Kuecker, Glen D., Ph.D.
History, Harrison Hall, Room 221
Professor of History
Research and Teaching Interests
My current interests focus on contemporary history, especially the problem of how humanity will weather the perfect storm of multiple, large-scale, global, and concomitant crises, including climate change, thermodynamics (energy), food insecurity, demographic transformations (population growth and aging, and rapid urbanization) environmental/ecological degradation, and economic stress.
Courses Regularly Taught
HIST 115: Colonial Latin America
HIST 116: Modern Latin America
HIST 206: History of Mexico
HIST 290: Globalization (with topical focus on migration or resistance movements)
HIST 300: Latin American Environmental History
HIST 382: United States and Latin American Relations
HIST 385: Latin American Revolutions
Latin American Social Movements in the Twenty-first Century: Resistance, Power, and Democracy. Co-editor with Richard Stahler-Sholk and Harry Vanden. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2008.
Globalizing Resistance: The New Politics of Social Movements in Latin America. Co-editor with Richard Stahler-Sholk and Harry Vanden. Special issue of Latin American Perspectives. Vol. 34; No. 2 (March 2007).
“South Korea’s New Songdo City: From Neo-liberal Globalisationâ¿¨to the Twenty-first Century Green Economy.” Papers of the British Association for Korean Studies. Vol. 15 (2013): 20-36.
“Any Port in the Perfect Storm: Port Cities and 21st Century Challenges.” BDC - Bulletin of the Department of Conservation of Architectural and Environmental Assets. University of Naples Federico II. Vol. 12; No. 1. (2012): 328-334.
“Resilience and Community in the Age of World-System Collapse.” Co-authored with Thomas Hall. Nature and Culture. Vol. 6; No. 1. (2011): 18-40.
“Turning to Community in Times of Crisis: Globally Derived Insights on Local Community Formation.” Community Development Journal. Co-authored with Martin Mulligan and Yaso Nadarajah. 2010. Doi: 10.1093/cdj/bsq002.
“Public Health, Yellow Fever, and the Making of Modern Tampico.” Urban History Review. Special issue: Public Health and the City. Vol. 36; No. 2 (Spring 2008): pp. 18-28.
“The Perfect Storm: Catastrophic Collapse in the 21st Century.” The International Journal Of Environmental, Cultural, Economic And Social Sustainability. Vol. 3; Issue 5 (2007): pp. 1-10.
“Fighting for the Forests: Grassroots Resistance to Mining in Northern Ecuador.” Globalizing Resistance: The New Politics of Social Movements in Latin America. Special issue of Latin American Perspectives. Vol. 34; No. 2 (March 2007): pp. 94-107.
"El Nexo de la Fiebre Amarilla: El Espacio Urbano y la Salud Pública en el Tampico Porfiriano.” Pp. 355-390. In: El Golfo-Caribe y sus puertos. siglos XVIII. Mexico City: Instituto Mora. 2006.
“Latin American Resistance Movements in the Time of the Posts.” History Compass (2004) Vol. 2, pp. 1-27.
“Pequenas piezas para el rompecabezas: produccion de azucar en el Norte de Veracruz durante el Porfiriato." In: Memorial: boletin del archivo general del estado de Veracruz. Ano 2; Num. 4 (Enero/Abril 1999).
Chapters in Books
“Academic Activism and the Socially Just University.” Pp. 42-55. In: Kathleen Skubikowski, Catherine Wright, and Roman Graf. Editors. Social Justice Education: Inviting Faculty to Transform Their Institutions. Sterling, VA: Stylus Publications, 2010.
“Fighting for the Forests Revisited: Grassroots Resistance to Mining in Northern Ecuador.” Pp. 97-112. In: Richard Stahler-Sholk, Glen David Kuecker, and Harry Vanden. Latin American Social Movements in the Twenty-first Century: Resistance, Power, and Democracy. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2008.
“Introduction: Globalizing Resistance: The New Politics of Social Movements in Latin America.” Co-author with Richard Stahler-Sholk and Harry Vanden. Globalizing Resistance: The New Politics of Social Movements in Latin America. Special issue of Latin American Perspectives. Vol. 34; No. 2 (March 2007): pp. 5-16.
