Massachusetts Daily Collegian

UMass hosts William A. Douglass for lecture and chair in Basque cultural studies

By Dan Curtin

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(Aakanksha Gupta/ Daily Collegian)

(Aakanksha Gupta/ Daily Collegian)

Faculty, students and colleagues of William A. Douglass gathered to hear him speak about the migrant experience and for the inauguration of the William A. Douglass Chair in Basque Cultural Studies Monday evening in the Campus Center.

Basque Country is a region that borders Spain and France, which has three provinces in northern Spain and a province in France; it is formally an autonomous community of Spain.

Douglass received his bachelor’s degree in Spanish literature from the University of Nevada in 1961 and his PhD in anthropology from the University of Chicago in 1967, according to Douglass’ bio in the Nevada Writers Hall of Fame.

The event was held as a part to the Basque inaugural symposium, which was sponsored by supporting programs at the University of Massachusetts and the Etxepare Institute. Provost and Senior Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Katherine Newman welcomed students and scholars into the Hadley Room to talk about how beneficial the Douglass Chair would be for the University.

“In the years to come, this chair will make it possible for us to invite and host annual lectures and seminars by visiting scholars. It provides new resources for our library’s collection in Basque studies,” Newman said. “For the University, the Douglass Chair is a very welcome addition indeed to internationalizing the curriculum.”

Douglass’ lecture was titled “Along for the Ride: Interpreting the Migrant Story,” in which he discussed his career that included the founding of the Center of Basque studies at the University of Nevada, and the several books and hundreds of articles he has written throughout his career. Douglass, who has earned the nickname “Mr. Basque” over his career, connected his years of work studying migrants to current events and the circumstances surrounding.

“Much of the political rhetoric of all political parties that is occurring in the American electoral campaign regards the fate of the millions of illegal aliens in the country,” Douglass said.

Jack Ahern, vice provost and director of the international programs office at UMass, talked about why it’s important to have lectures about the migrant experience.

“The Issue of immigration is so complex and has evolved over time in response to the infinite number of variables, the type of people, the reasons they leave, where they come from, where they stay, why they go back,” Ahern said. “I think this is one of the more important issues facing our society today.”

Douglass discussed the human toll of people leaving communities. “In the homeland with each departure, a father and mother lose a son, a brother and sister lose a sibling,” he said.

Ahern also talked about the importance for these type of lectures and the long term benefits it provides the University.

“Every year we will have visitors, visiting scholars that will spend time in the anthropology department to give lectures, to counsel students, to teach courses. This will endure. One of the benefits of that is this will cultivate and inspire other types of collaborations,” Ahern said.

Dan Curtin can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @dmcurtin96.

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