This issue of Public: A Journal of Imagining America focuses on implications and mechanics of civically engaged research, teaching, and creative practice across national boundaries. What does it mean to be "globally engaged?" What principles guide the building and sustaining of equitable relationships with international partners? What opportunities and challenges can/do international engagement partnerships present? What are the politics of framing and funding engaged arts, humanities, and design projects abroad? How do we recognize global engagement that is an extension of colonialism: "beneficent" projects that "bring civilization" to communities seen as eternal victims or as primitives? How do we enact a paradigm grounded in two-way projects aimed at bringing various populations' epistemologies, semiotic paradigms, theories, and philosophies into scholarly and public discourse within and beyond their nations?
In this interview––conducted by Olivia Gagnon, an NYU Performance Studies doctoral student who was a graduate assistant for the course––Taylor discusses “Art, Migration, and Human Rights,” which was developed as an urgent response to the crisis of forced migration from Central America through México. Reflecting on what made this version of the Chiapas course so unique, Taylor discusses the radical possibilities offered by (multilingual) digital publishing platforms; the importance of situated knowledge, collaborative pedagogy, and embodied practice; the problematics of access; and the creation of political environments for engaged learning and cross-cultural collaboration.
Given the increasingly globally interconnected world we all live and work in, it's important for study abroad opportunities to further students' knowledge, skills, and disposition as they become socially responsible professionals. Community-based design projects are one way of accomplishing these goals.
For the past 40 years, Alternate ROOTS has been a champion of, and resource for, artists, cultural workers, and progressive movement builders in the southern United States. In this article, Nicole Gurgel interviews two longtime ROOTS members — Elise Witt and José Torres-Tama — and explores these artists’ responses to the global challenges the Deep South is facing. Witt directs an arts-integrated curriculum at a school for teenage refugee girls in Decatur, GA. Torres-Tama uses performance, visual arts, bilingual poetry, critical writings, and the development of a mobile teatro to ensure that the enormous contributions Latina/o immigrants made to New Orleans’ post-Katrina reconstruction are not forgotten. Both projects bear witness to immigrant experiences in the South, resisting and complicating the polemic black/white struggle that has long defined the region and the nation’s racial paradigm. Positioning their work within the context of European colonization, cross-Atlantic slave trade, and late-twentieth-century US imperialism, these artists reveal the ways in which global conflict and resistance to it has been, and continues to be, woven into the fabric of the South. As artists, their work not only illuminates these issues, but also underscores the power and value of engaging with them through the arts.
This essay utilizes a personal case study to address the nuances of the race/culture nexus in Black spaces. The assumptions that many continental Africans, African Americans, and African Caribbeans have historically had of each other, while nuanced in intellectual conversations, remain something of a stereotype in the public imaginary. I use the personal narrative here as a vehicle to explore what “Blackness” means in both US and Caribbean contexts, including in the distinct intersections of color and class in both places. This essay engages discourses around post-Blackness, globalization, nationalism, and cultural identity, as well as conversations about fragmentation and continuity with regard to group consciousness and collectivity.
The Borderland of Arts, Cultures, Nations Centre (Sejny, Poland) created one of the most original programs for working with history and memory in a specific place and community. Its results and significance go far beyond the local context. The ideas, attitudes, and cultural practices developed by Krzysztof Czyżewski, the Borderland founder, are organized into an original philosophy of the “culture of remembering.” By rejecting oblivion as a method of neutralizing the demons of the past and by analyzing the mechanism of forgetting, Czyżewski declares himself for a “cultural archaeology of memory,” which is based on painstaking, lengthy, everyday work with people. The culture of remembrance practiced in this way not only builds social ties and cultural identity, but also inspires artistic exploration and new forms of expression. Memory becomes an authentic part of everyday experience.
Reflected Borderlands examines the influence of the Borderland Center, a Polish-based, internationally recognized NGO whose work focuses on engaging arts-based strategies to address issues of ethno-national conflict, on a recent community-engaged initiative developed by the Department of Arts, Culture and Media (ACM) at Rutgers University-Newark (RU-N). The piece discusses early contacts between the two organizations, follows the development of what became the Urban Civic Initiative at RU-N and the “My Story” Project (which brings socially and educationally challenged youth into university classrooms in order to study alongside undergraduate ACM students) that grew out of it. In closing, “Reflected Borderlands” analyzes the influences the Borderland Center had on the development of the “My Story” Project, and touches on what these influence might suggests for further international collaborations in the field of community-engaged arts-based practice.
This essay offers a discussion of the front stage and backstage processes that created Digital Portobelo: Art + Scholarship + Cultural Preservation (digitalportobelo.org), a collaborative, interdisciplinary, digital humanities project that focuses on an Afro-Latin community located on the Caribbean coast of the Republic of Panama. Front stage refers to the humanities-driven research questions and processes that animate the project. It also names the project’s forward-facing conceptual design. Backstage refers to the digital competencies, tools, and behind-the-scenes labor that produce the website, as well as the interdependent constellation of teams that make it possible. With Digital Portobelo as their focus, Alexander Craft and Pamella Lach engage with the following questions: How can we build digital rubrics that reflect the dynamism of community-engaged scholarship through qualitative research and extend our collaborative potential? What are the processes of translation necessary to render deeply contextual qualitative work across multiple embodied and virtual cultural contexts? How might “staging” these processes offer nuanced discussions about the cultural practices at the heart of community-engaged scholarship? How might this work expand upon, as well as challenge, the notion of open-access, particularly in its attempts to span the digital divide? And how does doing global digital humanities highlight and underscore the limitations and assumptions embedded in digital humanities (DH) tools and practices? How does our work point to not only the linguistic limitations of our tools, but the cultural biases scaffolded in our platforms, processes, and methods?
