Garcia named director of School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies

July 5, 2012

Arizona State University offers the intellectual community, teaching and cutting-edge research to create “the perfect fit,” says Matt Garcia, a food justice scholar who has just been appointed the director of the School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies.

“If you studied the civil rights movement, wouldn’t you want to be at the heart of where it’s happening?” says Garcia. “It’s in Arizona where policies, such as SB 1070, the elimination of Latino Studies, and decision-making are being formulated, discussed and tested. It is the natural place for me to be.” Arizona State University food justice scholar and author Matt Garcia Download Full Image

Recruited from Brown University, Matt Garcia joined the ASU College of Liberal Arts and Sciences in 2011, with a shared position in the School of Transborder Studies. Here he helped to build ASU’s Comparative Border Studies program, an initiative that examines the U.S.-Mexico border and other border regions around the world. However, his primary focus as director will center on restoring understanding of the important roles that the humanities play in today’s society.

“Humanities is all around us,” says Garcia, quickly referencing the influence of agriculture and food, the roles of women, marriage and religion on politics and society. “Philosophers and historians can shed light on these topics and more. Marriage, for example, has been an evolving conversation in society, never the set situation that it is often presently perceived to be.”

“Too often we as scholars forget how we can contribute to discussions about public issues of great importance,” he adds.

Garcia is particularly interested in how the culture of food and agricultural production in the United States provides pivotal insights for our future. He has penned book chapters and numerous journal articles, and, most recently, the book: “From the Jaws of Victory: The Triumph and Tragedy of Cesar Chavez and the Farm Worker Movement.”

Published by University of California Press in 2012, Garcia says that his book offers the most comprehensive history ever written on the accomplishments and shortcomings of the United Farm Workers (UFW), the most successful farm labor union in U.S. history. He originally started by looking at the parallel efforts of Filipino American and Mexican agricultural workers, whose united efforts around the grape boycott allowed the UFW to gain traction in the 1960s.

But during his exploration of the archive at the Walter Reuther Library at Wayne State University in Detroit, Garcia unearthed a treasure trove of taped recordings that the Arizona-born Chavez had made of all his meetings. The tapes included Chavez’s fights with the UFW executive board, purges of boycott volunteers and the UFW legal department. Ultimately, the archive revealed Chavez’s instability, and how it contributed to the dissolution of the executive board.

“I was hearing Chavez’ own words. It was gripping,” says Garcia. “Knowing this history informs our future choices.”

“Our agricultural workers are working in conditions similar to those 40 years ago. Awareness of how food is produced should create in the public a consciousness about social justice, as well as the importance of ‘eating locally’ or ‘eating healthy,’” adds Garcia.

Garcia hopes that the schools’ students will make connections between the ideas that they explore in their classes and the process of moving forward as a society: “Learning history is not simply about studying the past, but understanding how past events guide us to a better, more sustainable and socially aware future.”

“ASU is an incredible place to work and learn and do what I do best,” says Garcia. “I can’t think of another place to do it.”

Margaret Coulombe

Director, Executive Communications, Office of the University Provost


ASU professor begins National Science Foundation post

July 6, 2012

ASU’s Marjorie Zatz is headed to Washington, D.C., to begin a two-year appointment with the National Science Foundation (NSF) on July 16 as director of the Law and Social Sciences program in NSF’s Division of Social and Economic Sciences. In her new role Zatz will influence the direction of research into the ways that law, legal institutions, and legal processes and decision-making impact people and communities.

Zatz, a professor of justice and social inquiry in the School of Social Transformation in ASU's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, has served as a principal investigator on several NSF research grants – supporting basic research, a workshop, and to support her students’ dissertation research. She most recently served as co-principal investigator for a 2009-2011 study of immigration and immigrant communities. (An edited book resulting from that work is in production at New York University Press, “Punishing Immigrants: Policy, Politics and Injustice.”) Marjorie Zatz Download Full Image

“I’m excited by this opportunity to contribute to cutting edge research on law and the social sciences,” says Zatz, who combines strong disciplinary training in sociology with three decades of interdisciplinary research and teaching in justice studies. “The National Science Foundation has always been a strong supporter of disciplinary and interdisciplinary research, and in the past few years it has taken additional steps to actively encourage transdisciplinary knowledge and capacity building. I’m honored to be a part of that effort and look forward to helping to shape the research agenda in my field.”

Many projects funded by NSF’s Law and Social Sciences program take into account the growing interdependence and interconnections of the world and so extend beyond national boundaries, looking at how national legal systems and cultures affect or are affected by transnational or international phenomena. The program also encourages diverse theoretical perspectives and contexts for study. For example, research on social control, crime causation, violence, victimization, legal and social change, patterns of discretion, procedural justice, compliance and deterrence, and regulatory enforcement are areas that have received recent support. 

Zatz brings to her new challenges a range of administrative skills and international perspectives gained over a 30-year career that was launched at ASU. She earned a doctorate in sociology at Indiana University with a minor in Latin American Studies and came to Arizona State University in 1982 as an assistant professor in what was then the School of Justice Studies. Zatz helped establish one of the first interdisciplinary law and social sciences doctoral programs in the country at ASU in 1986. Over the last 11 years her leadership assignments have included work as University Vice Provost for Academic Personnel, Associate Dean in the Graduate College, Director of the School of Justice and Social Inquiry, and most recently as director of Justice and Social Inquiry and of strategic initiatives in the School of Social Transformation.

Zatz, who is fluent in Spanish, conducted ethnographic research in Cuba and Nicaragua early in her career and was a visiting researcher in the Faculty of Law at the University of Havana, Cuba, in 1989. She is active in sustaining international scholarly networks with ASU and the Czech Academy of Science and the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia, Italy. In spring 2012 she served as a Fulbright Senior Specialist in Melbourne, Australia, working with colleagues at the School of Political and Social Inquiry at Monash University and the School of Graduate Research at RMIT. She has been one of the leaders in developing ASU Study Abroad’s Sustainability and Social Justice in the Middle East partnership program with Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.

Her breadth of scholarship related to analyses of immigration policy, juvenile justice, race, gender and juvenile and criminal court processing and sanctioning, feminist criminology, and Chicano gangs and their communities has garnered national and regional awards, including the Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Society of Criminology Division on People of Color and Crime, and several awards from the Western Society of Criminology.

Two of the key scientific communities for the law and social sciences program at NSF are the American Society of Criminology and the Law and Society Association, and Zatz has served on the executive boards of both associations. 

“In Marjorie ASU has a terrific representative on the national stage,” says School of Social Transformation director Mary Margaret Fonow. “A strategic thinker and experienced collaborator across disciplines and world geographies, she will provide forward-thinking leadership to scholars developing basic NSF research so vital to our understanding of human and societal problems.”

While serving as director for the Law and Social Sciences program at NSF, Zatz will continue to be involved with the School of Social Transformation’s John P. Frank Memorial Lecture. One of ASU’s signature annual events, it honors the memory and remarkable career of longtime Arizona lawyer John P. Frank; in 2013 the series will feature New York Times columnist Gail Collins on Feb. 25.

Maureen Roen

Editorial and communication coordinator, College of Integrative Sciences and Arts