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History Prof Selected For Summer Fellowship

April 28, 2011
SHSU Media Contact: Jennifer Gauntt

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Charles Heath, an assistant professor of history at SHSU, will spend five weeks this summer immersed in the Mayan world, learning about the civilization’s history and culture as part of a fellowship with the National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Institute.

Heath is one of only 24 professors from across the country to be selected for the program, which will take participants through Mexico, Belize and Guatemala June 11 through July 25.

The interdisciplinary program, which will focus on “Revisioning the Maya World,” emphasizes archaeology with some of the world's renowned Mayanists, according to Heath.

The schedule will include an educational component, including an intensive reading and seminar schedule, as well as “many visits to important archaeological sites and ruins,” he said.

“The purpose of my attendance in the Summer Institute is to strengthen the quality of my teaching, to affirm my commitment to the scholarship of Latin American history, and to sharpen my ability to interpret the humanities,” Heath said.

“The Summer Institute’s diverse offerings of environmental, gender, and identity studies will deepen my understanding and illuminate, through the lens of Maya studies, the human emotions, attractions, anxieties, and empathies the people of that civilization held,” he said.

Heath’s interests in Mesoamerica are tied with the personal and professional attachment he has to Southern Mexico. Part of his doctoral dissertation focused on the Zapotec contribution to the history of the State Band of Oaxaca, and his wife is from the Isthmus of Tehuantepec.

In addition, he has participated in graduate seminars in Bahia, Brazil, while working on his master’s degree in Latin American studies at Tulane University and visited the state of Oaxaca as a doctoral student through a fellowship with the Champion-Davis Oaxaca Summer Graduate Institute.

His personal research interest, which he plans to explore through the NEH Summer Institute fellowship, includes the relationship between music and politics in Mexico, and “more specifically, how the state and other institutions further political agendas and generate popular unity through the deployment of music as a political tool,” Heath said.

“Music is, in my view, a primary historical document worthy of investigation and one that may enlighten our understanding of both popular and official culture,” he said. “I have encountered little information on Mayan musical production, but the Summer Institute will provide me with an opportunity to learn how they may have used music to communicate with the supernatural or used music in warfare, and to learn about both musicians and audience.”


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