Dr. Louie Dean Valencia-García: Portrait of a Prolific Professor

Dr. Louie Dean Valencia-García is a prolific, recognizable scholar at Texas State University. Currently an Assistant Professor in the Department of History, Dr. Valencia-García has made impressive strides as a leader in the field of digital humanities, and his publications and research endeavors have been met with enthusiasm and praise.

Dr. Valencia started his career here at Texas State University as an undergraduate student in the Honors College, where he earned degrees in European Studies, International Studies, and Spanish. He attributes his current intellectual interests to the combination of these disciplines.  As an undergraduate, his honors thesis explored youth culture in Spain in the 1970s. This project led him to examine how the queer community in Spain expressed themselves in ways that they could not before the 1970s, a topic not widely researched elsewhere. For Dr. Valencia, the main questions were about what young people experienced under a dictatorship and how fascism impacted their lives.

After earning a bachelor’s degree at Texas State, Dr. Valencia ventured to Spain where he taught at a bilingual elementary school in a working-class neighborhood in Madrid. It was here that he developed a passionate interest in Spain that led him back to Spain every summer to conduct research during his master’s and doctoral studies at Fordham University.

Upon completing his doctoral studies, Dr. Valencia taught at Harvard University in the History and Literature Department. But when a position opened up at Texas State, he jumped at the opportunity to return to his alma mater. Dr. Valencia says this decision was “probably one of the easiest decisions I have ever had to make… that was a no brainer for me.” Texas State was where it all began. The relationships that Dr. Valencia forged with professors who mentored him and supported him on his journey were very impactful to him, and he describes his return as “perfect.”

“It was always the end goal to return to Texas State,” Dr. Valencia says. Many of his peers warned him that returning as a professor would be challenging, but Dr. Valencia was determined to come back to where it all began. Texas State offered him a position in the History Department, and he happily accepted. “I’m probably one of the luckiest people I know,” Dr. Valencia says of the opportunity he was given to return.   

Besides his tenure at Harvard, Dr. Valencia has also collaborated with other Ivy League schools, including Columbia University and Princeton University. At Princeton, he served as the Director of Aspects of Leadership at the Leadership Enterprise for a Diverse America (LEDA) Summer Institute, a fully-funded seven-week program that invites one hundred high-achieving high school seniors from across the United States from lower socioeconomic backgrounds to selective universities. According to LEDA, “In 2017, 70% of the cohort was admitted to at least one Ivy League school, MIT, or Stanford University. 97% was admitted to at least one Most Competitive school.”

“How do you prepare people who are primarily first-generation students, primarily people of color who are applying to Ivy League institutions… [H]ow do you get them better prepared?” Dr. Valencia believes that his work with LEDA addresses these concerns. “We’re just trying to give these students that extra edge they need to stand out and be good candidates, and also help them once they’re there.” Even before he began working with LEDA at Princeton, Dr. Valencia found himself motivated to help students, especially less-advantaged students, excel.

Dr. Valencia’s own experience as a student applying for college informs his desire to help others. “I don’t think I would have thought to apply to those schools… [A] lot of students don’t think they can go to Harvard, especially students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds. Having gone from a state, public school, to a private university in New York for graduate school, to teaching at Harvard, I felt that I had learned a lot about the process of where I am able to help students coming from a place where they don’t necessarily have the knowledge to get to those places… I thought this program would be a good way to help make it easier for students who had to fight to get to Harvard, and who even encountered difficulties while they were there.”

Dr. Valencia is also currently a Research Editor for EuropeNow, the monthly journal of the Council for European Studies at Columbia University. Unlike a lot of academic journals that don’t have a public face, this journal publishes items of general interest that are publicly accessible, which Dr. Valencia believes is important.

