The Oregon State University Sesquicentennial Oral History Project

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José-Antonio Orosco Oral History Interview

Life history interview conducted by Janice Dilg.

June 25, 2015


José-Antonio Orosco was born in Quito, Ecuador in 1971 and grew up in New Mexico, where his family has been based for several generations. Growing up, Orosco's mother spoke often of the time that she spent as an exchange student in Ecuador and the politically active people that she met while there. This sparked an interest in Orosco in Central and South American affairs, and as a high school student he began attending meetings on world politics and foreign relations. At one such gathering he met Mark Rudd, a former leader of radical groups Students for a Democratic Society and the Weather Underground. Rudd mentored Orosco for two years, during which time he became increasingly engaged as a student activist.

Interested in pursuing a liberal arts education, Orosco relocated to Portland in 1988 and enrolled at Reed College. As an undergraduate, his academic focus was political philosophy; he completed his bachelor's degree in Philosophy in 1992. After graduation, Orosco remained in Portland for another year, working for an independent bookseller and as a social services manager for a local Catholic church.

In 1993 Orosco enrolled in the Philosophy graduate program at the University of California, Riverside and once again became involved as a student activist, helping to organize graduate student workers into a local branch of the United Auto Workers. He completed his master's degree in 1995 and remained at Riverside for four more years, working as a teaching assistant, reading tutor, and associate instructor.

In 1999 Orosco moved to Austin, Texas and began work on his Ph.D. which, despite his relocation, was administratively organized at UC-Riverside. During this time, Orosco taught as an adjunct at St. Edward's University and Austin Community College, and also became a union organizer for the American Federation of Teachers. In 2001, nearing the completion of his doctorate, Orosco moved back to Oregon, where he had accepted a faculty position in the Department of Philosophy and Religion at Oregon State University.

Once in Corvallis, Orosco quickly became involved with the Centro Cultural Cesar Chavez and the campus chapter of Movimiento Estudantil Chicano/Chicana de Aztlan (MEChA); he remains the faculty advisor for both groups to this day. In 2007 Orosco began teaching classes in the Ethnic Studies department as well as in Philosophy, and in 2008 he published his first book, Cesar Chavez and the Common Sense of Nonviolence.

Orosco also became involved with OSU's Peace Studies program in the mid-2000s, and has served as the program's director since 2011. Peace Studies at OSU offers an undergraduate minor and focuses on the philosophical foundations of peace, justice and conflict resolution.

Today, Orosco is an associate professor of philosophy in OSU's School of History, Philosophy and Religion. He is a founding member of OSU Faculty and Staff for Peace and Justice, a co-founder of the Anarres Project for Alternative Futures, and president of the OSU chapter of the American Association of University Professors. His teaching and research focuses on immigration, social and political philosophy, American pragmatism, and Latin American philosophy.