Student Spotlight: Lyrianne González

Overcoming Unequal Structures

Lyrianne GonzálezLyrianne González is a doctoral student in history from Los Angeles, California. After attending California State University, Northridge as an undergraduate, she chose to pursue further study at Cornell for the opportunity to work alongside her mentors and the flexibility of the field of history.

What is your area of research and why is it important?

My research investigates the generational and racial legacies of U.S. agricultural guestworker programs. I do so by examining archived records concerning the regulation of various guestworkers groups and putting them into conversation with oral histories of guestworkers and their descendants. The U.S.’ continued reliance on temporary foreign agricultural workers (H-2A Program) begs the importance of understanding such programs’ generational and racial legacies.

What are the larger implications of this research?

Temporary foreign agricultural worker programs have the propensity to create and perpetuate racial division and generational poverty, playing a key role in the historical disenfranchisement of several groups. Thus, the narratives of these guestworkers and their descendants require cognizance of their struggle to overcome a structure designed to prevent social mobility.

What have you learned about digital approaches to scholarship as a 2021 Summer Digital Humanities Fellow?

I learned about several digital approaches to scholarship such as accessibility, metadata, tabular data, geographic data and maps, placing digital scholarship on the internet, text analysis, storytelling, programmatic thinking, and JavaScript. My project maps guestworker migratory flows: their origin countries and receiving U.S. states. To do so, I learned to geocode and enter migration numbers. You may find my work in progress online. The biggest takeaway I learned from Eliza Bettinger, the lead digital scholarship librarian, and Michelle Paolillo, the digital life cycle services manager, is that digital humanities projects are living, breathing, and constantly in development.

How will you take what you’ve learned over the summer and apply it to your research going forward?

Doing the fellowship this summer was particularly important for the upcoming school year. This coming school year, I will be reading for qualifying exams and will then submit a dissertation proposal. Through visualizing groups’ migratory flows, I can begin to geographically consider a reading list and structure my dissertation proposal. Long term, I will continue to add to this map as my research grows, which will be instrumental in communicating my research to a larger public audience as I plan to embed oral histories, audio, and images. 

What are your hobbies or interests outside of your research or scholarship?

In the warmer months, I try to be outside as much as possible. I enjoy the local hiking areas, walking around the parks, and kayaking in Cayuga Lake. In the colder months, I enjoy playing video games and doing crafts.

Why did you choose Cornell to pursue your degree?

I chose Cornell because of the opportunity to be mentored and guided through my Ph.D. program by two Latina scholars, Drs. Verónica Martínez-Matsuda and María Cristina García, whose research align with mine and mentorship are phenomenal. What also made Cornell the perfect fit is the flexibility of the field of history, which has allowed me as an interdisciplinary scholar (I earned my B.A. in psychology and Chicana/o studies) to take my coursework in other departments and colleges like developmental sociology and industrial and labor relations (ILR). ILR is unique to Cornell and nourishing for my research and development as a labor historian.