Faculty Spotlight: Pablo Palomino

Pablo Palomino's research on the intersection of migration and culture encourages students to explore the fabric of their own lives, backgrounds, and national histories.

Pablo Palomino understands the world around him through the lens of cultural exchange. From Argentina to the United States—from music to the economy of cattle—he has spent his career studying and sharing with students the many ways that migration has both created and changed how people interact and behave.

Pablo Palomino

Growing up in Argentina, Palomino—Oxford Assistant Professor of Latin American & Caribbean Studies—saw firsthand how his own family brought various influences from different parts of the country and from people all over the world—Eastern European Jews, Mestizo natives, and Spanish and French Basque—to the melting pot of Buenos Aires. He grew up in a new culture created by people from these and myriad other ethnicities and backgrounds. In his studies, he focused on specific subjects informed by this cross-cultural experience: first Latin American music, and more recently the history of the Argentine beef.

"I was interested in how these different ideas and experiences combined to create my culture—Buenos Aires or Argentine culture," Palomino said. "Once I understood that culture can be created out of unplanned mixings, I began to think that maybe that's a trait not just of my own upbringing but of modern global culture as a whole."

Palomino brings this framework to the classroom at Oxford College, where he has taught since 2017. After finishing his undergraduate work in Argentina at the University of Buenos Aires, he came to the United States and completed his PhD at the University of California, Berkeley. Soon after, he was a lecturer at the University of Chicago, his last stop before joining the Oxford faculty where, as a Mellon Faculty Fellow, he became the campus's first permanent Latin American history specialist.

At Oxford, he's found that the more he includes others in his work—whether students who help with research or cross-departmental collaboration with other faculty members, including on the Atlanta campus—the better it turns out.

"To do this kind of cultural history, you necessarily have to confront your ideas with people from different backgrounds, people who will pose different questions," he said. "Here, the colleagues you find, the students you find in the classroom or in independent work, they come from different cities and experiences, and of course from different generational backgrounds. It's almost like a guarantee that sharing my work with anyone at Oxford will enrich it."

Bridgette Gunnels, Oxford Associate Professor of Spanish, agrees. The two have partnered in leading trips to Cuba through the Global Learning program, where together they encourage students to see their studies in the context of the real world. 

"Dr. Palomino brings his unique insight to my Advanced Spanish course that studies the Cuban Revolution by traveling with us to Havana, where he connects his deep knowledge of Latin American history and music to what our students are experiencing in front of their own eyes," Gunnels said. "He and I have watched how students absorb the shock of a truly remarkable new place only to come away with deeper questions about Cuba, but also about our own country and world."

Gunnels also noted how this sort of collaboration is a key part of the Oxford experience: "To be able to count on a colleague that is capable of guiding students down these paths, as well as down the famed Malecón in Havana, is one of Oxford's greatest gifts to me as a professional. Interdisciplinary collaboration is more than talk at Oxford, and our work together in Cuba is evidence of this."

Recently, Palomino's research has branched out from his musical focus to include trends in food consumption, particularly the global history of Argentine beef—and as always, it considers questions of migration, power, and the formation of culture. 

Ninika Osuji worked with Palomino as a student researcher in 2019—her first serious research experience. With Palomino's guidance, she organized empirical data and created a visually engaging digital map of the cattle export industry in 1930s Argentina.

"Dr. Palomino is a professor whose passion and kindness shines through every aspect of his work," Osuji 19Ox 21C said. "After taking his introductory course, I was inspired by the vastness of his knowledge, animated character, and pride in Latin American and Caribbean stories. His excitement was contagious. He was extremely supportive of my own curiosities that extended beyond his vision for the project, and he ensured that it was an enriching learning experience for the both of us."

The experience, Osuji said, cultivated her already-budding interest in stories of cross-cultural exchange and set her on the track for her eventual degree—completed in 2021—and career in International Affairs.

Students have taken to heart Palomino's approach to understanding a place through the intersection of migration and culture. In 2019, those who took his "Progress: An Interdisciplinary Reflection" course—available to students at Oxford and on the Atlanta campus—got to participate in a first-of-its-kind Emory course. Inspired by the teach-ins of the 1960s, the class opened globally and invited scholars from all over the world to consider what progress means. As a jumping off point, the course used a series of interviews focused on Atlanta historical sites, neighborhood gentrification, and immigrant spaces.

This fusion of teaching and research is at the heart of Palomino's approach.

"My books and my research are deeply informed by my classroom experience," he said. "I learn so much from conversations with students and that then reverberates in my writing, my publications. And the other way around: I plan my classes always considering what are the most interesting discussions in my field."

Currently, Palomino is writing a book on the global cultural history of Argentine beef and human-animal relations. He continues to inspire students to make connections by looking at the history of peoples and places. He hopes they leave his classes with an understanding "of how useful it is to know Latin American realities, and to use that knowledge to reflect on their own cultural backgrounds and their own personal or national histories."

"The histories of the United States and of Latin America have so much in common," he added. "And yet each history is unique. That's the cool thing about history—what is common to all societies working in concert with cultural specificities."