Associate Professor of Sociology and American Studies
Wilson Valentín-Escobar is an associate professor of American studies and sociology at Hampshire College, where he teaches courses in critical ethnic American studies, Latin@ and Puerto Rican studies, cultural studies, art and social change, and oral history theory and methodology. He holds a Ph.D. in American studies from the University of Michigan.
His research centers on the politics and poetics of cultural production. Valentín-Escobar's early research documented the process and cultural significance of musical production within the Puerto Rican and Nuyorican diasporic community. This research highlighted how salsa and Latin jazz are inter-musical, transnational processes that embody popular memory, resistance struggles, and diasporic transracial alliances. His current work focuses on the critical role that community arts centers have in fostering how U.S.-based Latino/a avant-garde artists engage in artistic collective practices for decolonial emancipation through public performances and alternative art spaces.
A Brooklyn New York-native, Valentín-Escobar is currently completing the book Bodega Surrealism: The Emergence of Latin@ Artivists in New York City (New York University Press, forthcoming). The manuscript, which derives from his award-winning dissertation, examines the cultural activism, or "artivism," of two community-based art communities and projects that originated in the 1970s within the Lower East Side neighborhood of New York City: the New Rican Village Cultural Arts Center and El Puerto Rican Embassy. Based on the premise that culture has the potential to create anti-hegemonic, emancipatory social change for a generation of working-class Puerto Rican and Latina/o artists, members of both art centers responded to the social and political alienation they and their accompanying communities experienced. By examining cultural performances, art installations, and arts programming, Valentín-Escobar demonstrates how these artists embarked upon aesthetic, social, spatial, and political interventions.
During the 2011-2012 academic year, Professor Valentín-Escobar was a Postdoctoral Associate in the Program in Ethnicity, Race, and Migration at Yale University. The Andrew W. Mellon Fellowship, the Fred C. Andersen Fellowship at Carleton College, the Rackham Merit Fellowship at the University of Michigan, and the George Washington Henderson Fellowship at the University of Vermont have funded his scholarship. His research and writings have appeared in important scholarly, peer-reviewed anthologies and academic journals.
In May 2012, Valentín received the Best Dissertation Prize from the Latina/o Studies section of the Latin American Studies Association (LASA).
There are close to 54 million Latin@s residing within the United States, accounting for the largest "minority majority" within the United States. This rise in numbers is largely caused by economic, political and other social policies, prompting Latin@s to reside into new regions, cities, and towns that were once hostile to them, accounting for new demographic shifts and thus, Remapping las Americas. In the process, Latin@s have undeniably emerged as a significant political, cultural, economic and social force. Utilizing an interdisciplinary, Critical Ethnic Studies and transnational framework, this course is designed as an introductory foray to studying Latin@ communities in the United States, focusing on their historical, social, political, cultural and economic formations and practices. Some issues and topics to be discussed include: the history of Latin@ Studies, inter-Latin@ and transnational formations, Latin@ identities and their attendant discourses; social and cultural movements; labor policies and (im)migrant labor migration; past and current xenophobic policies and practices against Latin@ communities; and the forms of resistance employed by Latin@s against historical and current-day imperial projects and ethnically/racially intolerant policies.
This two-semester research seminar discusses, theorizes, and illuminates the important and very complex process of oral history (the recording of life experiences) for communities alienated from prevailing historical discourses. Oral history allows one to look at history from multiple angles, to acquire "new ways of seeing," and to delineate new epistemologies. We also examine the dynamics of oral history as truth-telling, and its long-standing relationship with social justice initiatives, and the impact oral histories have upon the communities from which they emerge, and society at large. Some of the questions that guide the course include: Who "makes" history? Why have certain individuals been studied while others ignored? How does this shape the production of knowledge, our understanding of the past and the analysis of experience, and thus challenge what Michel Foucault calls a "regime of truth"? How do particular social factors shape historical knowledge? What is individual memory vs. collective memory? And how do the two come together and diverge? How do we represent and document experiences that differ from our own? In this seminar, you will be expected to conduct extensive background historical research, write multiple drafts of papers, share work with your peers, learn interviewing techniques as authorized by the Oral History Association, transcribe, analyze, and code your interviews, and then contextualize them within itself and within their historical framework. The class will also visit neighboring oral history archives. By the end of the spring term, each student is expected to produce an extensive oral history project. In short, you will learn the step-by-step process of understanding and doing of oral history.
