Monday, April 17, 2017

Interview With Newly Awarded Fulbright Scholar, Amelia M.L. Montes

Amelia M. L. Montes

Es un gran placer poder compartir con los lectores de La Bloga la siguiente entrevista a Amelia M. L. Montes quien merecidamente ha recibido la beca Fulbright para la Universidad Novi Sad en Serbia.  Amelia, además de ser una gran académica en la Universidad de Nebraska-Lincoln, es parte del equipo de escritores de La Bloga y un gran orgullo para la comunidad chicana.  Enhorabuena, Amelia.

 Xánath Caraza:  Tell us a little bit about the Fulbright. 

Amelia M.L. Montes:  First, gracias Xánath, for contacting me.  Usually I'm doing the interviews for La Bloga, so it is an honor this time to be the interviewee!  Gracias.  It was Arkansas Senator J. William Fulbright who established the Fulbright Scholar Program in 1946 via Senate legislation. His main objective was to establish positive and productive international relations furthering peace among nations. Today, 160 countries have Fulbright collaborations. Before applying to the Fulbright, I read Senator Fulbright’s writings and speeches about the program. Here’s one: 1986 marked the fortieth anniversary of the Fulbright, and Senator Fulbright spoke at the ceremony.  His words resonate today, especially this excerpt:

“Perhaps the greatest power of such intellectual exchange is to convert nations into peoples and to translate ideologies into human aspirations.  To continue to build more weapons, especially more exotic and unpredictable machines of war, will not build trust and confidence.  The most sensible way to do that is to engage the parties in joint ventures for mutually constructive and beneficial purposes . . . To formulate and negotiate agreements of this kind requires well-educated people leading or advising our government. To this purpose, the Fulbright program is dedicated.”

Xánath Caraza:  Where will you be?

Amelia M.L. Montes:  I will be at The University of Novi Sad, Serbia. There, Professor Aleksandra Izgarjan, is collaborating with other scholars in building a transnational literary critical cluster.  Serbia, as well as other countries in Central and South Eastern Europe, is very interested in Chicana and Chicano literature.  To have literary studies in this area alongside Serbian border studies literatures is quite exciting.  Another good example of intellectual transnational collaborations is this year’s Fulbright Scholar, Professor Santiago Vaquera-Vásquez, who has been teaching Chicana/Chicano literature in Ankara, Turkey.  

The University of Novi Sad in Serbia

 Xánath Caraza:  Why specifically Serbia and The University of Novi Sad?

Amelia M.L. Montes:  Now that’s a long story, but I’ll try and make this brief.  About four years ago, I received an e-mail from a graduate student at The University of Novi Sad. She told me she had just read my article on Gloria Anzaldúa and would I answer her questions.  I was floored.  It’s always amazing to find out where your published work ends up.  And here was a student in Serbia reading my work!  So we had a few e-mail exchanges.  Then a few months later, she e-mailed me again to let me know that she was just about to graduate with her M.A., and she was looking at doctoral programs in the United States.  She was writing as well to say that she was very interested in working with me.  I encouraged her to apply.  She is now in her third year of the PhD program and doing splendidly.  Her dissertation promises to be groundbreaking.  She will be analyzing Chicana literature alongside Serbian works.  So important to make these connections!  But the story does not end there.  Last year, her professor at Novi Sad, Dr. Aleksandra Izgarjan encouraged me to apply for a Fulbright to help build her transnational research area.  At the same time, my university (University of Nebraska-Lincoln) was encouraging faculty to attend a campus-wide workshop on The Fulbright—so I considered that both requests were a “sign.” At the Fulbright workshop, one of my colleagues (Professor Dawne Curry) who is a History and Ethnic Studies professor, was also there. She was interested in applying to South Africa for her work.  So we teamed up to help each other through the very long and complex application process.  I’m happy to say that Dr. Dawne Curry also is the recipient of a Fulbright this year.  Two Ethnic Studies professors!  Very exciting.  

Novi Sad, Serbia (Panorama)

Xánath Caraza:  What will you be doing?   

Amelia M.L. Montes:  I will be teaching “Chicana and Latina Literature and Theory” (one course) which begins in October.  I will also be giving lectures and helping establish ChicanX and LatinX curriculum.  As well, I’ll be writing.  I’m in touch with Stephanie Elizondo Griest (Chicana author of a number of travel memoirs which include, Around theBloc: My Life in Moscow, Beijing, and Havana) who is giving me excellent writing advice on shaping a travel narrative that I currently call, La Llorona on the Danube:  A Chicana in Serbia.  I call it La Llorona because in my research studying Serbia’s history, the Danube, although quite stunning and beautiful, also is a symbol of much strife and suffering.  The Danube crosses 18 countries and buried within its depths are an untold number of individuals who were violently murdered, their bodies thrown in the river -- from various wars and pogroms.  La Llorona in my Chicana culture is the story of the weeping woman who haunts the rivers looking for her lost children. When I see the beautiful Danube in photographs, I’m amazed by its beauty while also reminded of what it holds, and it encourages me to immediately think of the legend of La Llorona. 

Xánath Caraza:  Is there anything else you wish to accomplish?

Amelia M.L. Montes:  I hope that my presence in Serbia will also encourage more international students to study ChicanX/LatinX literatures.  I would love to help create a transnational classroom with students from The University of Nebraska-Lincoln and students from The University of Novi Sad—perhaps an exchange program.  Also, because I was a part of the Faculty Success Program this year and am an Alumni now, I have renewed skills to accomplish my research/writing goals.  I’m excited for what the future holds to further Senator Fulbright’s Mission.  I want to leave you with one more quote from Senator Fulbright—and thank you so much for this opportunity to talk with you Xánath! 

Senator J. William Fullbright

Senator J.William Fulbright: “…Man’s struggle to be rational about himself, about his relationship to his own society and to other peoples and nations involves a constant search for understanding among all peoples and all cultures—a search that can only be effective when learning is pursued on a worldwide basis.”  [From the Forward of The Fulbright Program:  A History]

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