Strategic Imagining: Expanding Publicly Engaged Scholarship by Building Institutions and Individuals

  • Timothy K. Eatman Temple University Press


It has been my good fortune to be in fellowship with George Sánchez for just about a decade now. While it has been quite tempting to use this opportunity to simply celebrate all that he has meant to me personally in my life and career, my call for this issue was to share reflections on the generative potential of having collaborated with Dr. George J. Sánchez as part of Imagining America: Artist and Scholars in Public Life (IA). As a national consortium of higher-education institutions and community-based organizations dedicated to activating the power of the humanities, arts, and design both within the academy and in our larger society, IA promotes publicly engaged scholarship with conferences, research groups, and strategic organizing that affirm community-based knowledge and draw on the humanistic methodologies of the cultural disciplines. I discuss the goals and reach of Imagining America as well as responses to the dynamically creative and community-centered approaches driving it. In the exchange recorded in this article, edited from an interview we had in November 2016, we touch on a range of issues, beginning with his own autobiographical call to engaged scholarship and then drilling down to various layers of his strategic imagining as it manifests in both his institutional and individual work. Sánchez reflects on how he discovered IA and then in strategic and imaginative ways used that discovery to build on his approaches to research and organizing, thereby making an impact as a publicly engaged scholar in ways that do not often register in the academy. In particular, he addresses issues of diversity and the history of community-engaged work.