UWG Professor Receives National Endowment for Humanities Award

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

The University of West Georgia’s Dr. J. Salvador Peralta, assistant professor of political science, recently received a National Endowment for Humanities “Enduring Questions” grant for over $21,000. UWG was only one of three universities in Georgia to receive an NEH grant this year. The university will use the funds to create a course that explores the enduring question: “what does it mean to be free?”

Peralta, originally from Nicaragua, says that his perspective of freedom has been evolving throughout his life. Because of his experiences, he is working to develop a course that will delve deeply into the meaning of freedom across a multitude of levels and perspectives.

“Growing up in Nicaragua during a time of dictatorship and war made me imagine other places to live and what it would be like to be free,” he says. “Once I came to the U.S. as an immigrant, I faced language and culture barriers that hindered what I saw as true freedom.”

Peralta hopes that his students will expand their thinking about what it means to be free and not settle for a simple definition that includes a democratic society. As a large part of the course he will continually ask students to place themselves in various situations throughout history. For example, the students will read Letter from a Birmingham Jail by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and visit the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site in Atlanta to attempt to more closely comprehend his struggle with freedom in a democratic society.

He also plans to not only ask students to read the play Antigone but he will also ask them to re-enact the play to help students truly gain perspective. Also on the course reading list is Primo Levi’s If This Is a Man, in which Levi recounts his experience in Auschwitz.

“I want students to comprehend what compels someone to stand up for freedom,” Peralta says. “I don’t only mean the political definition of freedom, but also freedom in its various forms because there are psychological, economic, religious, and other barriers to freedom that we experience everyday. This is what I want the students to discover and explore for themselves. Ultimately, I want them to ask themselves ‘how free am I?’ and ‘what does it mean to be free?’”

The course is projected to start in the fall 2013 semester. For more information on the National Endowment for Humanities “Enduring Questions” grant, please visit the NEH website. For more information on UWG’s Department of Political Science and Planning, please visit the department website or call 678-839-6504.