Marquis Palmer ’18 will explore “The Inner-World of Skateboarding Communities” in his 2018 Watson fellowship. Watson Fellows receive a $30,000 stipend to pursue a “year of independent, purposeful exploration” abroad. Hamilton has four recipients this year. Palmer, recently elected to Phi Beta Kappa, also received a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship to the Czech Republic.
What countries do you plan to visit?
Germany, Argentina, Spain, and Japan.
Describe what your project involves.
As a Watson fellow, I will join some of the largest skateboarding groups in the world to explore their defining cultural values and practices, and the extent to which they deviate from the dominant cultures of their societies and thus exist as distinctive communities. By the end of my Watson year, I hope to deepen my understanding of this relatively unexplored aspect of skateboarding – the communal aspect – while learning how small, relatively marginal communities sustain a way of life that is distinct from the societies in which they exist.
How does this project reflect you and your interests?
The thread running through most of what I do is my interest in community, specifically the way in which the virtues and vices of the groups to which I belong shape everyday life for the people within them. This constitutes my main focus as a student of philosophy, a rapper, and an activist.
How does your academic work influence your project?
As a Watson fellow, I get to take my interest in community and my extensive background in skateboarding and weave them together into a fun and exciting – but no less serious – global exploration of the communal element of skateboarding. Aside from pushing me to deepen my understanding of this relatively unexplored aspect of skateboarding, I hope my Watson year will challenge and expand my understanding of myself, and my role in the various communities of which I’m part.
How long have you been skateboarding?
I’ve been skateboarding since I was about 12 or 13, and started skating competitively when I was 14 – earning prizes in several instances and a small sponsorship by a local skateboarding company.
Hometown: Utica, N.Y.
High School: Thomas R. Proctor High School
And also: Studied at Oxford University 2016-17 academic year, Writing Center tutor, teaching assistant in Literature and Philosophy depts., Emerson research grant in 2015 and 2017, founded Hamilton Philanthropy Committee’s Young Civic Leader scholarship for local high school students, Student Assembly class representative, and BLSU member/officer.
What do you most look forward to doing during your Watson year?
I’m just very excited about carrying out the project itself. Day to day, I’ll be cruising with and living among German, Argentinian, Spanish, and Japanese skateboarding communities — learning everything from their distinct skater slang to the way they surf their respective urban landscapes, to the influence of skill level on communal structures, to how these communities respond to intra-communal loss.
I know that this won’t be entirely easy; such is the case when you’re an outsider trying to assimilate into a foreign community. But that’s the simultaneous challenge and beauty of the Watson: to uproot yourself from old soil, plant yourself in new soil, and push yourself to grow by confronting the unique tests of adjusting to a new environment.
How has your Hamilton experience helped you achieve this?
For this opportunity, I owe an emphatic thank you to Virginia Dosch, Professor Rick Werner, Phyllis Breland, Brenda Davis, Prof. Steve Yao, and Prof. Todd Franklin. In different ways, they each challenged me to think critically and with integrity as I strive to live and act meaningfully. They are some of the best examples of people who do all of this with grace. If it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t have seen the Watson fellowship as something that I should, or even could, pursue.