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Aaron Barlow

AARON BARLOW returned from The Peace Corps (Togo, 1988-1990) to found (with another former PCV) and run Shakespeare¹s Sister, a café and store in Brooklyn, NY. In 2001, he began to return to teaching. Today, he is an Assistant Professor of English at New York City College of Technology, part of the City University of New York.

A specialist on the intersection of technology and culture, Barlow has written two books on New Media (with a focus on blogging) and two on film, including Quentin Tarantino: Life at the Extremes which will appear in 2010. As a teacher, he is extremely interested in moving formal learning beyond classroom walls, integrating the university and the world, making the ivory tower a quaint, old-fashioned concept.

Trained as a printer and a reporter, Barlow edited a small monthly tabloid newspaper, Chinook Winds for a number of years in the early eighties. He has written for a variety of venues, though he has concentrated on writing for the Internet since the mid-nineties, both as a blogger and as a contributor to online journals. Though he is a peer-reviewer for several academic journals, he advocates for a new, Web-based, open model of scholarly discussion.

He can be contacted through this site: AARON.BARLOW@PEACECORPSAT50.ORG


When I left Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso, in the summer of 1987, I didn¹t know if I would ever make it back there again. My two years as a Fulbright lecturer, I knew, had changed me, but there seemed little likelihood that I would be able to follow the experience up, expanding my exposure to West Africa and its cultures.

There were other things I needed to do. I had left the University of Iowa with what is known as All But Dissertation (ABD) status, and I felt strongly that I had to go back and finish my PhD before I attempted anything else. Though I was no longer looking to academia for a career, I wanted to wrap up graduate school successfully instead of slinking away.

Significant to my experience in Burkina Faso had been my learning from the dozens of Peace Corps Volunteers who had stayed at my house while in town, and who I had stayed with in their villages. Through them, I had learned more about West Africa than I ever could have on my own, and I desperately wanted to share even more of their experience. So, immediately on arriving in the States, I started to work on my own application to join their organization.

When the invitation finally arrived, I ripped it open with trembling hands and saw that it asked me to become an Animal Traction (working with oxen for plowing) volunteer in Togo, a country I had visited on numerous occasions. I was delighted. This would probably put me up-country, close to Burkina Faso, and would mean I would not be living in a city or larger town.

Though my Peace Corps experience is now twenty years behind me, it still tempers my life. Perhaps I accomplished only a little (when I visited my village some years after my Close of Service only a small bridge I'd built and a tree nursery I'd constructed remained and the nursery now worked mainly as a vegetable garden though some of the farmers were still using plows and oxen), but Africa remains in my heart and in my thoughts.