Benjamin Bryce

Affiliated Faculty, Assistant Professor of History

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Benjamin Bryce is a historian of migration in the Americas. Among his major projects, two deal with German emigration and transatlantic connections to Germany. At UBC, he teaches “History 356: Twentieth Century Germany.” He is a co-editor of the Journal of the Canadian Historical Association.

His first book, To Belong in Buenos Aires: Germans, Argentines, and the Rise of a Pluralist Society (Stanford University Press, 2018) and its Spanish translation, chronicles the activities and fantasies of the people who sought to create a lasting German community in the Argentine capital and the behaviour of others who undermined their project. Across ethnic groups, gender and class hierarchies shaped community institutions. The typically male-led organizations fostered structures that created paternalistic relationships between wealthy and working-class immigrants and patriarchal hierarchies between men and women. Focusing on childhood, education, and social welfare, the book argues that ideas about the future drove thousands of German-speaking immigrants to carve out a place for ethnicity and pluralism in the cultural, religious, and linguistic landscape of Buenos Aires.

His second book, The Boundaries of Ethnicity: German Immigration and the Language of Belonging in Ontario (McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2022), considers what it meant to be German in Ontario between 1880 and 1930. It explores how the children of immigrants acquired and negotiated the German language, and how religious communities relied on language to reinforce social networks. German speakers, together with immigrants from other countries and Canadians of different ethnic backgrounds, created a framework that defined relationships between the state, the public sphere, ethnic spaces, family, and religion in Canada that would persist through the twentieth century.

He is now working on a SSHRC-funded project that further emphasizes transatlantic connections in histories of migration. Grounds for Exclusion highlights the many ways that bureaucrats, politicians, and nationalist agitators in Argentina developed both formal and informal methods to exclude a range of groups based in race, gender, health, and ability. As part of this research, it examines how the Argentine state worked with shipping companies and government officials in German, Italian, Spanish, and British ports to exclude potential migrants before they crossed the Atlantic.