Christopher Valesey joins us this fall to teach online sections of History 150, “The West in the World.” An early modern global historian, he received his PhD in Colonial Latin American History from Penn State University in 2019. While a graduate student, he served as an editorial assistant for the Hispanic American Historical Review. He also briefly worked as a paleographer and translator for PBS’s show, Finding Your Roots. His research interests are in sixteenth-century Mexico, Nahuatl (the language of the Aztec empire), human-animal studies, and cultural change. His dissertation, “Managing the Herd: Nahuas, Animals, and Colonialism in Sixteenth-Century New Spain,” challenges the traditional narrative that livestock and other Old World animals served primarily as unwittingly destructive agents of Spanish colonialism. Dr. Valesey’s first article, “Perseverance of the Eagle-Jaguar Military Ethos in Sixteenth-Century New Spain” is scheduled for publication in The Sixteenth Century Journal.

What was your journey to Ball State?

Like many people on the job market last year, one of the jobs I applied for was unfortunately cancelled in the midst of the interview process. Luckily, Ball State University’s advertisement for an Assistant Teaching Professor popped up later in the summer. I’m glad that I ultimately ended up at Ball State University. Everything seems to happen for a reason!

Dr. Charles Valesey, Assistant Teaching Professor of History

 

How would you describe your perspective on teaching?

I believe that quality teaching is closely intertwined with quality research. Being current on research trends isn’t just a matter of integrating recent articles or monographs into one’s curriculum. It also means exposing students to the research questions and methods that are driving the field. This is particularly important in a history class because students typically assume that the past has already been decided. In contrast, history is hotly contested, and the types of questions we ask make a world of difference.

Are you currently working on any projects? 

I am currently in the process of revising my dissertation into a book manuscript. My book is called “Nahuas and the Columbian Exchange: Animals and Colonialism in Sixteenth-Century New Spain.” In my work, I challenge the traditional narrative that livestock and other Old-World animals served as unwittingly destructive agents of Spanish colonialism in Mesoamerica. On the contrary, using a range of Spanish and Nahuatl sources, I show the myriad ways that Nahuas adopted newly introduced species to improve their quality of life, assert personal or communal authority, share ideas, and participate in new modes of labor.

What has teaching History taught you? 

Teaching History has shown me just how important history courses are for students in every academic discipline. We live in both the Age of Information and the Age of Misinformation; it has never been so easy to access information online, but at the same time, it has never been easier to spread misinformation through the Internet. History classes teach students how to interrogate information. We ask important questions about authors, audience, and intent, all of which are important for navigating modern news and social media.

What are your hobbies/interests? 

I am currently a purple belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, a martial art that focuses on grappling. I have been training since 2013.

What are you currently reading if anything? 

For leisure, I am currently reading Joe Abercrombie’s First Law Trilogy.