Associate Professor of History, Auburn University
Associate Professor of History, Auburn University
AREAS OF EXPERTISE
AREAS OF TEACHING
Monique Laney is an Associate Professor in the History Department at Auburn University. She is the author of German Rocketeers in the Heart of Dixie: Making Sense of the Nazi Past During the Civil Rights Era (Yale University Press, 2015) and “Setting the Stage to Bring in the ‘Highly Skilled’: Project Paperclip and the Recruitment of German Specialists after World War II,” in A Nation of Immigrants Reconsidered: US Society in an Age of Restriction, 1924-1965 (Urbana: University of Illinois, 2019). You can listen to her discuss Project Paperclip with comedian Michael Ian Black in the podcast, “Paperclip.”
Monique Laney is an Associate Professor in the History Department at Auburn University, where she teaches courses on the history of technology, space history, popular culture, and the Cold War. Her first book, German Rocketeers in the Heart of Dixie: Making Sense of the Nazi Past during the Civil Rights Era, published by Yale University Press in 2015, received best book awards from the American Astronautical Society and from the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, as well as honorable mention for the Deep South Book Prize of the Summersell Center for the Study of the South at the University of Alabama. It is based on oral histories and focuses on the history and remembrance of the German rocket team associated with Wernher von Braun and the Apollo space program. Her most recent article, “Setting the Stage to Bring in the ‘Highly Skilled’: Project Paperclip and the Recruitment of German Specialists after World War II,” appeared as a chapter in A Nation of Immigrants Reconsidered: US Society in an Age of Restriction, 1924-1965 (Urbana: University of Illinois, 2019). Her next book examines the origins and impact of the preference system for so-called highly skilled immigrants. It is tentatively titled Brain Gain: Bringing Scientists and Engineers to the United States since World War II.
The rise in highly skilled migrants to the United States is typically associated with the 1965 Hart-Cellar Act, temporary work visas, and foreign-born students who often stay and work in the United States after graduation. But the surge after the 1965 Act had more to do with the removal of the highly restrictive national origins quotas implemented with the 1924 Johnson-Reed Act. In fact, preferences for immigrants with scientific and technical skills were put in place for the first time with the 1948 Displaced Persons Act and broadened to affect all immigrants with the 1952 McCarran-Walter Act.
My current project examines the developments that fed into the new preference system and set its trajectory, highlighting the domestic, geopolitical, social, and cultural history of these developments in the context of the Cold War. It argues that World War II and the postwar era represent the real turning point for the preference system, when the US government began to actively recruit highly skilled aliens for the first time, implemented its first “guestworker” program, invited more foreign-born students for training at universities and in industry, and enacted strict national security provisions that informed who could enter, who could stay, and who would be deported during the Cold War.
PROJECTS AND EXHIBITIONS
- Program Assistant, Lecture and Seminars Division, National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution (assist in organizing 2014 Mutual Concerns of Air and Space Museums Conference), 2014
- Research assistance and rights clearance for the Earl Scruggs Center: Music & Stories from the American South through MJM Picture and Film Research, 2012
- Reviewer for proposal to screen documentary film Harvest of Empire (2011) and hold panel discussion with topic experts at the Warner Bros. Theater at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History, 2012
- Participant in Smithsonian Immigration/Migration Initiative, 2011-2014
- Interviewed for article, “Auburn astronaut, professors put historic NASA launch in perspective,” Office of Communications and Marketing, Auburn University, June 04, 2020
- Podcast co-host, “Paperclip: America’s Nazi Scientists,” Amazon Studios/L.A. Times Studios (released May/June 2020)
- Interviewed for Ripley’s Believe It or Notcast, “The Nazi Scientists Who Built America’s Space Rockets” (released March 24, 2020)
- Interviewed for newspaper article by Ralph Vartabedian, “Who got America to the moon? An unlikely collaboration of Jewish and former Nazi scientists and engineers,” Los Angeles Times, March 1, 2020
- Interviewed for documentary, Mondlandung, for Bayerischer Rundfunk, (aired July 17, 2019)
- Interviewed for documentary, Prisoners of the Moon, a UK-Canada-Ireland co-production, written by Nick Snow, directed by Johnny Gogan, and produced by Ron Goetz, 2017 (released March, 2019)
- Interviewed for “Schnitzel and the Saturn V,” Episode 42, Gravy (podcast), Southern Foodways Alliance, (aired July 28, 2016)
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