FEL Executive Committee member R. McKenna Brown

Today’s blog post introduces another Executive Committee member.

R. McKenna Brown

I was raised and educated in the southern United States, and am currently Professor of World Studies and Special Assistant for Global Initiatives to the Dean of the College of Humanities and Sciences at Virginia Commonwealth University.

My research interests centre on the links between language and identity and the mobilisation of those links, particularly among the Highland Maya peoples of Guatemala, where I have carried out research since 1985. My co-authored publications include Maya Cultural Activism in Guatemala and The Life of Our Language Kaqchikel Maya Maintenance, Shift, and Revitalization.  From 1989 to 1996, I served as founding co-director of Oxlajuj Aj, an intensive summer field school in Kaqchikel language and culture and oversaw the publication of a resulting textbook ¿La Ütz Awäch? Introduction to Kaqchikel Maya Language.  I also co-curated the exhibit Ixchel’s Thread: Maya Weavings from the Bowdler Collection at the Virginia Commonwealth University Anderson Gallery.

Over the years, I have held leadership positions in several community and professional organizations including Colaborando Juntos (CJ), Virginia Latino Higher Education Network (VALHEN), the World Affairs Council of Greater Richmond, the Guatemala Scholars Network, and the Modern Language Association. I also produced a two-part video project on the current Mayan movement for the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and a translation of Mayan poetry was selected as Finalist for the 2002 PEN Literary Award for Poetry in Translation.

My first exposure to FEL was attending its third conference in Maynooth, Ireland in 1999.  I organised the sixth conference in Antigua, Guatemala in 2002, edited that year’s proceedings volume and served as co-editor of several subsequent volumes. It has been both a pleasure and an honour to be associated with the FEL and to serve alongside outstanding colleagues.