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Scholars named new ILS directors

Observer Staff Report | Wednesday, May 2, 2012

José E. Limón, one of the country´s foremost scholars of Latino literature, has been named director of Notre Dame´s Institute for Latino Studies (ILS), the University announced in a press release Tuesday. As director, he will hold the Julian Samora Chair in Latino Studies.

Timothy Matovina, an expert on Latino Catholicism, will serve as executive director of the institute, which is part of the College of Arts and Letters. Both appointments take effect July 1.

“I am extraordinarily pleased and grateful for the opportunity to lead the Institute for Latino Studies to even greater prominence and to place it at the center of the intellectual life at Notre Dame,” Limón said in the release. “I look forward to working with Executive Director Timothy Matovina as well as the College of Arts and Letters and its departmental chairs.”

“I look forward to working with my colleague José Limón to build on the strong foundation that Gilberto Cárdenas has laid at the Institute for Latino Studies,” Matovina said.

Limón is the Notre Dame Professor of American Literature in the Department of English. He has authored three major books in the field of Latino studies: “American Encounters: Greater Mexico, the United States and the Erotics of Culture,” “Dancing with the Devil: Society and Cultural Poetics in Mexican-American South Texas” and “Mexican Ballads, Chicano Poems: History and Influence in Mexican-American Social Poetry.” The University of Texas Press will publish his fourth book, “Américo Paredes: Culture and Critique,” in fall 2012, according to the release.

Limón teaches and writes on the literature of the American South. His academic interests include cultural studies, Latino literature, anthropology and literature, Mexicans in the United States, U.S.-Mexico cultural relations, critical theory, folklore and popular culture.

Matovina, a professor of theology, is completing a 10-year term as director of the College’s Cushwa Center for the Study of American Catholicism.

His new book, “Latino Catholicism: Transformation in America’s Largest Church,” published by Princeton University Press, analyzes the five-century-long history of Latino Catholics in America and how that history has affected them and their Church.

Arts and Letters Dean John McGreevy said Cárdenas led ILS commendably since its creation in 1999. Cárdenas is a distinguished scholar of Mexican immigration and Latino art and serves as an assistant provost and sociology professor.

“Gil Cardenas’s achievement is to place Notre Dame at the center of Latino studies in the U.S. through his visionary leadership of multiple programs, in fields as diverse as Latino health, immigration and Latino art,” McGreevy said. “We are deeply grateful for his efforts.”

Latino studies is a key element of the academic mission of both the College and the University, McGreevy said.

“The stakes for Notre Dame in Latino studies are unusually high. Latinos are already a central part of American culture, business and politics, and this influence – important for all Americans, not just Latinos – will only grow in coming decades,” he said in the release.

“At the same time, Latinos will soon number half of American Catholics, a development reflected in Notre Dame’s rapidly growing number of Latino students. I look forward to working with two eminent scholars … in helping us to become preeminent in this area.