Incoming interim director David Vázquez joined the faculty at the University of Oregon as acting assistant professor of English during the 2003-2004 school year. After filing his dissertation in 2004, Vázquez became assistant professor of English and is now a newly tenured associate professor. As the first member of the English department specializing in Latina/o literature and culture, Vázquez regularly teaches courses at both the undergraduate and graduate levels that focus on comparative Latina/o studies. His teaching emphasizes both the similarities and differences between Latina/o groups as they are expressed in literary and other cultural texts. Vázquez’s teaching also attempts to locate moments in cultural texts where artists imagine interethnic solidarities.
Vázquez’s first book, Triangulations: Narrative Strategies for Navigating Latina/o Identity, is forthcoming from the University of Minnesota Press this fall. Just as mariners use triangulation, mapping an imaginary triangle between two known positions and an unknown location—so, Vázquez contends, Latina/o authors in late twentieth-century America employ the coordinates of familiar notions of self to find their way to new, complex identities. Through this metaphor, Vázquez reveals how Latino autobiographical texts, written after the rise of cultural nationalism in the 1960s, contest mainstream notions of individual identity and national belonging in the United States.
Reading texts by authors including Ernesto Galarza, Jesús Colón, Piri Thomas, Oscar “Zeta” Acosta, Judith Ortiz Cofer, John Rechy, Julia Alvarez, and Sandra Cisneros, Vázquez engages debates about the relationship between literature and social movements, the role of cultural nationalism in projects for social justice, the gender and sexual problematics of 1960s cultural nationalist groups, the possibilities for interethnic coalitions, and the interpretation of autobiography. In the process, Triangulations considers the potential for cultural nationalism as a productive force for aggrieved communities of color in their struggles for equality.
In addition to his book, Vázquez has published in the journals CENTRO: The Journal of the Center for Puerto Rican Studies and Latino Studies. His work has also appeared in Erasing Public Memory: Race, Aesthetics and Cultural Amnesia in the Americas edited by Joseph Young and Jana Evans Braziel.
Vázquez plans to use his year as head of CLLAS to continue to foster the ties between Latina/o and Latin American studies. In addition to working with CLLAS faculty to administer the Americas Initiative’s Indigenous Peoples in the Americas event series next year, Vázquez hopes to begin the process of applying for an institutional grant for CLLAS.