Erika Perez Ph.D.

Associate Professor, Department of History

In 2018, I published my first book on interethnic godparenting, sexuality and marriage in early Southern California. My study shows how people wielded and responded to colonial power in their everyday intimate encounters. My book traverses the Spanish, Mexican and early American periods from 1769 to 1885, emphasizing the role of Spanish-Mexican women as agents of Spanish colonization, and indigenous and Spanish-Mexican women as shapers and sustainers of their cultures and communities through honorific roles, such as godmother and midwife. My research shows how foreign men Mexicanized themselves to acculturate into Spanish-Mexican society, and how the mixed offspring of interethnic couples negotiated their identities in the aftermath of changing racial and political landscapes in nineteenth-century California. I pay particular attention to the gendering of biethnic children's experiences and the unevenness of conquest, even among members of the same family. Lastly, I examine the ongoing struggles and survival of indigenous families, and ongoing waves of violence against indigenous and Spanish-speaking women in the wake of the Gold Rush. Although the regional focus of my book is rooted in southern California, I am interested broadly in the history of the American West and the Spanish Borderlands, particularly in empire-building projects, and identity-formation and negotiations by people of mixed descent. I am also interested in indigenous histories of resistance and cultural survival throughout early North America.

I currently hold the following positions here at the University of Arizona: Associate Professor of History, Affiliated Faculty of Gender and Women's Studies, and Editorial Advisor of the Women in the West Series (University of Oklahoma Press).


Current Projects

I am currently one of the editorial advisors for the University of Oklahoma Press's newly launched Women in the American West series. We welcome serious inquiries from scholars who have completed manuscripts (or near completion) on women's history. We welcome regional studies on the North American West, including the Spanish Borderlands, Indigenous/First Nation borderlands, Pacific Islander and Alaskan regions.


(2010) Ph.D., History, University of California, Los Angeles; (2007) Graduate Concentration Certificate, Women's Studies, UCLA; (2006) M.A., History, UCLA; (2004) M.A., History/Gender, San Francisco State University; (1995) B.A., History, University of California, Berkeley

Research Interests

American West/Spanish Borderlands, Gender/Sexuality, Colonial America, Nineteenth-century US, Indigenous North America

Selected Publications

Colonial Intimacies: Interethnic Kinship, Sexuality, and Marriage in Southern California, 1769-1885 (University of Oklahoma Press, January 2018).

“Family, Spiritual Kinship, and Social Hierarchy in Early California” Early American Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal 14, no. 4 (Fall 2016): 661-687.

"The Paradox of Kinship:  Native-Catholic Communities in Alta California, 1769-1840s," in On the Borders of Love and Power, edited by David Wallace Adams and Crista DeLuzio (University of California Press, 2012).

"'Saludos from your comadre:'  Compadrazgo as a Community Institution in Alta California, 1769-1860s," California History:  The Journal of the California Historical Society 88, no. 4 (September 2011):  47-62, notes 70-73.

Web Review, Huntington Library's "The Early California Population Project," 10, no. 4 (July 2010).


Courses Taught

UA History Undergraduate Courses:

HIST 280 - Sports and Ethnic America: 1900 to the Present  (Spring 2019)

HIST 296 – Social Uprisings and Riots in the U.S. (Spring 2019)

Hist/GWS 254 (Spring) U.S. Women's History: 1890 to Present

Hist/GWS 253 (Fall): U.S. Women's History: Colonial to 1890

Hist 498 (scheduled Fall 2019) Senior Capstone: Sports History as U.S. History

Hist 498H Honors Thesis (must be contracted)

UA History Graduate Courses:
Hist 458/558 (Spring 2018) Topics in Comparative Women's History: Witchcrazes and the Supernatural (co-convened undergraduate & graduate students)

Hist 695H (Fall 2017) Advanced Topics in Comparative History:  Global Borderlands

Hist 495/595F (Spring 2016) Topics in U.S. History: U.S. Women of Color (co-convened undergraduate/graduate)

Hist 695A (Spring 2015) Advanced Topics in U.S. History: Native American Battles for Tribal Sovereignty and Self-Determination

Hist 695A (Spring 2014) Advanced Topics in U.S. History: Gender, Women and Empire in the U.S.