Faculty Spotlight: Dr. Manuel Montoya

July 9, 2020

Faculty Spotlight: Dr. Manuel Montoya

Dr. Manuel (MJR) Montoya is an Associate Professor of Global Structures and International Management at the University of New Mexico's Anderson School of Management.

What region of Latin America do you study? Why?

My area of focus is more specifically Planet Earth as it becomes more closely aligned with the more particularistic ways of belonging to the world (what I refer to as Global Legibility).  However, a great deal of my research incorporates how the Magical Realist literary movements of the mid-20th century emanated from Latin America and helped shape an alternative canon for World Literature.  I use the term “enchantment economy” to mesh literary logic with economic logic of the world economy.  Furthermore, also focus on “rural cosmopolitanism” within, primarily Mexico and the Paseo del Norte region to identify alternative measures of resilience as responses to planetary issues and global markets. 

What has been your path to becoming a professor?

I was born and raised in Mora, New Mexico and took an undergraduate degree at UNM.  After attending 3 graduate schools, I returned here to focus on leveraging New Mexico’s unique place in the United States to connect to global affairs in new and creative ways.  Ii was lucky enough to be UNM’s first Rhodes Scholar of color and part of my passion lies in serving students and the public who build upon the tapestry of New Mexico’s place in the world.

What motivates you in your current work/research?

Clearly, we cannot have a discussion about our current work without first acknowledging that we are in a unique and important moment for higher education and for global civil society.  COVID-19 and subsequent social movements and calls for racial justice have challenged us to think about what higher education means.  Personally, we need to work with students to engender a value in coming to school that isn’t merely vocational.  It is precisely because we are in an existential crisis in this world that we need people to be creative enough to use both education (the personal growth and creative development side) and schooling (the vocational/credential driven side) to create new economic foundations for our future.  Before the pandemic, I studied planetary issues such as plague, nuclear proliferation, and space exploration as modes of making the global sphere more legible.  Now more than ever are we called upon to understand that tension between our local and global especially when the global becomes the local.  I’m motivated to help contribute to UNM’s identity by working with communities to develop creative ways to understand the value of intellectual contributions and to use that dialogue to reinvest in how we move into the next chapter of our common growth. 

Please describe a Latin American role model that inspires you. This can be a historical or contemporary figure or someone you know.

While I would often cite Jorge Luis Borges as a major influence of how I framed my thinking about Global Political Economy, particularly his seminal short story “Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius”, I believe that the 21st century has produced some phenomenal artists and thinkers that have used the magic realist mode to conceptualize the planet in new and meaningful contexts.  For me, Guillermo del Toro and his eclectic creativity has been a massive inspiration to how I think about planetary belonging.  His blending of aesthetics drawn from the oceans and desert landscapes of the world and his non-linear approach to framing human history align with how I think about enchantment and thresholds and how those have implications for people interested in markets and development.

Please describe one piece of advice you have for young scholars in the field of Latin America.

Latin America has always been an intellectual threshold to important ways of thinking about the world.  Those who see value in Latin America will see frameworks that help us connect questions of belonging to questions of value in the world, and I encourage you to use your studies to shape the intellectual foundations that are needed to shape a stronger, more resilient global civil society.  Much of the solutions we need are located in what you are studying now, so tread carefully and deliberately as you contribute ideas that our students and communities so greatly need at this critical time.