Thursday, October 10, 2019

Fogo, Política, Bife, y Soja

Fire, Politics, Beef, and Soy: The North Looks Amazônia Again is the title of my presentation at the Second International Seminar on Literature and Linguistics. I was very honored to be invited to speak to this gathering of scholars at UNIR, the Federal University of Rondônia in the western Amazon region of Brazil.

It was at this campus and in surrounding communities that I conducted three months of dissertation research in 1996, and to which I returned for smaller projects in 2000 and 2003.

(The Google Slides presentation is full of links to examples of discourse on the Amazon. Click everything!)

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

NOLA: Louisiana or Latin America?

This post is to provide access to the slides I used in my presentation New Orleans as a Latin American City, part of the BSU-LACS celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month. I gave the presentation as a special session of my Honors Colloquium, New Orleans: Global City.

Monday, September 16, 2019

Africa in Latin America

This slideshow will not be very coherent for those who were not present for my September 16 presentation, but is provided here for those who were present and wish to follow up on some of the included links.

Monday, August 19, 2019

Coffee in Costa Rica: January 2020 Travel Course

Sign up now! Applications are due Sept 27
Program cost $3,275 includes airfare from Boston,
tuition, meals, guides, lodging, transportation
-- and a lot of coffee!

Please join me for Geography of Coffee, a travel course in Costa Rica, January 3-14, 2020. This Bridgewater State University course is open to all; our credits transfer easily. This will be our first travel course in Costa Rica, building on more than a decade of experience in neighboring Nicaragua.

Costa Rica originated the concept of ecotourism -- the idea of using sustainable tourism both as an effective form of environmental education and an economic alternative to deforestation. Our ecotourism will focus on the coffeelands and the people who sustain and are sustained by coffee. We will also visit volcanoes and learn about their connection to coffee. Part of our visit will be hosted by the Bribri indigenous community.

This course is offered mainly for undergraduate credit, but I will work with graduate students in any discipline to develop extra learning activities for graduate credit. Credits transfer easily from BSU to other institutions, and I have nearly always had at least one student from another university in this course.

Also note that BSU undergraduates can take this for credit even if they have already completed GEOG 295 in Nicaragua. Much of the content will be similar, but each country in coffeelands is unique!

Applications are due September 27, 2018. Applications, syllabus, and other details are at
 BSU Study Abroad.

Back Story:

Those who know me know that the coffeelands of Nicaragua have become a second home since I first visited in 2006. Over 100 students have made the journey with me, and since 2009 all of those trips have been led by Matagalpa Tours, . All of the MT guides share my passion for experiential learning through the medium of coffee, and they will be bringing that same expertise to this journey.
Sadly -- for reasons I detail under the #sosnicaragua tag on my main blog and social media -- we cannot go to Nicaragua for the foreseeable future, but ecotourism and coffee in Costa Rica are legendary, so this will be an equally rewarding experience.

Borderland Nachos

I use Facebook as a microblog, pointing friends and followers to posts on various blogs and review sites. Recently, all of the links to my "main" blog were severed by Facebook without explanation.

The action was probably triggered by somebody who did not agree with a post in migration or the environment. I learned of the censorship when ¡Feliz Cumpleaños, Nacho! -- my celebration of the inventor of nachos -- was cited for violating community standards. Hmmm.
As close as I could get to Ignacio's original recipe:
Vermont cheddar instead of Wisconsin

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Summer School with the Coffee Maven

Coffee is not the only thing I teach. This summer, I am offering four classes -- two very much on the ground and two sections of one course online. These are New Bedford: Maritime City (two weeks in June), Coffee Week (a single week in August), and two sections of Environmental Geography (five weeks each, completely online). All of these courses are easily transferred to other universities.

Information about the courses is in the links above; registration details are at

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Coffee on a Student-Centered Campus

Why are there faculty members
littering the hallway
in Boyden?
In many ways -- most ways, even -- my academic life is charmed. I define my own agenda for teaching and scholarship, with a lot of latitude (and longitude!) to teach what interests me and to teach creatively. This does not just mean teaching with and about coffee, but that is really a big part of it.

In some ways, though, my colleagues and I work in an environment that needlessly saps our strength. Since the English landed at a nearby rock in 1620, we have had about 105 governors, none of whom have been much interested in public higher education. The current generation of state legislators does include a few dozen who have attended public colleges, but they have not been able to steer the Commonwealth in the direction of responsible funding. So per-capita funding lags behind 48 or 49 of the other states in a typical year, causing students to pay more than they should while faculty and librarians receive less. But we love our learning and our teaching, so we do what we must, and we become New Englander enough to tighten our proverbial belts.

A younger Coffee Maven confronting the
BHE years before I was even
teaching about coffee. And my
 colleagues were at it years before that.
Still, every time our contracts are ready for renewal, we have dozens of bargaining sessions with political appointees who care not one whit about academic performance before coming to a belated and paltry settlement and some semblance of academic freedom.

And then ... then the real fun begins, because the bargaining teams operating on behalf of Miles Standish or whoever currently serves as governor do not let him (it's usually a him, though the her we had before Prince Romney was no better) know what they have agreed to, and we have to start all over again. Not in hammering out the details -- the governors do not care enough even to harass us on specifics -- but in simply making the case that we should have contracts.

It is embarrassing for all concerned and a testament to the disdain with which our students are viewed by public officials, but we do it. And sometimes it means we have to show up to work in matching t-shirts, and stage pickets or sit-ins -- just to keep the university going.

Today is such a time -- the 481st day we have worked without a settled contract, just two weeks before the next gubernatorial election, in which the incumbent is confident that voters simply do not care about this issue. Because we have work to do, we picket as we work -- writing lessons, grading papers, even holding office hours -- in the hallway of our well-appointed administrative building. 

And finally I get to the point of this post -- even the best buildings on our campus lack a decent coffee shop, so I brought coffee to this work-in. Our campus is publicly committed to sustainability and social justice and is currently exploring ways to be more student-focused (getting more out of our 168-hour/week faculty will not be easy), but the coffee situation reflects none of this. Even though hundreds of BSU students have studied coffee -- and more than 100 have even picked coffee, it is hard to find a decent cup on our campus. Unless I'm in the room, of course. 

As the Coffee Maven, I like to share the bounty that is fair-trade, organic coffee. Until we are able to do so systematically and routinely through campus cafes, I will be seen showing up to meetings -- or protests -- with a carafe (or 2 or 3) of coffee to share.
Students have worked with me to suggest better approaches, but so far we have not succeeded. I invite BSU community members to read more about the Ben Linder Café proposal (denied but not forgotten), to "like" it on Facebook, or to watch my TEDxBSU talk on a 2040 vision for ethical, sustainable coffee across the entire BSU campus.