Matthew Spangler

Matthew Spangler

Professor, Communication Studies

What research questions currently preoccupy you?

How are immigrants—particularly undocumented people, refugees, and asylum-seekers—represented through the literary, performing, and cinematic arts? And what are the implications of these acts of representation for public policy as it relates to these immigrant communities? My work focuses mostly on contemporary (post 1970) immigration to the United States and Ireland.

What personal factors contributed to your study of immigration and the arts?

Living in the San Francisco Bay Area, where nearly 40% of the people living here are foreign born and where we have large communities of refugees and undocumented people, has influenced my interest in immigration studies. But so did the time I was living in Dublin, Ireland, from 1998 to 2000 for my M.Phil. degree in Theatre at Trinity College, when historically high numbers of migrants were then moving to Ireland.

What has been most challenging in your research?

Finding the travel time. My research requires going to Ireland, and scheduling the time away from home is always difficult. I also write plays, and when a theatre produces one of my plays, I often travel to attend rehearsal and performances. In the last ten years or so, my plays have taken me across the U.S., Canada, the U.K., Ireland, and France. Scheduling this work around my responsibilities here is a challenge.

How has your position in SJSU changed/contributed to your research?

Many of our students at SJSU are themselves immigrants or the sons and daughters of immigrant parents, so the time I spend in the classroom directly inspires my research.

A hidden talent:

I have a private pilot’s license and I love airplanes.

One book that changed your life and why:

James Joyce’s Ulysses, which I first read as an undergraduate and would later focus my dissertation on. Joyce’s fiction, generally, has influenced my life in more ways than I can describe here. In short, without James Joyce, I would not be doing what I’m doing today. His fiction convinced me to live abroad, travel, and dedicate my life to the arts and education.

A website/journal/newspaper you follow without fail:

The New York Times. I read it every day starting with the front page, then the editorial page, then national, then the arts, and finally, sports.

Advice you’d give to newer faculty or students:

Find something you love to do and just keep doing it with absolutely complete dedication.

RSCA Accomplishments

My article “Fall and Recover: Making Modern Dance with Refugees and Asylum-Seekers in Ireland” received the Top Paper Award from the Performance Studies Division of the Western Communication Association.
I received a $168,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to host a summer institute on theatre & immigration to California.