The entrance to the Department of History’s office in Sidney Smith Hall

Erica Toffoli

PhD Program


Major and Minor Fields: USA, 1877-Present (Major), 20th-Century U.S. Foreign Policy (Minor), Latin America, 1810-Present (Minor)

Dissertation Committee: Russell Kazal (co-supervisor), Kevin Coleman (co-supervisor), Donna Gabaccia (committee member)

American Historical Association's Albert J. Beveridge Grant for Study of the History of the Western Hemisphere, 2016-2017
Arthur Child Ontario Graduate Scholarship in History, 2016-2017

Dissertation and Research Interests: My work explores the United States’ encounter with undocumented Latin American migrants in the post-World War II period. I examine the legal and cultural constructions of the “illegal alien,” and migrants’ responses to “illegality” in the post-1965 U.S. My project explores how and why the concept of "illegality" became linked with Latin American migrants in the years between 1965 and 1986, and traces how undocumented migrants and their advocates challenged this label in the borderlands while working to secure workers’ and human rights that transcended the nation-state’s boundaries. I attend to advocacy groups’ challenges to the concept of “illegality” in the southwest and southeast to provide a history of the migrant rights movement sensitive to regional diversity in “illegality’s” meaning and renegotiation. By blending study of undocumented migration in the U.S.’ land and sea borderlands, my work stretches the concept of “the border” and this space’s construction and meaning for the state, citizens, and undocumented migrants. In de-naturalizing "illegality" and charting the emergence of transnational participatory practices that included the undocumented, this project speaks to broader questions regarding the ways exclusionary discourses are constructed to mark the boundaries of national belonging and countered by those identified as outside the realm of inclusion.

My research interests include 20th-century U.S. domestic and foreign relations history, 20th-century Latin American history, immigration history, labour history, visual culture and U.S.-Latin American relations.

"Revolution and Revolutionary Movements in Latin America." Special Research and Teaching Collection of "The Americas: A Quarterly Review of Latin American History." (Forthcoming in 2017)

Academic Service:
Assistant Editor, Past Tense: Graduate Review of History
Organizing Committee Member, 10th Annual Graduate History Symposium, University of Toronto


  • M.A., University of Toronto (2012)
  • B.A. (Honours), University of Toronto (2011)


  • 2013-2014