/An interview with 2016 Vacca Professor

An interview with 2016 Vacca Professor

Beasley will teach an Intro to African-American Studies and an Honors seminar in Critical Culture during his time at UM. Photo by Katie Compton for The Alabamian.

In 1985, Alabama Senator Paschal P. Vacca donated $600,000 to the University of Montevallo. This in turn qualified the school to receive $400,000 from the state as well. Since then, the money has been used to bring different scholars to the school to fill the position of Vacca Chair of Liberal Arts. This year’s’ scholar is Dr. Myron Beasley from Bates College in Maine.

Before his time at Bates College, Beasley was part of the faculty at Brown University.

“It’s really nice to spend time at another liberal arts college in a different geographical location.” Beasley said.

While here, Beasley will be teaching an Intro to African American Studies course along with an Honors seminar in critical culture.

“It’s a theory course in which we think about how even discourses in popular culture persuade us to do a lot of things,” said Beasley. “And often times visual culture and popular culture are so powerful that many people are persuaded to do things that they normally wouldn’t do or think in ways that they normally wouldn’t think because they’re unable to or they’ve never had experiences of learning how to read those visual cues.”

The African American studies course will focus on artists and visual cultures like films, video and performance art, as well as what they tell us about African American culture.

As a critical scholar, Beasley focuses his studies on emancipation and liberation. “I’m really interested in how power works in several communities and how to facilitate platforms of debunking some of those oppressive discourses.”

The goal is to get people to think differently about what goes on around them.

In addition to being an associate professor in African American studies and cultural studies, Dr. Beasley also specializes in Women and Gender studies and identifies as a feminist.

“Feminism is for everybody,” Beasley said. “Feminism is not just about the oppression of women. It’s about discourses that oppress everyone.”

Beasley’s studies focus on ethnographic research and exploring the different ways cultural politics, art and social change intersect. His research has taken him all over the country as well as to Morocco, Brazil and Haiti.

While in Haiti in 2010, he was involved in a project looking at female street food vendors while simultaneously working on a project with a community called the Grand Rural; a junkyard community that makes art out of garbage. He wrote about the people and what they were doing as a way to bring attention to it and support them. He left two days before the tragic earthquake that ravaged the entire country.

With a passion and fascination for the field and the people who create it, Beasley sees power in art.

“I look at artists as cultural workers,” Beasley said. “I look at them as theorists because they can communicate a local thought, theory, social injustices and politics in ways that the written or spoken word can’t.”

He looks to different artforms as a way to communicate his research in “another language.”

While he’s here, Beasley is looking forward to working and partnering with faculty on the African American studies minor that will soon be proposed and working with students, hopefully forming bonds that will carry on when he leaves campus. To him, the intellectual and academic enterprise is about collaborating with, encouraging and supporting people.

Currently, Beasley is planning different times for students to gather with him at Hill House for “an intellectual exchange.”

“I am here as a resource to students, primarily, and I currently have an open door policy,” Dr. Beasley said. “I really hope that students will drop by and see me every now and then either just to say hello or introduce themselves.”

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