In this interdisciplinary course, we explore how artists have historically responded to the call for social change, whether through political or activist art (or other creative strategies), and the overall ways in which artists and/or art collectives "socially enact" their imagination(s) across various historical and social circumstances. Drawing from a wide array of perspectives, such as history, sociology, cultural studies, performance studies, and others, along with analyzing a range of art forms, we will also investigate a variety of themes and issues, including artistic citizenship, feminist art, art and social movements, public art, the avant-garde, the role of artistic institutions, how artists invoke new social imaginations, the role of artists in cultivating social change, the relationship between art and new or alternative public sphere(s), the tensions between the socially "real" and the "imaginary," political art vs. activist art, and the impact of artistic expressions and movements in transforming collective mentalities or consciousness. We will also consider how artists and art collectives articulate numerous forms of activism while simultaneously challenging the formal aesthetic frameworks and strategies of various art forms. While a close analysis of various art texts and practices may occur throughout the semester, the course largely centers on the multi-dimensional social, cultural, economic, gender, geographic and racial processes that constitute the production and reception of artistic practices and objects. Finally, throughout the semester we will consider how creative (art)iculations vary through time and circumstance, offering opportunities to examine how art mediates between those who are heard, seen, and silenced within particular social conditions.
Employing a Trans-Latin@/American Studies frame work, this seminar will utilize interdisciplinary perspectives to analyze the complex social, historical, and cultural processes and practices that have constituted U.S. Latin@, Caribbean, and Latin American musical genres and practices. The course aims to complicate the linear narratives that comprise cultural and historical knowledge and performance practices around Diasporic Cuban, Puerto Rican/Nuyorican, Dominican, and Brazilian music and dance. Hence, we will discuss and analyze: (1) the shared cultural histories and diasporic intimacies between Latin@, Afro-Caribbean, Latin American and African American communities; (2) music as constituted by race, gender, geography, history and politics; (3) the overlapping historical formations across various Latin@ communities; (4) the syncretic and disjunctive elements of various musical forms (the poetics of sound); (5) how (trans)national and global imaginaries construct, encode, and decode the production and reception of particular musical genres (tropicalization; appropriation, etc.); and (6) critically interrogate the modernist discourses of origins and authenticity. As this is an advanced level seminar with considerable reading and writing, the prior completion of a course in either Latin@ Studies, Africana Studies, and/or Latin American Studies is minimally required. Depending on the performance schedule of area venues, we may attend live music or dance events/concerts.
There is growing interest in studying empire and citizenship in a postcolonial context. Yet, how can this perspective apply to delocalized Puerto Rican communities? In order to address this question, we will study conquest, colonial "encounters," and empire formation in the Americas, with a particular emphasis on Puerto Rico's unique position in the Atlantic world. This seminar will analyze Puerto Rico, its Diaspora, and its decolonial struggles, commencing from the Spanish conquest and the U.S. invasion, through the mass migration of Puerto Ricans after World War II into the U.S. We will examine how the scattered Puerto Rican nation developed in relation to European and U.S. expansion. We will begin with the emergence of the transoceanic movement of peoples and commodities to examine how ordinary Puerto Ricans became involved in the global economy and how their social and historical experiences overlapped with other racialized/colonized communities. We will also consider how local and global processes shaped social movements, anti-colonial struggles, transnational initiatives, Diaspora narratives, poetic visions, literary voices, and cultural/aesthetic agency.
This two-semester seminar discusses, theorizes, and illuminates the importance of oral history (the recording of life experiences) for silenced communities alienated from prevailing historical discourses. Oral history allows us to look at history from "below," to acquire "new ways of seeing," and to delineate new epistemologies. Some of the questions that guided the course include: Who makes history? Why have certain individuals been studied while others ignored? How does this shape the production of knowledge, our understanding of the past and the analysis of experience and thus challenge what Michel Foucault calls a "regime of truth"? Why have the meanings of particular events been diminished? How do particular identities complicate the writing and interpretation of history? How do particular social factors shape historical knowledge? How does historical memory affect the reading of the past? By the end of the spring term, each student is expected to produce an extensive oral history analytical research paper. Interdisciplinary/Multi-media projects that incorporate the performing arts are also welcome. Students and the Professor will co-organize a Spring Semester symposium showcasing the work completed in this course.
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Franklin Patterson Hall 226
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Amherst, MA 01002