This paper examines the written reflections of three writing teachers coming from the United States to South Africa, spanning a period from 1981 to 1992. All wrote books about their experiences that were admired in the United States; one even reached the New York Times list of top ten nonfiction books. Within South Africa, in contrast, none of the books were particularly well received and they have been rarely mentioned since publication. However, all three describe common conflicts that arose from the pedagogy that they sought to implement, and all illuminate the otherwise invisible micropolitics of the South African classroom at both the secondary and tertiary level.
Designers are increasingly working in cross-cultural situations. This trend is impacting design education and resulting in a rising number of US college students participating in study abroad programs with a desire to engage in work with people from different cultures (Keen and Hall 2009; Altbach and Knight 2007). How do these trends impact pedagogy? And how can study abroad design education adapt to provide effective tools to improve cross-cultural competence while collaborating with people from different cultures? This paper uses the redesign of an international design studio in Ghana, West Africa, as a case study reflecting the range of outcomes associated with the adoption of different pedagogical methods. The paper builds from a literature review of cross-cultural competencies focusing on specific metrics. The case study reflects the lessons learned by adopting cross-cultural design education tools, and shifting from formal and instructor-led to informal and student-driven educational experiences, These approaches are derived from methods for building cross-cultural competence in order to enhance collaboration between US faculty and students and Ghanaians. The tools used range from transferring information gained about Ghanaian culture, to translating that information into knowledge through various interactions with Ghanaians, to transforming that knowledge into cocreated design outcomes spanning art, design, and planning.
The University of Kentucky Summer Study Abroad Program in Brazil is a suite of collaborative courses that explore socially responsible design as a means of engaging stakeholders in shaping their environment and, in the process, building community. Participating students engage with the people, culture, and community in order to create design interventions that respond to real-life design issues. This essay features qualitative assessment instruments measuring our method of immersing students in a culture through a joint study abroad and community-engaged experience in order to achieve cultural understanding. The data demonstrates the transformative experience of community-engaged design abroad, which is not often measured in such contexts (Gillespie 2002). The findings support a learning experience that increased cultural competency, community roles, and design competencies.
This edited conversation explores questions of community impact and value in engaged, short-term projects such as the design-build study abroad experience Rebekah Radtke describes. Joining Rebekah are Sylvia Gale, University of Richmond’s Bonner Center for Civic Engagement and member of Imagining America’s Assessing the Practices of Public Scholarship [APPS] research group; Stephani Etheridge Woodson, Arizona State University, School of Film, Dance and Theatre and also a member of APPS; and Jocelyn Zanzot, Mobile Studio.
Community is the container of everyday urban life. The quality of the community environment depends on local residents’ happiness and wellbeing. Collaborative self-organization plays an important role in bottom-up community development. This paper offers a case study of a self-organized senior club, “Sweet Home,” in Shanghai, whose residents collaborated with design students and faculty in 2012. We present four design projects that reflect the different design research methods we applied to the co-creation process. We also discuss the results of the evaluation we conducted. Through the project, we found that design could be an amplifier of local ingenuity and thus promote the quality of the community environment. We end with suggestions for improving community-based teaching.
This review analyzes Carole Boyce Davies’ 2013 book, Caribbean Spaces: Escapes from Twilight Zones. This book combines literary analysis, historical research, and photographs with biographical and autobiographical anecdotes to explore the experiences of immigration/exile from the Caribbean as a phenomena with local, global, and given the author’s attention to her own experiences of exile, personal consequences. Through this attention and inclusion of her own navigation of airports, New York streets, and English departments, Boyce Davies boldly and unapologetically declares that the personal is academic. While the work focuses on the interactions and cultures of Caribbean spaces in Miami, New York, and London, Boyce Davies investment in the construction and maintenance of the parameters of these spaces invites a global consideration of networks of exchange that defies efforts at temporal, generic, and disciplinary categorization.
The web-based magazine, Of Note, describes itself as “a digital space where art meets activism,” with a particular emphasis on “under the radar” artists that are “often neglected in the media.” The scope of the site’s coverage is global, covering artists who are working as catalysts, change makers, and storytellers “to impact policy, promote global citizenship, inspire social consciousness, (and) motivate action...” One of the site’s most prominent features is a commitment to critical issues affecting women, youth, and immigrants. As such, advocacy and network building around the issues covered are an implicit aspect of almost every story, which feature links to opportunities for active participation and support. The magazine is a good example of activist publication working in partnership with its subjects---artists who use their skills to engage, expose, and reveal the often-invisible lives of others.
A review of one of the most provocative books to come out in the last ten years concerning the role of the arts in human development.