“’The Greatest and the Worst’: Dominant and Subaltern Memories of the Dos Bocas Well Fire of 1908.” In: Peter Gray and Kendrick Oliver, Editors. The Memory of Catastrophe. Manchester: University of Manchester Press, 2004.
“Alejandro Prieto: Científico from the Provinces.” In: Jeffrey Pilcher, Editor. The Human Tradition in Mexico. Wilmington, DE: Scholarly Resources, 2003.
“Mining.” In: Steven Danver, Editor. Native Peoples of the World. M. E. Sharpe, 2012.
“Counterinsurgency.” In: Thomas Leonard. Editor. Encyclopedia of United States-Latin American Relations. CQ Press, 2012.
“School of the Americas.” In: Thomas Leonard. Editor. Encyclopedia of United States-Latin American Relations. CQ Press, 2012.
“Zapatista Uprising, 1994.” In: Thomas Leonard. Editor. Encyclopedia of United States-Latin American Relations. CQ Press, 2012.
“Containerized Freight.” Akira Iriye and Pierre-Yves Saunier, editors. The Palgrave Dictionary of Transnational History. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009.
“Border Patrol.” Richard Schaefer. Editor. Encyclopedia of Race, Ethnicity, and Society. Sage Publications, 2008.
Extended Book Review
“Book Review Essay: Understanding Latin America In The Era Of Globalization.” Journal of World-Systems Research. Extended review of William Robinson’s Latin America and Global Capitalism: A Critical Globalization Perspective. Vol. 17; No. 1 (2011): 236-243.
Extended review essay of Korten, David. When Corporations Rule the World and The Post Corporate World. Review of Radical Political Economics. Vol. 38; No. 3 (Summer 2006): pp. 430-435.
Rutgers University, New Brunswick. Ph. D. Latin American and global history. 1989- 1998.
Colegio de México, Mexico City. Summer graduate program. 1990.
De Paul University, Chicago, Illinois. Graduate classes. 1987-1989.
University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minnesota. Part time classes. 1996.
St. Olaf College, Northfield, Minnesota. B. A. in History and Political Science. 1980-1984.
Chicago White Sox Fan, birth to present.
Grateful Dead devotee, 1976 to present.
Latin American Social Movements in the Twenty First Century. Designated Outstanding Academic Titles, 2009. Choice Reviews Online.
University Professor, DePauw University. 2008-2012.
The 21st century will be defined by a perfect storm of multiple, large-scale, synchronous, and interconnected crises. Society will call upon higher education to advance solutions to climate change, energy transition, demographic shift (rapid urbanization, aging of the population, and population growth and eventual decline), pandemics, food insecurity, conflict, ecological stress, and economic crises. We also offer society the epistemological foundations for understanding the deep transformations in ways of seeing, being, thinking, and acting that the perfect storm entails. Society demands that liberal education provide an epistemic for weathering the perfect storm. The challenge is immense, beyond the scope of master campus plans, general education reform, or finding balance within faculty life. Facing the challenge of weathering the perfect storm is central to my continued development as a teacher.
Preparing students for life-long learning within the perfect storm requires a pedagogy that anticipates a continued and intensified destabilization of knowledge. As collapse becomes our dominant reality, instability will enhance multiple challenges to the old certainties of modern knowledge. The resulting turbulence can allow liberation from old paradigms and permit new ways of being and thinking to emerge. Our students will experience this liberation and participate in the forging of new ways of being, seeing, thinking, and acting. It is an exciting yet daunting proposition, one that I enthusiastically embrace in my teaching. Liberal education is well positioned to participate in this emergence, especially if it fosters three key pedagogies.
First, liberal education has a proven track record for integrated studies. Unlike interdisciplinary studies, which reflects the traditional disciplines by locating knowledge within bounded domains of specialization, integrated studies fosters academic programs without walls. Having a holistic approach, integrated studies leverages liberal education’s mandate for the open exploration of ideas, free of disciplinary dogma, assumptions, and bias. An integrated studies approach empowers students to produce the new knowledge needed to weather the perfect storm by bringing them to a trans-disciplinary critical inquiry into the human condition during an epoch defined by the rupture from modernity. A key part of this pedagogy is discernment: the process of evaluating those timeless propositions, ideas, and values generated by traditions past with the goal of retaining thought necessary for weathering the perfect storm. An integrated studies assessment of epistemological foundations for new thought brings added significance and importance to a great books approach to liberal inquiry.
