Urban Studies

Urban studies is dedicated to the study of cities across disciplines, focusing on the fabric of cities and the culture, society, and economy particular to cities and to those who live within them. Some of the topics that urban studies may explore are the histories of cities; space, design, and power; cities and suburbia; the city and the country; megacities; casino urbanization; cities remembered (memoirs based on urban space); and cities of the future (real and science-fiction cities). Among the many themes addressed in urban studies are space and sociability, including urban planning, public and private space, social relations and structures, the right to city space, gender and power, urban social movements, and public art. Among the many disciplines that offer courses related to urban studies are anthropology, architecture, economics, environmental studies, politics, public policy, and sociology.

2020-2021 Courses

Problems by Design: Theory and Practice in Architecture, 1960 to the Present.

Open, Large Lecture—Spring

This course will involve works in philosophy, theory, criticism, politics, and social analysis that deal with the aesthetic, formal, infrastructural, and sociopolitical questions raised by design strategies, buildings, and utopian or speculative projects. Our focus will be on methods and movements such as blobs, dots and folds, fractal form, fractured landscapes, datatowns and metacities, ascetic aesthetic/minimalist consumption, megastructures, themed urbanism, transformational design grammars, and economic models for sustainable growth/development/design. Topics will be introduced in PowerPoint presentations. Authors will include Adolf Loos, Martin Heidegger, Jane Jacobs, Peter Eisenman, Rem Koolhaas, Bruce Sterling, and Anthony Vidler. Buildings will include work by major architects such as Frank Lloyd Wright, Mies van der Rohe, Louis Kahn, Tadao Ando, Frank Gehry, Zaha Hadid, Bjarke Ingels, Elizabeth Diller, and Jean Gang. Movements discussed will include Modernism, Post-Modernism, Formalism, Situationism, Minimalism, Counter Culture, Green Urbanism, and Parametrics. Assignments will involve analytical and critical papers, directed discussions on close reading of texts, historical context for ideas, and buildings that are prescribed, described, or proscribed by theory in practice. This course complements courses on urbanism, visual arts, environmental science and studies, literary theory, physics, and, of course, art and architectural criticism and history.

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A Talent for Every Noble Thing: Art, Architecture in Italy, 1300–1600

Open, Seminar—Spring

This course involves an in-depth survey of the major monuments of Italian art and architecture from 1300 to 1600. Equal emphasis will be given to the histories and societies of major city-states such as Pisa, Siena, Florence, Venice, and Rome; the canon of artworks by artists such as Giotto, Donatello, Brunelleschi, Botticelli, Leonardo da Vinci, and Michelangelo; readings of major critics and historians of Italian art; and the broader intellectual trends, social realities, and movements that provide a context for our understanding of the artists’ and, to a lesser extent, the critics’ creations. Thus, unified Italian church designs will be juxtaposed with gender-segregated social practice, theories of genius with concepts of handicraft, pagan ideals with Christian rituals, creative expression with religious orthodoxy, and popes with monks, dukes, financiers, and “humanist” intellectuals. The course will focus on a close reading of texts surrounding the first polemical “humanist” pamphlets about art in early modern history—Alberti’s On Painting and On Architecture—and will include works by Erwin Panofsky, Ernst Gombrich, and Michael Baxandall. We will also engage the development of the “High” Renaissance and the intellectual and aesthetic debates surrounding Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, and Raphael as philosophers, naturalists, geniuses, models, and marginalized outcasts. Class papers will deal with developing a vocabulary for compositional analysis, critical issues in Italian intellectual and social history (particularly, gender studies), and varied interpretive strategies applied to works of visual art and culture. Conference projects may involve selected topics in religion, history, and philosophy of the Italian Renaissance and art and architecture in Europe and the “New World” from 1300 to the present.

