We return today to one of our favorite blog series: 5 questions with members of the American Studies core and affiliate faculties. Below, we feature a conversation with Dr. Cary Cordova, assistant professor of American Studies and graduate of our program (Ph.D. 2005).
What has been your favorite project to work on and why?
I would turn to the projects that have helped me work with people, the projects in which I am engaging with others, whether it is students or other colleagues or professionals out in the world; these projects have probably netted me the most personal satisfaction. Specifically, i am drawn to doing oral history. When I initially approached oral history, I viewed it as a way to source information, as a way to get data that otherwise wasn’t available. But then in doing interviews, I learned a lot more about myself and about other people, and oral history became a significant amplification of my education, it became a way of expanding my universe well beyond the world that I thought I was in. For instance, one of the artists I interviewed passed away, and I went to his funeral, and it was striking to see the numbers of people that were there. And I did not expect this, but his family had decided to play the interview that I had recorded with him there at the funeral for everyone to hear, and it was so moving and so powerful to suddenly have everyone in that room listening to an interview that had just been me and him, and it helped me see the ways in which the work I was doing had a greater relevance than just me and him sitting in that room.
How do you see your work fitting in with broader conversations in academia and contemporary society?
Academically, it’s pretty easy to see where I have come to be, because it has been pretty consistent. I have always been trying to negotiate this world between American Studies and Latino Studies, and I came to graduate school specifically to study Latina literature. I didn’t end up focusing on Latina literature, but disciplinarily that has been a continuous framework. Then through graduate school and a lot of other things I came to realize I was doing a lot with Art History and with Urban Studies, but those are just the disciplines, and per my previous answer, my academic engagement has always been tied to thinking about others and thinking about my community and thinking about people that make the world matter to me.