Critical Mission Studies at California's Crossroads

The CSRC-based research project “Critical Mission Studies at California’s Crossroads”  is funded by a $1.03 million grant from the University of California Multicampus Research Programs and Initiatives (MRPI).  Charlene Villaseñor Black, CSRC associate director and professor of art history and Chicana/o studies, is the lead principal investigator on the project, which reconsiders California’s twenty-one Spanish-Indian missions. The  leadership structure reflects collaboration and partnership with diverse California Indian tribal nations and peoples who have been impacted by the history of the missions. The CMS Coordinating Committee is composed of the four UC faculty principal investigators and four California Indian Research Partners.  Research labs will be established at CSRC, UC Riverside, UC Santa Cruz, and UC San Diego, where faculty, graduate students, undergraduates, national and international experts, and community partners will draw on the academic disciplines of Native American, Chicana/o, California, and Mexican studies to create an inclusive narrative of California history. Research sites will include state archives, the missions, and surrounding communities. K-12 educator workshops and public programming will be held in conjunction with the project.

One of sixteen projects selected from a pool of 179 submissions for 2019 awards, “Critical Mission Studies at California’s Crossroads” is the only one that will be led at UCLA. In addition to Villaseñor Black, the principal investigators on the project are Jennifer Hughes, associate professor of history, UC Riverside; Amy Lonetree, associate professor of history, UC Santa Cruz; and Ross H. Frank, associate professor of ethnic studies, UC San Diego.

The project ran from January 1, 2019 through December 30, 2021. The grant was led by PI Charlene Villaseñor Black (UCLA) and co-PIs Jennifer Scheper-Hughes (UCR), Renya Ramirez (UCSC), and Ross Frank (UCSD), along with four California Indian Research Partners, Yve Chavez (UCSC), Jonathan Cordero (Cal Lutheran), Stan Rodriguez (UCSC and Kumeyaay College), and Valentin Lopez (Tribal Chair, Amah Mutsun). Over the course of the grant, Critical Mission Studies at California’s Crossroads funded thirteen Community Initiated Partnership Programs with California Indian entities, two postdoctoral fellowships (one in conjunction with the U.C. President’s Postdoctorate Fellowship Program), four UC faculty research projects, eight graduate student research projects, and two Humanities laboratories, in addition to graduate and undergraduate student funding at each of the four coPI campuses.  Research programs covered participants from seven UC campuses, and over twenty California Indian communities. The grant  established protocols for consultation and working with California Indians. Included among these protocols was the establishment of a California Indian Advisory Board and the election of four California Indian Research Partners. Several important conferences were convened, including one to honor the removal of the Santa Cruz mission bell, another on the tearing down of racist monuments (such as statues of Father Serra, the founder of California’s missions), and on new research on the missions and their decorations. A publication is under contract with UC Press, a Handbook of Critical Mission Studies, edited by an editorial collective of the four PIs and four California Indian Research Partners, with contributions by numerous scholars and community members.

Press Release
"More than $9M in research grants awarded to UC campuses to address critical issues"
University of California Press Room, December 17, 2018 (PDF)
Press Coverage
"Art History Professor, Charlene Villaseñor Black, Wins 2019 MRPI Funding Award"
UCLA College, Humanities DIvision News, December 11, 2018 (PDF)
"California Indian Scholars to Lead Conversation on Missions"
UCR News, July 9, 2020 (PDF)
"We Have a Story to Tell: Indigenous Scholars, Activists Speak Up Amid Toppling of Serra Statues"
Religion News Service, July 9, 2020 (PDF)
November 12-14, 2021
UC San Diego and Sycuan Singing Hills Resort, El Cajon
July 15, 2020
3 - 6 p.m.
Online event via Zoom
Recordings of the panel presentations are viewable on CSRC YouTube
November 8-9, 2019
Korn Convocation Hall
UCLA Anderson School of Management

Recordings of the panel presentations are viewable on CSRC YouTube