Alumnus to discuss world of geopolitical, cultural and religious borderlands

October 07, 2009

Alumnus Davíd Carrasco, professor of the Study of Latin America at Harvard University with a Joint Appointment in the Harvard Divinity School and the Department of Anthropology, will return to campus to give a lecture, “Borderlands and the ‘biblical’ Hurricane: Images and Rhythms of Latino and Latin American Studies,” at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 22 in McDaniel Lounge.

The lecture, which will be followed by a question-and-answer session, is free and open to the public. A dessert reception with live music will begin at 6:30 p.m.

Carrasco, who is a historian of religions at Harvard Divinity School, maintains that we live in a world of geopolitical, cultural and religious borderlands.

“Borderlands means for me the geographical, political, and cultural landscapes straddling countries but also the existential conditions of people who often, if not continually, find themselves at the crossroads of their lives and seek new combinations of resources – cultural and religious – to carry on creative struggles for survival and to thrive,” says Carrasco, who is the Neil L. Rudenstine Professor of the Study of Latin America, a distinction named for Harvard’s 26th president.

Carrasco’s campus visit celebrates two significant new initiatives at McDaniel – a revamped and renamed Office of Diversity and Multicultural Affairs and the creation of a Latino and Latin American Studies program.

“By developing these programs, the College is not only reflecting the new demography, it is preparing its students to help turn what I call ‘the new demography into a new democracy,’ which is going to be a tremendous struggle that will benefit from educated citizens,” Carrasco said in a recent interview.

The Office of Diversity and Multicultural Affairs is taking on an expanded mission that includes promoting multicultural awareness and dialogue, supporting the College’s efforts to recruit and retain a diverse student and faculty body, and broadening the opportunities to promote diversity on campus.

As part of its commitment to preparing students for an increasingly global and diverse society, McDaniel this semester launched a new minor in Latino and Latin American Studies. The program was created in recognition of the importance of incorporating both U.S. Latino and Latin American Studies into the College’s curriculum because of its importance to the region and because Latinos now constitute the largest minority in the United States.

“It is wise for McDaniel to continue to de-provincialize itself and develop educational programs that engage in the study of the Americas,” Carrasco said. “And not just the usual studies on the U.S. … It’s crucial to challenge one’s own view of history and the future by not only looking around your neighborhoods to see who is living and moving in, but also by using your imagination, based on that reconnaissance.”

Carrasco – who graduated in 1967 from Western Maryland College, now McDaniel College – has taught at the University of Colorado, Princeton University, and the University of Adelaide. He earned a Th.M., M.A., and Ph.D. at the University of Chicago.

He is a historian of religions specializing in hermeneutics in the study of religion, Mesoamerican cities and religions, and the Mexican-American borderlands. He is director of the Moses Mesoamerican Archive and Research Project at the University of Colorado.

In addition to many scholarly books, articles and reviews, Carrasco is editor-in-chief of the three-volume Oxford Encyclopedia of Mesoamerican Cultures. He co-produced the film “Alambrista: The Director's Cut,” which spotlights the struggles of undocumented Mexican farm workers in the United States. The film’s original version won the Caméra d’Or at Cannes in 1977.

In 2004, The Mexican government awarded Carrasco the “Mexican Order of the Aztec Eagle,” its highest honor for a foreign national. In 2003, he was elected a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.