Second, liberal education is well positioned for helping students to leverage openings and opportunities for new thinking generated by the perfect storm’s instability of knowledge. Liberal arts pedagogy invites students to destabilize their own knowledge by suspending their assumptions while evidence and alternative interpretations are explored. We encourage them to persist with this process as life-long learners. In our pedagogy we often speak of critical reasoning as problem solving. While this view has validity, I think it is very much part of the enlightenment’s sometimes problematic embrace of science. Departing from the Cartesian model, I suggest that contending with the messy world of predicaments --where difficult trade-offs fraught with disturbing moral and ethical challenges displace problems with clear solutions--will define the life-long learning of our students as well as the ways they will create new knowledge in the 21st century. Predicament thinking will be at a premium, and liberal education is well suited for this teaching task.
Fostering integrated studies and predicament thinking converge in complexity thinking, which is the third pedagogical approach for 21stcentury liberal education. We need to focus more on complexity as a critical reasoning skill, perhaps elevating it to the status of general education requirement. This proposition builds from David Orr’s essay, “What is Education For?” Joining Orr, I want students to be complexity thinkers whose understanding of the human condition is informed by concepts like feedback loops, non-linear dynamics, unknown unknowns, or thermodynamics. Complexity thinking is a necessary, if not the essential, pedagogical foundation for liberal education in the 21st century.
This teaching philosophy recognizes the critical importance of transcending the artificial and destructive divide academics have created within our main responsibilities to society: teaching, scholarship, and service (I use service here to mean the academic’s service to society). It is built upon the three-legged stool-- sometimes disturbingly wobbly other times bewilderingly sturdy-- of teaching, scholarship, and service. I see the three as integrated parts to the whole enterprise where excellence in teaching simply cannot function without aspiring to excellence in scholarship and service. It is a praxis (the transformations in knowledge generated by the merging of theory and action) driven feedback loop where teaching inspires me to research, and that research directs me to service, which produces the knowledge that I use to teach. When I am at my best, that praxis feeds the cycle once again. Central to the praxis model of liberal education is the idea that students produce knowledge through their learning, and from that production, teachers learn from their students. Teaching thus becomes a collaborative undertaking, a grand workshop of inquiry, something desperately needed in the 21st century.
A key method to my teaching philosophy is what I call “academic activism,” which I explore in my essay, “Academic Activism and the Socially Just University.” It is rooted in the strong tradition of critical pedagogy and diversity thinking that acknowledges how the divide between subjectivity and objectivity influences teaching. It embraces the messiness produced by the necessary separation of the academic from the world caused by the demand for objectivity, while embracing the reality our subjectivity. While I turn to the critical pedagogy greats like Freire, Giroux, Gramsci, hooks, and Mohanty for insight, inspiration, and guidance, it is the profound depths of knowledge created by those I engage research and service that truly informs my teaching philosophy. Their knowledge, often coming from the post-colonial, “other knowledges” of the global south—is a key part to our assessments of past intellectual traditions and the formation of a new, global epistemic forged by our response to 21st century challenges. A tribal leader in Papua New Guinea resolving community conflict through cultural recovery projects, a subsistence farmer fighting mining companies in Ecuador, a queer, indigenous, transnational migrant who has survived the violence of everyday life in Guatemala, an indigenous grandmother in the poorest community in all of Mexico, an indigenous person fighting dignity’s rebellion against neoliberal capitalism in Chiapas all produce the knowledge that I reproduce for students in my classroom. It is my conviction that this integrated, praxis driven knowledge is the key for weathering the 21st century’s perfect storm.
Commencing with my training as a Latin American historian with a secondary field in global and comparative history, the relationship between local and global has been a central concern in my scholarship. I learned to identify the macro level structures that make global processes knowable, while embracing the nuances and complexities of how people experience and give meaning t