Secondary Field, Critical Media Practice, Harvard Graduate School of Arts & Sciences
New Civics is embodied in Alen's experience with participatory action research, or PAR. Alen was first introduced to PAR in the context of food justice research at the CUNY School of Public Health and Hunter College ('12), but since coming to Harvard, where he is studying Social and Behavioral Sciences (ScD '21) his involvement with PAR evolved into greater questions around epistemological legitimacy. He is currently writing several ethnographic and phenomenological manuscripts that use his personal experience as a PAR practitioner to highlight the aesthetic sensibilities or art and creativity of PAR to assess the grounds on which scientific credibility is contested and civics is ascribed meaning. This is also currently being made into a full-length auto-ethnographic film (~90 minutes) as part of his secondary field in Critical Media Practice, to both de- and re-mystify the everyday aesthetics of a citizen scientist. PAR aside, Alen considers himself a cultural agent and interprets New Civics to mean that scientists are artists and must creatively encourage civic engagement and critical pedagogy at their institutions. His dissertation will combine public health, anthropology, and the arts to showcase how students can harness their own civic energies towards bridging otherwise disparate disciplinary fields within the academy and increase participation on issues of mutual concern. Inter- and non-disciplinary approaches, particularly tied together through art practice and aesthetic theory, is a common narrative that runs through Alen's academic trajectory and one he feels is vital in advancing the New Civics agenda.
Alen grew up in Kings Highway, Brooklyn in New York CIty. He arrived to the U.S. under refugee status in 1992 from Baku, Azerbaijan, a former republic of the Soviet Union.