Associate Professor of Sociology and American Studies
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).
In moments of political and economic crisis, activist-artists, or artivists, often respond to the call for social change. They generate art as social action and also help realize a new social world into being. Drawing from disciplinary and interdisciplinary perspectives, this seminar investigates the "who, what, where, when, why and how" of creative artistic resistance. We will discuss the inter-relationships between: art, activism, and the social imagination; the tensions between the "real" and the "imaginary"; public art and community engagement; the role of art in social movements; the function and responsibility of artistic institutions (museums, community art centers, etc.); the relationship between art, gentrification, and creative economies in under-resourced communities; how art can build new or alternative public sphere(s); analyze political art vs. activist art; and understand community-based art vs. art-based community making. The course emphasizes socially engaged art as a collective participatory practice that facilitates emancipation and transformation.
In 1968 a Chicago-based gang announced they were now a civil and human rights organization. Called The Young Lords, they became a vital radical force for social change within the US, with chapters and offices operating out of Chicago, New York City, Boston, Bridgeport, Philadelphia, and elsewhere. They were inspired by the activism spearheaded by the Black Panther Party for Self Defense, the international anti-colonial movements of the 1950s and 60s, the Black Power and Civil Rights movements, and the teachings of Malcom X, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Albizu Campos, Che Guevara, Fidel Castro, Mao Tse Tung, and Frantz Fanon, among others. The organization undertook aggressive social actions that impacted public policy and the political culture of organizing. The course will examine the organization's intersectional activism, ideology, and political programs. The course will feature guest speakers, movie screenings, numerous fieldtrips, and primary archival research.