European studies have been the focus of Dr. Valencia’s research agenda since his time as an undergraduate at Texas State. More recently, his research has examined the resurgence of fascism and the growth of the alt-right. In an article published by the Center for Analysis of the Radical Right (CARR), Dr. Valencia writes, “When most scholars and journalists think of the contemporary radical right, we often mostly are thinking about white nationalist adjacent actors and proponents. The more nuanced analyses include discussions of gender, sexuality, class, and embodiment, in addition to race and nationality.” There are many layers to Dr. Valencia’s research of the Radical Right, and his passion has led to his growing involvement with CARR. Dr. Valencia is currently a Senior Fellow at CARR, which he says aggregates knowledge on the Radical Right in order to lead the discussion on the development of radical right extremism around the world.

Dr. Valencia has been involved with CARR and EuropeNow since their inception, and he likes working on projects that are recent, relevant, and collaborative. He is currently looking forward to the first annual conference hosted by CARR this summer in London, where he will be presenting a new book that he is editing. He considers anthologies, collections, and other collaborations as some of the most valuable contributions of his career. “For me, [collaboration] is the best part. I don’t think of it as work. It’s about having conversations that I believe are important to have,” Dr. Valencia says.

The timeliness of his research agenda makes Dr. Valencia an engaging public scholar. “CARR allows me a space where I can think of the ways that my work can be more relevant. I don’t think I was necessarily doing that before.” Dr. Valencia pulls from his research insights into things happening around the world today and tries to contextualize those events historically.

“Specifically, I want my work to speak to the value of pluralism, having diverse opinions and people; having those two things creates better ideas and ultimately more democracy.”

Dr. Valencia strives to create an impact through his work and hopes to utilize his study of the Radical Right to inspire open-mindedness and diversity.

“If I boil down fascism to one sentence, it’s that it is a belief that there is purity, and we should have a homogenous world view and a homogenous people. I think that the ‘cure’ to fascism is to have a pluralism of ideas and people. That’s what I want to show in my work, particularly with CARR.”

 Dr. Valencia believes it is important for people to be aware of the multiple trends that have historically occurred. ““I want people to recognize fascism, understand it, and think about ways that they can combat it,” he says. “Fascism is usually racist. Fascism is usually sexist. Fascism is usually queerphobic. Fascism is usually, in some way, nationalistic. The more we curb those tendencies, the better it is for democracy.”

Often times in the field, nationalism takes the center stage when fascism is discussed, and Dr. Valencia believes this needs to change. “We need to, just as much, think about gender issues, race issues, queer issues, in relation to how fascism happens.” Typically, all of these factors are interwoven in the issue, and Dr. Valencia strives to integrate and address these issues in his work with Fascism.

When asked when his interest in fascism began, Dr. Valencia points to a paper he wrote in the sixth grade on Hitler. His interest in studying the subject stemmed from inquiries, trying to figure out why and how fascism not only existed but thrived. “The deeper you get in, the harder it is to discern the motivating factors,” he says, and specifically, Dr. Valencia wanted to explore how young people resisted that.

He has most recently channeled this energy in his new book, Antiauthoritarian Youth Culture in Francoist Spain: Clashing with Fascism, which describes the ways young people rebelled against the dictatorship of Francisco Franco and studies how young people created democratic and pluralistic spaces under the régime.

A plurality of voices and community action also underpins another of Dr. Valencia’s current project where he investigates how the queer community, healthcare policymakers, community organizers, scientists, and technologists influenced and advanced HIV/AIDS research in Europe during the first two decades of the crisis.

Dr. Valencia writes to people who are interested in preserving and expanding pluralism and who want to encourage diversity. By looking at extremism, he believes that we can better understand where we have been, where we are now, and where we are going.

There are many ways to find out more about Dr. Louie Dean Valencia-García and his work. He has published many articles and held many fellowships. He has been featured in numerous publications and on several news media outlets. He is also editing a forthcoming volume, Far-Right Revisionism and the End of History: Alt/Histories, that explores the ways contemporary far-right movements have used history to legitimate themselves. He is also actively working on new projects, including a book about alternative histories and ideologies set to be published soon.

Photo Credit: Fordham University