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Art and Ecology

Open, Seminar—Spring

This seminar introduces students to the relationships of art, science, and the environment from the 19th century to the present, along with what it means to look closely at visual representation. We will consider the European tradition of landscape painting as a cultural formation, telegraphing ideologies about industry and Western expansionism, and also look closely at indigenous representations of the land as a counterhistory. We will consider 19th-century discourses on ecology, pollution, and urbanization and painting and also take up sculptural Biomorphism in the early 20th century as a critique of industrialization. Readings will look closely at earthworks, site-specific sculpture, and body art in the 1970s, along with discourses on ecology and systems theory that were central to artists. And we will engage contemporary discourses across the globe on eco-aesthetics, eco-criticism, and artistic responses to climate change and globalization. How have artists and curators enacted ecological modes of thinking in visual form? What do those projects tell us about changing definitions of nature and human, of sustainability, climate change, and Anthropocene? Readings will cull from art history, ecology, geography, political theory, and environmental politics. This course will entail several field trips to area collections and include visiting speakers.

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The History of the Museum, Institutional Critique, and the Artist as Curator

Sophomore and above, Seminar—Fall

This course looks closely at the art museum as a site of contest and critique: How are museums not neutral spaces but, rather, powerful institutions that shape narratives about the objects they collect and display? Readings will consider the origins of the modern art museum in Europe in the 17th century and explore how the histories and conventions of display impacted art’s reception and meaning. We will analyze the history of institutional critique in the West in the 1970s to look at how artists have taken aim at the museum as a site of discursive power, raising questions about the kinds of value judgments that go into determining what counts as art. We will also explore recent trends in curatorial practice toward the artist as curator: What happens when the museum becomes a medium for contemporary artists? Lastly, we will investigate recent protests at museums around issues of representation, patronage, and power. We will use the opportunities opened by remote learning to engage with and interview curators and activists across the globe in our Zoom seminars. And we will investigate what access and protest looks like in this virtual age, as museums take their collections online and activism takes different shapes. Because this course considers the historiography of art, some previous course work in art history is expected; but with its broad historical and topical coverage, this course will have something for everyone—regardless of their background in art history.

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Hip-Hop

—Year

An open-level course teaching and facilitating the practice of hip-hop/urban dance technique and performance, the class will examine the theory, technique, and vocabulary of hip-hop dance. The course will facilitate the student’s development and ability to execute and perform hip-hop/urban dance steps.

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Hip-Hop: Dancing Diaspora from the Local to the Global

Open, Seminar—Fall

This course is open to students with a broad range of interests and can function either as a component of a performing arts Third (in dance, music, or theatre) or as a two-credit stand-alone course.

This course focuses on hip-hop as a dance form, from its origins in the South Bronx to its current status as a global phenomenon. We will explore hip-hop culture in the broader framework of the African diaspora—as a way to envision worldwide connections among people and cultures of African descent and to understand hip-hop’s lineage in a context of black social dance. We will also consider extensions of hip-hop into other dance forms, such as house and voguing, foregrounding issues of gender and sexuality. Themes of the course include dance in hip-hop as a mode of resistance and critique, a site of struggle over ownership in capitalism, and a means for imagining black liberation. Key theorists such as Naomi Bragin, Imani Kai Johnson, and Thomas DeFrantz will be discussed. The goal of this course is two-fold: (1) to understand how dance practices are bodily enactments of specific historical, cultural, and political developments; and (2) to investigate different approaches to writing about their significance in order to develop critical perspectives as thinkers and dancers.

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First-Year Studies: Economics for Responsible Citizens

Open, FYS—Year

Today’s world is facing multiple economic, social, environmental, and political challenges: increasing income and wealth inequality, growing economic uncertainty, unstopping climate change, artificial intelligence and robotic automation of the workplace, political polarization, growing nationalism and populism, and diverging quality of life between the developed world and the majority of the developing world, to name a few. The challenging world requires every one of us to act as more responsible citizens. Using the economics literature, we will learn: Why do the challenges exist? What is our role in the community and in the bigger economic and political world? How can we transcend the “contemplation of single individuals and of civil society” and take the standpoint of “human society” or “social humanity”? In addition, through in-class practices, discussions, assignments, conference meetings, and conference work, we will work together to prepare you for academic achievement. You will enhance your academic skills, such as finding and reading academic literature, writing literature review, thinking critically, making your own argument with quantitative or qualitative evidence, and formatting a conference paper. Most importantly, you will grow professionally and prepare yourself to be a responsible citizen. During the fall semester, you will meet with me weekly for individual conferences. In the spring semester, we will meet weekly or every other week, depending on your needs and the progress of your conference projects.

