Meet the Fellows: 2017 Newcombe Fellow Gustavo Maya

The Charlotte W. Newcombe Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship is the nation’s largest and most prestigious award for Ph.D. candidates in the humanities and social sciences addressing questions of ethical and religious values. The 2017 class of Fellows includes Gustavo Maya, a doctoral candidate in religion at Princeton University. Mr. Maya recalls a realization about his heritage and how that has impacted his research:

While I was in seminary, I remember a phone call where I asked my mom about Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers. This was around the time of the immigrants’ rights marches, and there was a palpable political fervor among Latinos in the country. Folks were energized and made our presence known. My parents and grandparents, though originally from Mexico, settled in Delano, CA, a significant site for the early years of the farmworker movement. From my mom, I learned that members of my family had worked with Chavez. It was an emotional experience for me. I broke down. I felt a mix of pride and loss. I was proud to have a family connection to so significant a movement for justice. But I also felt loss because we never spoke about this connection. The news affected my sense of identity. I had always been the son and grandson of immigrant farmworkers from Mexico, but now, I had a relation to the unruly few who had decided to stand up and fight for justice—no disrespect to those who merely tried to survive. I identified with them and their commitments. I gradually realized that my community was part of a tradition of struggle that went beyond us. Belonging to such a tradition is beautiful and empowering. I discovered that not much had been written about the movement, and what had been written neglected religion or ethics. My work tries to fill that gap.

Mr. Maya’s dissertation title is Resisting Exploitation: The Farmworker Struggle for Justice and the Ethics of Means. For more information on the 2017 Newcombe Fellows and to see a list of their dissertation titles, click here.


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