic Senate Distinguished Teaching Award, UC San Diego, 2013-2014
    • Faculty-in-Residence, University of Bologna, Spring 2009
    • American Studies Association delegate, sponsored by the Japan-U.S. Friendship Commission, Spring 2007
    • Post-doctoral Fellowship, Ford Foundation, 2003-2004
  • Committees

    • “Levan Institute for the Humanities, Advisory Board”, 2019-CONT
    • “Center for Latinx and Latin American Studies, Advisory Board”, 2000-CONT