Faculty Spotlight: David Medina, Ph.D.

Faculty Spotlight: David Medina, Ph.D.

New Look at Old History

As an undergraduate, David Medina, Ph.D., majored in criminal justice with a goal of becoming an attorney. When an advisor told him that law schools accept more English majors than any other field, he changed majors — a move that also changed the trajectory of his career goal.

“I just fell in love with literature and the study of humanity and linguistics, and I've been on that same road ever since,” said Medina, a new assistant professor in the Dorothy F. Schmidt College of Arts and Letters.

Medina primarily studies 16th- and 17th-century Native American literature, including Indigenous autobiographies, colonial accounts of Native communication practices, and the impact of textual and technological shifts.

“Some of my central arguments are that we have completely misunderstood forms of Native knowledge transfer because Western colonial societies are primarily textual and visual,” he said. “In western societies, you typically read front to back and start to finish and that’s that.”

However, for Native American communities, spanning from Central America up to Canada, something written or inscribed often has a performative element, he said, which Medina seeks to incorporate when interpreting Native literatures. “Their writings, inscriptions, pictographs and texts are often performed in ways that are distinctly multisensorial,” he said.

Storytelling is a communal event, not something to be read in silence and alone, he added. “You can't truly understand the history of early America without understanding the history of Native Americans,” Medina said.

Taking away Indigenous connections to the communities and their knowledge systems, according to Medina, was a “deliberate act” by colonizers, such as colonial administrators and conquistadors, who had a vested interest to minimize the knowledge of Indigenous people. “It was done so as to make assimilation into colonial culture easier, more direct, and forceful,” he said.

For Medina, there’s a personal connection to this subject. He is both Indigenous and Spanish. “It’s my history,” he said. “The languages I speak, the way I make meaning, the way I interact with the world, all of this is a direct effect of the history that I study. What I'm doing is trying to understand our collective history, our shared history of colonialism, how we ended up here, what we've missed along the way.”

Medina earned a bachelor’s and master's degree in English from University of Texas at El Paso, and a doctorate in English from Northeastern University in Massachusetts. While working on his doctorate he was also an assistant professor at MassBay Community College.

American Literature is one of Medina’s favorite courses to teach, he said, adding “I get to expose students to ideas and concepts they may have never considered before, like, Native American authors from the 18th century or enslaved authors who wrote about their experience in the 19th century.”

If you would like more information, please contact us at dorcommunications@fau.edu.