Welcoming New Faculty: Q&A with Yami Rodriguez

In the fall of 2022 the Emory History Department welcomes Dr. Iliana Yamileth (“Yami”) Rodriguez, a historian of Latinx communities in the United States, as Assistant Professor. In the latest installment of our Welcoming New Faculty series, Dr. Rodriguez offers a glimpse into her research and teaching along with what drew her to Emory.

Tell us about the focus of your research and principal current project.

My research focuses on Latinx 20th – 21st century history, with a regional focus on Latinx communities in the southern United States. I’m especially interested in questions of culture, race, ethnicity, labor, and migration as they relate to Latinx histories and experiences. My current book project, “Mexican Atlanta: Migrant Place-Making in the Latinx South,”  traces the history of Metro Atlanta’s ethnic Mexican community formation and the region’s broader Latinx histories beginning in the mid-twentieth century. The book draws on diverse archival and personal collections, as well as original English- and Spanish-language oral histories with community members. 

Was there a particularly memorable moment from archival or field research that has had a lasting impact on your work or career?

When I started research for the dissertation-turned-book-project, it quickly became apparent how limited the Latinx historical presence was in Georgia archives. While there were some scattered collections that held primary sources related to Georgia’s Latinx communities, I primarily had to curate my own archive as I attempted to narrate this community history from a “bottom-up” perspective. Thankfully, I had the privilege of meeting and working with community members and archivists who were interested in developing archival collections on Latinx Georgia history. These kinds of collaborations have resulted in the donation of materials to UGA related to Mundo Hispánico and the Latinx (primarily Mexican) music scene in the Southeast, as well as the ongoing Latinx Georgia Oral History Project for which I conduct oral history interviews. It has been fulfilling to assist in preserving Latinx Georgia histories, and I look forward to continuing the work of archive-building at Emory. 

What sort of courses – undergraduate or graduate – are you most excited to offer at Emory?

I’m looking forward to teaching courses that center issues of ethnicity, race, and migration in US history. Furthermore, I’m looking forward to teaching courses that focus on southern and local histories. For Fall 2022 I’m teaching “Race and Labor in the US,” which is an advanced seminar for students writing original research papers. In Spring 2023 I’ll be teaching courses on Latinx and southern history. 

What drew you to Emory?

I first stepped foot on Emory’s campus as an undergraduate attending the annual Latino Youth Leadership Conference hosted by the Latin American Association. As a first-generation Latina raised in Metro Atlanta, the prospect of teaching Latinx history at Emory was academically and personally exciting. Today I’m glad to join an incredibly supportive history department that is home to wonderful students, staff, and faculty. En pocas palabras, estoy feliz que de nuevo radicó en Atlanta