Tina Shull

Associate Professor and Director of Public History 

at UNC Charlotte

Post-1960 US & World History • Race, Empire, Immigration

Abolition and Carceral StudiesClimate Migration

Public and Digital Humanities

Tina Shull (she/her) is a public historian of race, empire, immigration enforcement, and climate migration in the modern US and the World.

She holds a PhD in History from UC Irvine, a Master’s in Humanities and Social Thought from NYU, and a BA in History from UCLA. Her new book from UNC Press, Detention Empire, explores the rise of migrant detention in the early 1980s as a form of counterinsurgency.

Shull is the creator of IMM Print and Climate Refugee Stories. She was awarded a Soros Justice Fellowship from the Open Society Foundations in 2016 for her work in immigration detention storytelling. Climate Refugee Stories has been awarded grants from NC Humanities, National Geographic Documenting Human Migrations, and the University of California Critical Refugee Studies Collective. In 2018-20, Shull was a post-doctoral fellow in Global American Studies at Harvard University where she taught in the Ethnicity, Migration, and Rights unit.  

BOOK:  Detention Empire

UNC Press, Justice, Power, and Politics series, 10/22

The early 1980s marked a critical turning point for the rise of modern mass incarceration in the United States. The Mariel Cuban migration of 1980, alongside increasing arrivals of Haitian and Central American asylum-seekers, galvanized new modes of covert warfare in the Reagan administration's globalized War on Drugs. Drawing on critical refugee studies, community archives, and newly available government documents, Shull demonstrates how migrant detention operates as a form of counterinsurgency at the intersections of US war-making and domestic carceral trends, laying the foundations of new forms of carceral and imperial expansion.

Yet Reagan's war on immigrants also sowed seeds of mass resistance. Detention Empire also shows how migrants resisted state repression through hunger strikes, prison uprisings, caravans, and the Sanctuary movement. As the United States remains committed to shoring up its borders in an era of unprecedented migration and climate crisis, these histories take on new urgency.

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Climate Refugee Stories



Digital History

Exposed: The Injustice of Immigration Detention

Building Unity in the Mass Incarceration Crisis: Centering Black Migrant Experiences in the Fight for Abolition

Contact: Tina.Shull@uncc.edu