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RESEARCH

Book Manuscript 

 

My book manuscript is based on my dissertation, "Welfare is Work: Social Welfare, Migration, and Women’s Activism in Puerto Rican Communities after 1917." This thesis tells the history of welfare and social work in Puerto Rico, rethinking the ideologies, politics, and practices of the colonial relationship to the United States through a close examination of the ways that Puerto Ricans negotiated their inclusion into federal public assistance programs. Congress granted nominal citizenship to natives of Puerto Rico in 1917, but the continued territorial status of the island restricted the terms of this citizenship. Puerto Ricans had limited political rights, and as the federal government began to expand in the 1930s, it only partially extended social welfare policies to the territories, inscribing colonial differences in the emerging welfare state. Puerto Ricans responded by organizing and demanding access to social welfare provisions, including child welfare funds, veterans benefits, and old-age assistance. I argue that, in the Puerto Rican case, debates over the right to welfare, and social practices of public assistance, were fundamentally transnational, because both social workers and clients moved extensively to and from the US mainland, and because advocates and policy makers saw the question of welfare as inseparable from the issue of migration. My project investigates how social welfare programs, and ideas about social rights, actually came into being and how policy makers, activists, and clients participated in shaping their formation and meaning.  It reframes Puerto Rican history around women – clients, social workers, and advocates – offering a new way to understand the evolution of a “colonial citizenship.”​