Meet Palmar Álvarez-Blanco, Broom Fellow for Public Scholarship

17 October 2022

This is an excerpt from an interview with Palmar Alvarez-Blanco, the Broom Fellow for Public Scholarship and a Spanish professor at Carleton.

Can you give a brief background on your public scholarship and academic civic engagement work? What in your life has made you interested in public scholarship?

Coming from a social background where access to knowledge and education was for the privileged few, I value every opportunity to democratize knowledge and contribute to the civic and the public education movement. I consider myself a strong advocate of Public Scholarship. For example, my current primary research project is The Constellation of the Commons. This self-managed project was conceived eight years ago to spotlight the recent reemergence of the Culture of the Commons in Spain. This web-based effort consists of an ongoing and open-access archive, an audiovisual map of ideas, a dictionary of key critical concepts and an expanded virtual classroom. Many other people have also contributed to this project, including students from Carleton and other colleges and universities, social activists, professors, and researchers from different disciplines. The ongoing archive currently hosts more than 80 interviews with members of self-managed communities of practice within Spain, and new entries are constantly being created. 

I regularly participate in seminars and workshops concerning civic engagement and public scholarship, most recently through the Engaged Faculty Institute through the Iowa and Minnesota Campus Compact. In 2021, I was selected by the Mellon Periclean Faculty Leadership Program to serve as Carleton’s delegate to the Project Pericles’ initiative, “Building Transformative Texts in Civic Education.”  The program supported the creation of ‘Radio and News in Spanish,’ an Academic Civic Engagement (ACE) course co-designed and co-taught with community partners who are co-founders and managers of the Northfield community radio program, “El Súper Barrio Latino,” and also two of my former students.  

My journey as a public scholar includes my engagement with cultural studies, critical pedagogies, formal and informal education, civic engagement, artivism, and grassroots movements. These studies have deeply informed my own research and teaching practices, and they have been a source of constant inspiration for the development of civically-engaged and public scholarship projects that connect disciplines, institutions, and students with the social realities of the outside world and vice versa. 

Considering this time of global crisis, I believe it is urgent to work, think, and imagine in unconventional ways. I think that we need to learn to avoid unconsciously adopting activities and values that have been generated by profit-based thinking. We also need to critically assess the hierarchical nature of knowledge in our society, wherein economically and politically privileged persons and organizations tend also to possess the largest stores of useful information. In doing public and engaged work, we can expand the realm of public knowledge, thereby empowering populations that would otherwise tend to have less power. As modeled by my previous work, we can engage with the public sphere by building bridges or vessels for communication. Our research and classrooms can become spaces for connection and debate.  Similarly, we can further develop a Carleton specialty, open classrooms, to be further understood as a space for dreaming, collaborating, playing, remixing, establishing relationships, and sharing knowledge, materials and visions.  Once we accept that knowledge is a public and a common good, we can expect to experience a constant addition of new communities, joining a wave of creative energy for change.

To see the rest of Palmar’s interview, including her plans for her three year Broom Fellowship, please see the article in the Faculty Newsletter.