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Dexter Zavalza Hough-Snee

Derek Zavalza Hough-Snee
Dexter Zavalza Hough-Snee

Academic Year Adjunct Lecturer

Biographical Information

I teach language, literature, and culture courses that challenge students to critically reflect on the deep historical and textual origins of popular culture in Latin(o) America. The primary goal of my teaching is to help students cultivate an understanding of how language and culture operate in order to improve our abilities to use both in living better lives and building a better world.

My courses use texts, visual culture, film, popular media, and historiography to encourage students to share their talents and critically reflect on culture—broadly understood—to grow as writers, thinkers, and socially conscious individuals aware of their potential to be agents of change in their communities and the world. By engaging Spanish-language materials dating from the 15th century to the present that span the literary, theological, economic, visual, media, and pop culture realms, students challenge themselves to develop as whole individuals by first historicizing and then forging connections between their lives, aspirations, beliefs, and the evolution of Latin(o) American cultures in the global world. These same principles ground my teaching of language, which seeks to build core communicative competencies by tying language acquisition to the growth of the whole person.

I research and write about the relationship of sports—and particularly surfing—to the humanities, the environment, indigenismo, and civil society in contemporary Latin America, focusing on Peru, Mexico, Brazil, and California. My cultural studies work draws from my primary training in colonial Latin American literatures and visual cultures focused on labor, anxiety, and expressions of alienation in mid-colonial Peru.

I’m currently working on a book tentatively titled “You Have the Right to Surf!:” National Identity, Indigenismo, and Environmental Politics in Coastal Peru, 1937-2020. The project examines how Peruvian surfing culture deploys local histories of twentieth-century waveriding and pre-Columbian seafaring culture to rhetorically unite historically affluent, European surfers and indigenous, working-class fishermen around a common, oceanic identity that seeks to overcome longstanding ethnic tensions in Peru’s 500-year Western history. Demonstrating how coastal Peruvians understand peruanidad in terms of ocean culture past and present, the project reads claims that modern surfing—as global culture and professional sport—originates with the pre-Columbian tup (caballito de totora) as an assertion of national modernity in resistance to Peru’s relegation to the global periphery by Spanish colonial thought and its modern continuations. By championing Peru’s indigenous past as the origin of all modern surfing cultures, this narrative suggests that ancient Peru constituted a global cultural empire, responsible for surfing’s modern identity and commercial power. The second half of the work examines the inconsistencies of attempts to unite Peruvians around surfing as a national sporting tradition. By framing the contradictions of Peru’s surfing genesis narrative in the context of surfer and peasant protests against coastal development, the latter chapters demonstrate how the civic rights of Peruvians vary based on their relationship to water, economic growth, and government visions of national modernity. Working from canonical Peruvian literatures and philosophy, postcolonial and globalization theory, print and digital media, active participant research, oral histories, and archival materials, the book illustrates how surfing contributes to philosophies of national identity and economic modernity while questioning Eurocentric narratives of Peru and Latin America as marginal places.

Research Interests

  • Contemporary Latin American cultural studies; colonial Latin American literatures & visual cultures   

  • First-year Spanish (SPAN 1, 2, 3)

  • Literature & Culture: Latin(o) America at the Beach, 1492-2020.

  • “El derecho a surfear, de 3,000a.C. a 2017: Formando olas de modernidad, descolonización e identidad nacional en el imaginario peruano costero.” In Deporte y nacionalismo en América Latina. Eds. Hector Fernández-L’Hoeste, Robert Irwin, and Juan Poblete. Santiago de Chile: Cuarto Propio, 2018 (forthcoming).

  • “Bob McKnight and Quiksilver: Surf Shorts, Stock Exchanges, and Bankruptcy.” In Sporting Entrepreneurs. Eds. John Nauright and Dave Wiggins. Fayetteville, AR: University of Arkansas Press, 2018 (forthcoming).