PCS, Public Pedagogy and the Riots in Baltimore

– By Michael Friedman

Dr. Michael Friedman is currently Research Assistant Professor of Physical Cultural Studies at the University of Maryland, College Park.

The tragedy of a young life lost, the absurdity of an empty baseball stadium, and the rage of rioters in the streets of Baltimore…

What does PCS at Maryland have to say in this moment?

Baltimore has been our urban laboratory.  Many of us have immersed ourselves in the literature about the city and we have immersed ourselves in its physical culture. In the history of PCS, several students, faculty and alumni have lived within downtown Baltimore, on the urban periphery, and in its suburbs.  Many of us work, have worked or studied at universities in Baltimore County.  Among our research, we have run with Baltimore’s homeless, taught fitness to its teenagers, helped evaluate its Recreation and Parks department, biked its streets, studied its suburban middle class soccer and swimming cultures, sent postcards from Pigtown, questioned its claim of being “the Greatest City in America,” and critiqued its Inner Harbor as a façade over the other Baltimore that is now expressing its frustration and anger.   Beyond Baltimore, many of us have examined discourses surrounding African American masculinities.

We have studied Baltimore at length and in depth.  We have been informed by theory, the work of David Harvey and others about Baltimore, and our own observations.  We have taught classes about Baltimore.  We have published journal articles, book chapters, and dissertations interrogating the deep disparities and public policy neglect that are among the root causes of these riots.

The attention of the nation has turned to Baltimore, trying to understand these tragic events and the rage of residents.  Many conversations have begun about the issues we have raised within our research.  However, where are our critical voices in these broader conversations?

Perhaps more than any other moment over the past decade, PCS has something to say that is directly relevant to unfolding events. Of course, we can start critical conversations within our classrooms. However, this is the time for us to engage in a broader public pedagogy, especially as we can reasonably claim a degree of expertise on these issues.  While I invite all those who affiliate themselves with the PCS project to write responses about Baltimore on the Corpus, I challenge each of us to find other outlets in order to join in and influence broader public debates and discourses.

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