AHA Member Spotlight: Jason Dyck
Jason Dyck is a sessional lecturer at Trent University Durham. He lives in St. Catharines, Ontario, and has been a member since 2009.
Alma mater/s: BA, Brock University, 2002; MA, Queen’s University, 2003; PhD, University of Toronto, 2012
Fields of interest: Latin America, Spanish world, New Spain, missions, Jesuits, Catholicism, colonialism
Describe your career path. What led you to where you are today? I worked at a nursery with migrant Mexican workers along the shores of Lake Ontario to earn money for high school and university. After learning Spanish by writing in the sand with my co-workers, I went on to graduate studies in Latin American history. Since then, I have taught an array of courses at various universities here in southern Ontario. My career path and teaching are deeply informed by my experiences in agriculture.
What do you like the most about where you live and work? I live in St. Catharines, the city I was born and raised in. Being here allows me to be close to my family, something I am extremely thankful for. The institution I teach at is in Oshawa, which means I need to circle around Lake Ontario and pass through Toronto. The trip is almost two hours by car, so I normally choose the GO Train. I enjoy the quiet zone on the upper floor, which is very conducive for reading, marking, and writing lectures (and the occasional siesta).
What projects are you currently working on? I am currently working on two major projects. The first is a study of sacred history and creole patriotism in the writings of Francisco de Florencia (1620–95), a Jesuit from Florida who wrote prolifically on his order and miraculous images in colonial Mexico. The second project is a transcription of two mission histories from northwestern Mexico, both written by the Spanish Jesuit Juan de Albizuri (1601–51).
Have your interests evolved since graduation? If so, how? I have maintained a strong interest in the colonial history of Latin America as an area of research, something that has not changed since graduation. My major area of concentration is still sacred history, and I primarily focus on Jesuits. But what has changed for me is my geographic coverage. I have moved outside of Florida and the central valley of Mexico to set my sights on northwestern Mexico.
What’s the most fascinating thing you’ve ever found at the archives or while doing research? The most fascinating thing I have found in the archives was a censored portion of the first volume of Francisco de Florencia’s 1694 provincial chronicle of the Jesuits in Mexico. I was in the final days of research for my dissertation before returning to Canada. After receiving a series of folios at the National Institute of Anthropology and History, I immediately knew it was Florencia’s hand when I saw the manuscript. This document changed the focus on my thesis and how I understand Florencia’s writing.
Is there an article, book, movie, blog, etc. that you could recommend to fellow AHA members? Choosing one piece is always hard, but I have been profoundly shaped by the work of Inga Clendinnen. Her research on Spanish-native encounters in central Mexico and Yucatan are highly imaginative, rooted in historical anthropology. Ambivalent Conquests (1987) looks at history in multiple keys; it is an attempt to think about contact from both sides of the coin through Spanish sources. In her recounting, colonial situations “breed confusion” and “spawn multiple realities.”
What do you value most about the history discipline? For me, history is travel. One needs to travel physically to archives, libraries, conferences, and classes; one needs to travel intellectually by using the imagination to arrive at new lands in the past. Whether in the present or the past, traveling is transformative. If we are open to new ways of viewing the world, people and their manners of doing things will change us. We are always the richer for it.
Why is membership in the AHA important to you? Being a member of the AHA allows me to interact with other colleagues and to keep abreast of new trends in the discipline, both in terms of scholarship and pedagogy.
AHA members are involved in all fields of history, with wide-ranging specializations, interests, and areas of employment. To recognize our talented and eclectic membership, Perspectives Daily features a regular AHA Member Spotlight series.
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