Jared Katz

The goal of this post is to discuss the community with which I will be working in terms of the topics that we have been analyzing in our Public Scholars meetings.I have been looking forward to running this community outreach program for some time (I discuss the overall structure of the program in my first blog post), but interacting with and learning from the other Public Scholars and the faculty members has helped to make me more self-reflexive about the type of project I am creating. As stated by Steven Lubar on his blog focused on public humanities, “It’s not about you.” This seems intuitive, after all it is a community outreach program and, therefore, is meant to benefit the broader community. I found myself making certain decisions, however, that were primarily made due to what I am comfortable with.

I decided, for example, that I would be holding my program in a public library. When I found out it would be impossible to hold the program in a public library, I reached out to the San Jose State University library to see if I could use a room there. Unfortunately, that was not a possibility either. It was only when I was drafting an email to the Anthropology Department at San Jose State University to request the use of space in the department that it became glaringly obvious what I was doing. This program does not need to be held in a library space or in a classroom setting, that is just the environment that I am familiar with, and therefore that I am comfortable with. I instantly deleted my email to the Anthropology department, and started looking at other spaces.

A friend informed me that a cultural center in San Jose, the Movimiento de Arte y Cultura Latino Americana (MACLA), might be interested in hosting my program. Looking into the center more, I realized it would be an ideal location. The mission of the center is to educate the community about Latino culture, art, and music in a variety of ways. It is also in a central location in downtown San Jose. This is crucial, as it will create opportunities to engage with the broader community more frequently.

As discussed by Dwight Giles, engagement is a crucial aspect of public scholarship and, in part, means the creation of a partnership between the academic and local expertise. If I were to hold the program in the Anthropology department, I would essentially be forcing students to enter into my realm of academia, rather than going to the community in order to create a meaningful program that, hopefully, can be offered in the future as well. I have not yet heard back from MACLA, but I am hopeful that they will be interested in learning more about my program. If I am able to offer the program in this space, I know I will learn from the other instructors, who have much more experience educating the public about art and music. I would also change the curriculum in order to have more opportunities for additional community members to get involved with the program, should they be interested. I am excited to hear back from MACLA and I will update everyone with what happens in a future blog post. Until then, I hope all is well.