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Economic Policy and the 2020 General Elections: Money, Trade, Industrial Policy, and Inequality

Open, Lecture—Year

We live in unprecedented, turbulent times in which a pandemic crisis has combined with a major economic crisis and plunged the world into chaos. How should we, as economists, understand the nature and roots of this crisis, and how do we think of a way forward for humanity beyond these dark times? Needless to say, the general elections of November 2020 loom large in our collective consciousness. While we can speculate or worry about the effects on political institutions as the new administration takes office in January 2021, we also need to pay crucial attention to key economic issues pertaining to jobs, inequality, health care, climate change, and industrial policy. In fact, it will be argued that the nature of political institutions, including any society’s legal foundations, cannot be divorced from economic outcomes. This course will focus on the above key themes by not only looking ahead but also by looking behind at recent history to understand the roots of our current turmoil. At every step of the way, students will be exposed to rival theoretical and methodological perspectives in economics.

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Political Economy of Women

Open, Seminar—Year

What factors determine the status of women in different societies and communities? What role is played by women’s labor, both inside and outside of the home? By cultural norms regarding sexuality and reproduction? By religious traditions? After a brief theoretical grounding, this course will address these questions by examining the economic, political, social, and cultural histories of women in the various racial/ethnic and class groupings that make up the United States. Topics to be explored include: the role of women in the Iroquois Confederation before white colonization and the factors that gave Iroquois women significant political and social power in their communities; the status of white colonist women in Puritan Massachusetts and the economic, religious, and other factors that led to the Salem witchcraft trials of 1692; the position of African American women under slavery, including the gendered and racialized divisions of labor and reproduction; the growth of competitive capitalism in the North and the development of the “cult of true womanhood” in the rising middle class; the economic and political changes that accompanied the Civil War and Reconstruction and the complex relationships between African American and white women in the abolitionist and women’s rights movements; the creation of a landless agricultural labor force and the attempts to assimilate Chicana women into the dominant culture via “Americanization” programs; the conditions that encouraged Asian women’s immigration and their economic and social positions once here; the American labor movement and the complicated role that organized labor has played in the lives of women of various racial/ethnic groups and classes; the impact of US colonial policies on Puerto Rican migration and Puerto Rican women’s economic and political status on both the island and the mainland; the economic/political convulsions of the 20th century—from the trusts of the early 1900s to World War II—and their impact on women’s paid and unpaid labor; the impact of changes in gendered economic roles on LGBT communities; the economic and political upheavals of the 1960s that led to the so-called “second wave” of the women’s movement; the gendered and racialized impact of the Great Recession and its aftermath; and the current position of women in the US economy and polity and the possibilities for inclusive public policies concerning gender and family issues. In addition to class participation, requirements include regular, short (1-2 pp.) essays on the readings and approximately a half-dozen longer essays that synthesize class materials with the written texts.

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Geospatial Data Analysis

Open, Seminar—Fall

Geospatial data are information associated with locations on the surface of the Earth. That can include a variety of different types of data used in environmental science, such as sample collection locations at a field-study site, the areal extent of a forest biome, or the output generated by global climate models. The analysis of geospatial data also allows social scientists to identify disparities in access to natural resources or exposure to pollutants and hazards and has been critical to the study of environmental justice. This course provides an introduction to foundational concepts in cartography and geostatistics, along with practical experience in geospatial data analysis using open-source geographic information systems (GIS) software. Although we will focus primarily on environmental applications, the skills learned in this course can be utilized in many natural and social science disciplines and can also help you avoid getting lost!

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Environmental Data

Open, Seminar—Spring

Permission of the instructor is required.

The global environmental movement of the past half-century coincided with a technological revolution that has allowed us to collect many types of new data about our planet. From remote data generated by satellites, to data generated by sensors operating under harsh environmental conditions, to crowdsourced observations submitted by the general public, environmental scientists now have access to a wealth of new information that can be used to better understand earth systems and the ways in which human activities impact our environment. In this seminar, we will explore a variety of types and formats of environmental data and their applications. Participating students will develop a foundation in statistics, scientific computing, and data visualization using SciPy, a collection of open-source software packages in Python. We will also consider broader issues in using data in environmental science, including privacy, ethics, and communicating uncertainty. While seminar activities will focus on environmental data related to the New York City metropolitan area, students will have the opportunity to design and implement an environmental data analysis project on a topic of their choice.

