Thursday, November 19, 2015
Refreshments: 3:30 Program: 4:00 – 5:00
Chapel Hill Public Library, Room B
Free and open to the public
Dr. Thompson is currently Professor of the Practice of Cultural Anthropology and Documentary Studies at Duke University, and he is also an author, filmmaker, photographer, activist and former farmer.
His most recent book, inspired by Steinbeck’s Travels with Charlie, is called Border Odyssey: Travels Along the U.S.-Mexico Divide. In it, he chronicles his journey accompanied by his wife, Hope, from one end to the other of the entire 1,969 mile border from the Texas Gulf Coast to the Pacific Ocean. During this odyssey, he visited towns and villages on both sides of the border, talked to everyone willing to engage in conversation, took remarkable photographs (now available on a companion website with an interactive map) and wrote a travel memoir full of adventure and misadventure, some comedy and some sadness. He combines a compressed version of five centuries of cultural history with meditations on our current border policy. The book is timely, given current concerns with immigration policy and daily news pictures of huge numbers of displaced people seeking asylum.
Charles Thompson has published six books; notable among them is an edited volume entitled The Human Cost of Food; Farmworkers’ Lives, Labor, and Advocacy. He has produced and directed four documentary films, the most recent of which is called Brother Towns (2010). An earlier film, We Shall Not be Moved, describes the history of Tillery, North Carolina, one of a handful of resettlement projects for African Americans, and the community’s subsequent and continuing battles to overcome racism and assaults on dignity.
He completed a Master’s and a Ph.D. in cultural anthropology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in the late 90s. His undergraduate degree is from Emory & Henry College and he has a master’s degree in agricultural education from North Carolina A&T State University. He worked as a farmer locally during which time he served as president for the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Farmers’ Market. He tells of connecting with some Mexican migrant workers, a life-changing experience that led to a decision to examine some of the issues raised in a more scholarly manner.