Participant Info

First Name
April
Last Name
Merleaux
Affiliation
Williams College
Website URL
Keywords
empire, sugar, food, agriculture, trade policy, environment, drug policy, capitalism, race and racism, immigration, environmental health, nutrition
Additional Contact Information

Personal Info

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About Me

My research and teaching focuses on the 20th century United States in an international context, with particular interests in the Caribbean and Latin America. I am interested in capitalism, race, and empire; critical food studies; environmental studies and transnational environmental justice movements; immigration and ethnicity; consumer cultures; rural history; and transnational and cultural research methods.

My book, Sugar and Civilization: American Empire and the Cultural Politics of Sweetness, was published by the University of North Carolina Press in 2015. The book tells the story of sugar–and sugar tariffs–from the Spanish American War through the New Deal of the 1930s, describing how workers and consumers in multiple locations came to eat huge quantities of sugar. The cultural logic connecting imperial, trade, and immigration policies was the same one that facilitated new habits of sugar consumption within the United States and its territories. I reevaluate our assumptions about the New Deal, and track the early history of the current sugar programs. Sugar and Civilization won the 2016 Myrna Bernath book prize from the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations.

My current research is on the environmental and agrarian history of the global war on drugs from the 1920s through the 1980s. Exploring drug prohibition from this angle reveals new ways to think about the social and economic consequences of more than a century of public policy.

I currently teaching environmental studies at Williams College and am on leave from teaching U.S. foreign policy and empire studies at Hampshire College. Before moving to Massachusetts, I taught at Florida International University in Miami, Florida, where I was an Associate Professor of history. I hold a B.A. in history from Reed College, a Ph.D. in American Studies from Yale University, and an M.S. in Agriculture, Food, and Environment from the Tufts University Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy.

Recent Publications

“Drugs, Empire, and U.S. Foreign Policy,” Companion to U.S. Foreign Policy, Colonial Era to the Present (Wiley-Blackwell, 2020).

“Forum: World War I and the Origins of the Modern Food System,” Global Food History 5, no. 3 (September 2019).

“Sugar, Surveillance, and Citizenship: The Global Crisis of 1919-1920 in Buenos Aires and New York,” Global Food History 2, no. 1 (Spring 2016).

Sugar and Civilization: American Empire and the Cultural Politics of Sweetness (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2015). Winner of the 2016 Myrna F. Bernath Prize from the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations.

“Sweetness, Power, and Forgotten Food Histories in America’s Empire,” Labor: Studies in Working Class History of the Americas 12, no. 1-2 (Spring 2015).

“The Political Culture of Sugar Tariffs: Immigration, Race, and Empire, 1898-1930,” International Labor and Working Class History Journal 81 (Spring 2012).

Forthcoming

“Equal Risks: Workplace Discrimination, Toxic Exposure, and the Environmental Politics of Reproductive Risk, 1976-1991,” Environmental History (forthcoming, April 2021). Research supported by a Schlesinger Library Research Grant, Summer 2016 and the Hampshire College Faculty Development Grant, 2018-2019.

Media Coverage
Country Focus
United States
Expertise by Geography
North America, United States
Expertise by Chronology
Modern, 20th century
Expertise by Topic
Children & Youth, Colonialism, Diplomacy, Environment, Food History, Labor, Migration & Immigration, Race, Rural & Agrarian History, Science, World War I