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Urban Watersheds

Open, Seminar—Spring

The concept of a watershed—a geographic area where rainfall, snowmelt, streams, and rivers all flow to a common point—provides an important framework for scientists to study the water cycle and the impacts of human activities on water resources. In this course, we will use the Hudson River Watershed as a case study of the many ways in which urbanization impacts watershed processes. Through data analysis and field visits, students taking this course will obtain a foundation in basic hydrology and will learn about key urban watershed features, such as impervious land cover, gray and green water infrastructure, and interbasin transfers. We will also examine the processes through which climate change can impact urban water resources and go “beneath the surface” to consider the role of groundwater in investigating urban watersheds.

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Introduction to Property: Cultural and Environmental Perspectives

Intermediate, Seminar—Fall

Perhaps few issues are more contentious in the environmental arena than those surrounding struggles over rights to private, as well as common, property resources. What is property, and how is it made? Who makes property? How are property rights performed, publicized, and enforced? What is a commons, and what is common property? Debates over the “commons” implicate ideas of citizenship, community, the public good, justice, and governance. Controversies over public space and community gardens, genetic recombinant research and rights to the genome, and North-South disputes over rights to biodiversity in the geographic South—as well as debates over property in the Middle East—form some of the hotly contested terrain of property rights and the commons use and ownership. Property rights on a variety of scales—from the biomolecular to whole organs and organisms, from individual trees to whole ecosystems—are examined in varied geographic, biological, cultural, and historical contexts. This course is an introduction to ideas and cultures of property (private, public, and collective); debates, claims, and arguments over the commons; and the environmental and social consequences of different property regimes.

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Landscapes in Translation

Intermediate/Advanced, Seminar—Spring

This course investigates the multiple ways in which landscapes have been imagined, interpreted, physically shaped, and controlled in a variety of historical and contemporary sites. The literatures of environmental humanities, landscape design, and political ecology provide theory and cases. The first section, Cartographies, explores ideas of landscape in Euro-America, Southeast Asia, and colonial-era Africa. We examine how landscapes on a variety of scales, from “bioregions” to nations, are imagined, codified, and transformed through representational processes and material moves ranging from mapping to making walls. The second section, Visions, investigates how landscapes are imagined and embodied in fine arts and literature, as well as in garden and urban design. Readings draw on examples of landscape making and design in colonial New England, Indonesia, and other sites. We examine contemporary examples of landscape design in response to climate change, especially sea-level rise in the Netherlands, United States, Indonesia, and China. We also study reworkings of the urban landscape to integrate more productive, biologically diverse “fringes,” as well as rooftop farms and apiaries. The third section, Security-Scapes: Landscape Imaginaries and Embodiments, investigates the rise of “security-scapes” or “surveillance-scapes,” dating from slavery in the United States to the Department of Homeland Security in the post-9/11 era. Contemporary urban-design imaginaries and plans for “resilience” and “smart cities” are investigated. We draw upon websites, advertisements, and new scholarship in security studies, landscape design, and critical political theory. This course is open to students with developed skills in critical thinking and the analysis of texts and other representational forms.

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First-Year Studies: Introduction to Development Studies: The Political Ecology of Development

Open, FYS—Year

Some experience in the social sciences desired but not required.

