October 01, 2004
Char Miller

Char Miller, editor of Fifty Years of the Texas Observer, gets profiled in the San Antonio Current this week.

Miller has become so ubiquitous (he recently referred to himself with characteristic self-deprecation as a "media whore") and so universally respected, that it's easy to forget he's a bona fide progressive. Or perhaps it's just that we think of him as our progressive. But Miller is in favor of spending more money on education ("I think San Antonians, rich and poor, have been undereducated"), he's suspicious of developers (the business community likes a weak council, he says, "because they can influence policy making through staff and they don't have to deal with council"), and he's ambivalent about cars (" ... in postmillennial San Antonio, which is utterly dependent on the automobile ... we daily flee the very human set of interactions that once made this community so livable"). Now he has his own printing press in the Trinity University Press, which this fall is coming out with a collection of his essays, Deep in the Heart of San Antonio: Land and Life in South Texas. As students of history can tell you -Miller is a professor of economic, social, and environmental history at Trinity where he recently chaired the History and Urban Studies programs - Gutenberg's invention set in motion a cultural revolution that is still underway, taking knowledge and information out of the exclusive control of the elites and putting it in the hands of the common people.

Miller is interested in doing much the same thing with his writing, moving it out of the academic journals and into the hands of citizens. "What I wanted to do was write a book that spoke to my very deep needs and interests about this community, but which I hoped could talk to neighborhood associations, could talk to the City Council, could speak to power brokers of one kind or another, and not necessarily convince them, but raise issues." It's no coincidence, it seems, that Miller chaired the search committee that hired Trinity University Press Director Barbara Ras. "Part of the press' mission is to find really high quality books that speak directly to the experiences of people in this region," Miller says, "and in that process generate and sustain a kind of intellectual life that hasn't been happening." Or has been happening in small pockets. The press' first run of titles also includes Fifty Years of the Texas Observer, a collection of articles from the state's journal of progressive and radical politics, edited by Miller.

I took two classes from Char while I was at Trinity, and I enjoyed them enough to briefly contemplate a history minor. I regained my senses once I realized I don't do so well reading books on deadline (as you may have noticed), but the classes I took were still cool. Anyway, it's a nice piece, so check it out.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on October 01, 2004 to Books | TrackBack