As an instructor of a seminar that focuses on community, Daniel Morales-Armstrong didn’t want to waste any time getting boots to the ground.
“In our pandemic reality, it’s easy to say, ‘Okay, we’re looking at this area, let’s hop online and let’s get the Google satellite images.’ But you need to be in a place to feel the place, while also, of course, being safe,” says Morales-Armstrong, William Fontaine Fellow of Africana Studies and History. “It’s the sounds, it’s the sights, it’s the people. It’s the way that the public space is utilized and is the grounds for a multidirectional conversation.”
The seminar, The Inclusive City: Participatory Design at Taller Puertorriqueño, which took place during the spring 2021 semester, grew out of the Humanities + Urbanism + Design Initiative (HUD), a collaboration between Penn Arts & Sciences, the Weitzman School of Design, and the Penn Institute for Urban Research. HUD bridges the humanities and design disciplines to create a vehicle to both stimulate inter- and multidisciplinary work on diversity and inclusion in the built environment, and build an increasingly diverse and inclusive community of scholars who do this work. HUD accomplishes this through co-taught courses, a colloquium, undergraduate and graduate fellowships, a postdoctoral junior fellowship, and more.
The Taller seminar belongs to HUD’s anchor institution course series. “The idea here is sort of a double connection. On the one hand bringing together the humanities and design to think about urban issues, and then on the other hand, connecting Penn students and faculty with an institution that already exists in the city to get us actually out there,” says Andrea Goulet, professor of Romance languages, who has been a fellow in the program over the last six years, and is now the co-director alongside Franca Trubiano, associate professor of architecture in the Weitzman School. Past seminars have included anchor institutions such as the Eastern State Penitentiary and the Philadelphia African American Museum.
Morales-Armstrong, a longtime educator and historian whose work focuses on Puerto Rico, the Caribbean, and the African Diaspora in the Americas, was a perfect fit for teaching the course. “I wear several hats, and I think that this course was a wonderful way to bring many of those into conversation with each other in the real world, in Penn, and in Philadelphia,” he says.
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