In this yearlong seminar, we will begin by examining competing paradigms and approaches to understanding “development” and the “Third World.” We will set the stage by answering the question: What did the world look like 500 years ago? The purpose of this part of the course is to become acquainted with and to analyze the historical origins and evolution of a world political economy of which the Third World is an intrinsic component. We will thus study the transition from feudalism to capitalism, the rise of merchant and finance capital, and the colonization of the world by European powers. We will analyze case studies of colonial “development” to understand the evolving meaning of that term. These case studies will help us assess the varied legacies of colonialism apparent in the emergence of new nations through the fitful and uneven process of decolonization that followed. The next part of the course will look at the United Nations and the role that some of its associated institutions have played in the post-World War II global political economy—one marked by persistent and intensifying socioeconomic inequalities, as well as frequent outbreaks of political violence, across the globe. By examining the development institutions that have emerged and evolved since 1945, we will attempt to unravel the paradoxes of development in different eras. We will deconstruct the measures of development through a thematic exploration of population, resource use, poverty, access to food, the environment, agricultural productivity, and different development strategies adopted by Third World nation-states. We will then examine globalization and its relation to emergent international institutions and their policies; for example, the IMF, World Bank, AIIB, and WTO. We will then turn to contemporary development debates and controversies that increasingly find space in the headlines—widespread land grabbing by sovereign wealth funds, China, and hedge funds; the “global food crisis”; and the perils of climate change. Throughout the course, our investigations of international institutions, transnational corporations, the role of the state, and civil society will provide the backdrop for the final focus of the class—the emergence of regional coalitions for self-reliance, environmental and social justice, and sustainable development. Our analysis of development in practice will draw upon case studies primarily from Africa, but also from Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, and the United States. Conference work will be closely integrated with the themes of the course, with a two-stage substantive research project beginning in the fall semester and completed in the spring. Project presentations will incorporate a range of formats, from traditional papers to multimedia visual productions. Where possible and feasible, you will be encouraged to do primary research during fall study days and winter and spring breaks.

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First-Year Studies: In the Tradition: Introduction to African American History

Open, FYS—Year

African American history is an important window into the history of the United States and the rise of the modern world. This course explores classic narratives and examines major developments. The classic narratives are stories of self-emancipation and self-determination. The major developments range from the Atlantic Slave Trade to the Black Renaissance. On the one hand, students examine the dynamics of modern racism; on the other hand, students explore the contours of African American social, cultural, and intellectual history.

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First-Year Studies: The Urban Century: How Cities Shaped and Were Shaped by Modern European History

Open, FYS—Year

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, life in cities, including European ones, has changed dramatically. For weeks, almost all of urban life came to a halt. As European cities, both small and large, slowly emerge from the lockdown, the pandemic effects on urban life are difficult to predict. While the current moment is certainly historic, it is not without precedent. Urban life from its outset was also a history of pandemics and illness. Even the period of rapid urbanization on which this course will focus has been shaped by disease, from cholera outbreaks in the 19th century, to the “Spanish” flu in the wake of World War I, to the coronavirus today. And yet, amidst those diseases, Europe became increasingly more urban and its cities produced, adopted, and promoted many of the things, both positive and negative, that we consider hallmarks of modernity. In the middle of the 20th century, only 16 percent of Europeans lived in cities. On the eve of World War I, that number had roughly doubled. In Western Europe, already half of the population was urban. Though many of the cities were small, with fewer than 20,000 inhabitants, the European metropoles grew, too. In Germany, for example, by 1910, 21 percent lived in cities over the size of 100,000 inhabitants—up from only five percent in 1871. Berlin, Paris, London, St. Petersburg, and Vienna all had several million citizens. This urbanization shaped, and was shaped by, European history. Industrialization and advances in agriculture, sanitation, and transportation played a vital role in that process. Wars and Europe’s changing borders shaped cities’ fate. Much of what we today think of as modern originated in cities, which often set political and cultural trends. The “Roaring 20s” or the student movements of 1968 were fundamentally urban phenomena. Yet, precisely for that reason, cities also inspired vitriol and opposition—from nationalist back-to-nature advocates afraid of the negative consequences of their “cosmopolitan nature” to health care professionals worried by the detrimental effects on their inhabitants’ health. Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s chief propagandist, railed against “Jewish Berlin.” To this day, conservative French politicians extol “la France profonde,” the true France to be found in its provincial towns rather than in Paris, Lyon, or Marseille. Through the lens of the city, this course investigates major developments in modern European history: from the birth of mass politics and the modern welfare state that included sanitation and public health, across the effects of World War I and World War II, to the emergence of modernist art and environmentalism. Students will not only be introduced to European history but also to the historian’s craft. Making use of online archives and tools, we will work with a variety of primary sources—from government documents to literature, from movies to propaganda speeches, from city maps to diary entries. We will tour cities virtually and model urban landscapes. In addition, students will learn to read secondary sources and analyze historiographical arguments. During the fall semester, students will have an individual conference every other week and a group conference on alternating weeks. In the group conferences, we will discuss the nature of academic work in general and practice research, reading, writing, and editing skills; but we will also, on occasion, use the time for movie screenings related to the course or other shared and, if need be, virtual activities.

