Prof. Matthew Spangler Receives NEH Grant


Matt Spangler (Professor of Performance and Communication Studies) and David Kahn (Professor & Chair of TV, Radio, Film, & Theatre) received a $168,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to host a Summer Institute for School Teachers titled “The California Immigrant Experience through Literature and Theatre.”  The Institute will run from July 17-31, 2016 and will be held at San José State University. Drs. Matthew Spangler and Kahn will serve as hosts and co-directors for the Institute.

Institute faculty include:

Maxine Hong Kingston (author of The Woman WarriorChina Men and other novels; Professor Emeritus, UC Berkeley)

Ping Chong (internationally acclaimed theatre director, playwright, video and installation artist; author of East West Quartet and creator of Undesirable Elements performance series)

Luis Valdez (author of Zoot SuitLa Bamba; founder of El Teatro Campesino)

Kinan Valdez (actor, director, and producing artistic director of El Teatro Campesino)

Andrew Lam (author of Perfume Dreams: Reflections on the Vietnamese Diaspora and PEN Open Book Award Recipient)

Donna Gabaccia (author of Immigration and American Diversity, among many other authored and edited books on the immigrant experience; Professor of History, University of Minnesota)

Kelly Lytle-Hernández (author of Migra: A History of the U.S. Border Patrol, among other articles and books on immigration from Mexico to the United States; Associate Professor of History, UCLA)

Judy Yung (author of Angel Island: Immigrant Gateway to America, among other articles and books on immigration from China to the United States; Professor of American studies, UC Santa Cruz)

Persis Karim (Associate Professor of English and Founding Director of the Persian Studies Program at San José State University)

Glen Gendzel (author of numerous articles on immigration; Associate Professor of History, San José State University)

Sara Zatz (Associate Director of Ping Chong & Company; program director of Undesirable Elements performance series)

Matthew Spangler (author of numerous articles, plays, and a book about transnational migration, including award-winning adaptations of Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner and T.C. Boyle’s The Tortilla Curtain; Professor of Performance Studies, San José State University)

David Kahn (Chair of TV, Radio, Film and Theatre, San José State University; dramaturg and specialist in documentary theatre performance) 

This Institute will explore ways in which the immigrant experience to the United States, and California, in particular, has been represented through literary and theatrical texts. The institute is organized around three topics that frequently appear in such texts: (1) the construction of political borders between geographic territories and social borders between groups of people; (2) intercultural interaction between settled and immigrant communities; (3) changing family and gender dynamics within discrete immigrant communities. Participants will explore these topics as they pertain to emigration from Mexico, China, Vietnam, and Afghanistan. 

Among the highlights of the institute are theatre workshops with Ping Chong, Luis Valdez, and the institute co-directors. These workshops will guide participants through some of the steps involved in creating learning activities and documentary theatre productions based on the topic of immigration. On Friday, July 29, Institute participants will showcase the results of these workshops in a performance open to the public. 

The Institute participants will be composed of 25 school teachers competitively selected from around the country. Full-time or part-time teachers in American K-12 schools, whether public, charter, independent, or religiously affiliated, as well as home-schooling parents, are eligible to apply. Americans teaching abroad are also eligible if a majority of the students they teach are American citizens. Librarians and school administrators may also be eligible. Graduate students may also apply. Participants receive stipends to attend.

This is the second time that the prestigious NEH Summer Institute opportunity has been awarded to Professors Kahn and Spangler.  A previous version of “The California Immigrant Experience through Literature and Theatre” was offered at SJSU in 2014.

Application information and materials are available online:

For questions or to request additional information please contact Project Coordinator Maria Judnick [], Dr. Matthew Spangler [ / (650) 714-3622], Dr. David Kahn [ / (408) 924-4540] or visit the Institute website at