Spotlight Faculty: Julia Brown, Ph.D.

Spotlight Faculty: Julia Brown, Ph.D.

Dispelling Stereotypes of Rural Mexico

When Julia Brown, Ph.D., was only 8, she traveled with her family from their home in Boston to Spain. It was that trip, she said, where that further cemented her love of the Spanish language. “I was bitten by the language bug, I really loved it,” she said.

Brown decided to study Spanish, as well as seven other languages, including Nahuatl, language of the Aztecs, modern versions of which are still spoken by nearly 1.5 million Mexicans, she said. She earned a bachelor’s degree in Spanish and in Latin American studies from Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, as well as a master’s and doctoral degree in Hispanic literature from the University of California at Santa Barbara. She also held a Fulbright-García Robles grant in Mexico City in affiliation with the Instituto de Investigaciones Estéticas at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, from 2021 to 2022.

Now, as a new assistant professor in the Dorothy F. Schmidt College of Arts and Letters, Brown researches Latin American literature, cinema and photography to shed new light on how rural communities have been traditionally portrayed. “I use art to think about the way that rural communities are stereotyped versus how they're actually represented,” Brown said.

For example, when most people think of rural Mexico, Brown said, images of small towns without technology or connection to the modern world come to mind. In fact, she added, one of the first images that appears when you search for Mexico in Powerpoint software is a cactus. “However, my argument in my research is that these communities are actually very cosmopolitan, just in ways that sometimes it's hard for an outsider to comprehend,” Brown said

Considering that the U.S. has many Mexican immigrants, Brown said she hopes her research can help undo these stereotypes and contribute to U.S.-Mexico relations.

Brown is also currently editor of a forthcoming book, titled “Women Photographers and Mexican Modernity: Framing the Twentieth Century.” The book examines women photographers in Mexico and their contributions to the art form in Mexico.

Brown said she is excited to be at FAU, a Hispanic Serving Institution, a designation from the United States Department of Education, awarded to colleges and universities with enrollment of full-time Hispanic undergraduate students of at least 25 percent. “I think it’s really important to put out courses and make syllabi that celebrate the rich cultural production that has come out of Latin America for the last 400 plus years and continues to come out. We’re seeing so much new literary and photographic and cinematic production — it's awesome,” Brown said. “I think it's really fundamental to give students the opportunity to interact with all of this, in part because it's a way for students to understand the massive intellectual and cultural role that Latin American cultures have to play in shaping South Florida and the U.S.”

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