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A History of Poverty and Public Policy: The New Deal or the Raw Deal for Black America?

Open, Small Lecture—Year

This is a history of urban poverty and public policy in America. Was the postwar urban crisis in cities like Detroit, Philadelphia, and Newark caused by the howling contradictions between the New Deal for White America and the Raw Deal for the Other America? What did those savage inequalities mean for employment, housing, and schooling, as well as for public health? What happened when grassroots movements aimed a death blow at Jim Crow public policies?

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Rights to the City in Latin America

Open, Seminar—Spring

With the 2002 release of the wildly popular film, City of God, a gripping portrayal of life in a Brazilian favela, Latin American cities emerged globally as objects of myth, fascination, and fear—once again. For well over a century, cities like Rio de Janeiro, Buenos Aires, and Mexico City have been portrayed for their poverty, lawlessness, and crime. During the same period, Latin America became the most urbanized region of the world. As much as 25 percent of its urban population lives in precarious housing. This course will trace the history of urban mythmaking in Latin America, alongside a complicated reality of city politics and culture. The course will complement the conceptual work of courses in sociology by exploring rights, poverty, the “quiet encroachment of the ordinary,” and informality. Yet, it takes an historical approach, tracing the evolution of these concepts alongside changes in the urban environment over time. We will begin by examining extensive Amerindian metropolises before 1492 and continue with the Iberian colonial glorifications of the walled city as a site of order, the exclusion of rural migrants in the 19th-century Belle Époque, the rise of populism, high modernism, slum clearance in the 1940s and 50s, and the explosion of drug traffic and gentrification in a neoliberal age. Along the way, we will examine the labels applied to poor neighborhoods and explore their political and cultural relationships to wider urban environments. The course makes use of a variety of sources, including scholarship, films, and novels, with a critical analysis of urban popular music and dance.

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#BlackLivesMatter and #SayHerName: Centering Black Women in the Fight for Racial Justice

Intermediate/Advanced, Small seminar—Year

Three black women—Alica Garza, Opal Tometi, and Patrisse Cullors—created #BlackLivesMatter (#BLM) in 2012 to protest George Zimmerman’s acquittal in the shooting of Trayvon Martin. Three years later, #BLM became a rallying cry against police brutality across the country, particularly in Ferguson, Staten Island, and Baltimore. The African American Policy Forum created #SayHerName in 2014 to call attention to black women who have been killed by the police. Once dismissed as “hashtag activism,” #BLM has now become a global movement, as people have taken to the streets this summer not only to protest specific incidents of police brutality, such as the killing of George Floyd, but also to call for the abolition of the police state itself. Despite the popularity of #BLM, black women such as Breonna Taylor, who suffer state and gendered violence, have been downplayed or ignored in most media reports on police violence. This course will examine the historical contexts of both movements, focusing on the experiences of black women as activists and as targets of racial, gendered, and state violence. A core premise of the course is that we gain a much richer understanding of social systems and their problems by paying attention to society’s most vulnerable actors. Through classic and contemporary texts, we will also explore connections among #BLM, #SayHerName, and other social movements for racial justice in housing, health care, education, food, and the environment.

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Exploring the Work of Community-Based Agencies: Linking Theory and Practice

Sophomore and above, Practicum—Fall and Spring

A maximum of 12 students will be able to join this course each semester. This course may be taken for either two or three credits.

According to NonProfit Westchester, a local advocacy group, nonprofits make up 13.6 percent of the total workforce in Westchester County. The goal of this two- or three-credit course is to offer students the chance to develop, through readings and direct work, a deeper understanding of community-based work and of a nonprofit that has a strong partnership with the College. Largely through journal writing, students will engage in the process of action and reflection to explore and learn about community-based work. Some questions that this course will address include: What is a community, what is community-based work, and what is a nonprofit? Who are the people served by the agency? What are some of the complexities that the agency faces? What is the agency’s mission? How does a nonprofit agency develop and change over time, and how does it determine the kind of community-based work it will do? How does an agency determine the success of its work? What are the funding sources, and what are the some of the social forces that impact the work of each agency and the people it serves? Students will meet throughout the term for a weekly, one-hour seminar with the director of the Office of Community Partnerships. Students will also select a faculty sponsor with whom to discuss articles and journal entries throughout the semester. All students will participate in the end-of-semester poster session and write a 7- to 10-page paper on an aspect of their work over the semester, which brings together their reflections and experiences and readings. The number of students who will be able to take this course will vary according to the number of faculty available for any given semester.

