Davíd Carrasco is the inaugural Neil L. Rudenstine Professor of the Study of Latin America at Harvard University, with a joint appointment in the Harvard Divinity School and the Department of Anthropology in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, and director of the Moses Mesoamerican Archive and Research Project. He received his Ph.D. in the History of Religions from the University of Chicago (1977) under Mircea Eliade, Charles Long, Jonathan Smith, Paul Wheatley, and Friedrich Katz, specializing in Mesoamerican religions and theory and method in the study of religion.
For more than thirty-five years he has led an international, interdisciplinary working group of scholars focusing on various topics, including the large-scale excavation of the Great Aztec Temple in the heart of Mexico City, the great Mesoamerican Classic period city of pyramids known as Teotihuacan, the “Abode of the Gods,” and the Mapa de Cuauhtinchan No. 2, an early colonial period map depicting the history, mythology, and lands of a community in the state of Puebla, south of Mexico City.
Carrasco’s own research on Mesoamerica has focused on the symbolic nature of cities, myth, sacred space, and ritual performance and has produced monographs, such as Quetzalcoatl and the Irony of Empire: Myths and Prophecies in the Aztec Tradition (1982), Religions of Mesoamerica: Cosmovision and Ceremonial Centers (1990), City of Sacrifice: The Aztec Empire and the Role of Violence in Civilization (1999), and The Aztecs: A Very Short Introduction (2012). He also is editor-in-chief of the three-volume Oxford Encyclopedia of Mesoamerican Cultures (2001).
His research interests also extend to the religious dimensions of Latin Americans and Latinos, and to issues of identity, race, and ethnicity in the United States, especially the Mexican-American Borderlands, leading to various collaborative projects with, for example, cultural critic Cornel West, novelist Toni Morrison, and filmmaker Robert M. Young. He recently coproduced Alambrista: The Director’s Cut (2004), a restored and greatly enhanced version of Young’s iconic 1977 film which documents the life and struggles of Mexican farm workers in the U.S., and coedited the companion Alambrista and the U.S.–Mexico Border: Film, Music, and Stories of Undocumented Immigrants (with Nicholas J. Cull, 2004), a mixed-media educational package intended to raise awareness about their current plight.
For more than four decades, Carrasco has dedicated himself to teaching at institutions such as Malcolm X College, the University of Illinois at Chicago, the University of Colorado at Boulder, Princeton University, Harvard University, the National Faculty, and elsewhere in the U.S., Japan, and Australia. He has won several teaching and book awards and in 2005 he received the Order of the Aztec Eagle, the highest honor given by the Mexican Government to a foreign national, in recognition of extraordinary contributions to understanding Mexican history and culture.