Environmental Psychology: An Exploration of Space and Place

Open, Seminar—Fall

This course explores human-environment interactions and the relationships between natural, social, and built environments in shaping us as individuals. We will critically explore human interactions from the body, the home, and the local to the globalized world, with a return to the individual experience of our physical and social environments. As a survey course, we will cover myriad topics that may include informal family caregiving, urban/rural/suburban relationships, gentrification, urban planning, environmental sustainability, globalization, social justice, and varying conceptualizations and experiences of “home,” based on gender, race, class, age, and people with disabilities. As a discussion-based seminar, topics will ultimately be driven by student interest. Films and a field trip will be incorporated.

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Food Environments, Health, and Social Justice

Open, Seminar—Fall

With obesity and diabetes rising at alarming rates and growing awareness of disparities in food access, researchers and policymakers are rethinking the role of the environment in shaping our diets and health. This course takes a collaborative approach to investigating some of the key issues guiding this area of research and action. Students will critically review literature on food environments, food access, and health inequalities and explore how modes of food production and distribution shape patterns of food availability in cities. Students will use voice, photography, and video to examine foods available in the neighborhoods where they live and review media related to the course themes in order to reflect on the ways in which their own eating habits are influenced by the social and material settings of their day-to-day lives. The course concludes with students writing letters to the editor/Op-Eds to a news outlet of their choice with suggestions about how to move forward with action to improve food access, public health, and social justice in the places where they live.

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The Social Psychology of Immigration

Open, Seminar—Spring

Immigration is a worldwide phenomenon in which people move into another nation with the intention of making a better life for themselves and/or residing there temporarily or permanently. While anchored in a multidisciplinary perspective, this seminar explores the crucial role of psychology in understanding the processes associated with our conceptualizations of immigrants and immigration. The course will begin with some theoretical perspectives on immigration, as well as a brief historical overview of some sociological and some social psychological research on immigrants. We will then examine the identity of the immigrant, stressing the profound distinctions between forced and voluntary immigrants. We will explore the processes through which “illegality” is constructed by reflecting on the lives of undocumented immigrants. We will also look very closely at the intersections of race, class, gender, sexuality, and culture to see how they shape the psychological experience of immigrants. Seeking to extend our analysis to immigration’s impact on the host population, we will conclude the course by discussing several social psychological issues, such as intergroup relations, discrimination, and modes of adaptation.

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Mobilization and Social Change

Sophomore and above, Seminar—Fall

In light of recent national—as well as international—calls for racial justice, which have propelled several movements, this course will analyze the chronology of the various theories and research in both cultural and social psychology, highlighting the need to re-examine intolerance not only in the heads of people but also in the world. Given that these biases are often defined as individual prejudice, even though their persistence is systemic, we will see how they crystallize in ways that are marked in the cultural fabric, the various artifacts, the ideological discourse, and most institutional realities that all work in synchronicity with individual biases. In this class, we will highlight various examples of historically derived ideas and cultural patterns that maintain present-day inequalities (gender, sexualities, class, persons with disabilities, and various other forms of social injustice). We will first explore the theory of minority influence, a theory that stands in contra-distinction to conformity, providing a model to develop and articulate change. With the help of cultural psychology, we will then see how injustices are anchored and objectified in our everyday world. We will analyze how our preferences and selections are maintained through the contexts of our interactions. This perspective will lead us to explore the theory of social representations, moving us away from individual tendencies to focus on changing the structures in which collectively elaborated understanding is maintained and reproduced as a system.

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Health in a Multicultural Context

Intermediate, Seminar—Spring

A background in social sciences or education is recommended.

This course offers, within a cultural context, an overview of theoretical and research issues in the psychological study of health and illness. We will examine theoretical perspectives in the psychology of health, health cognition, illness prevention, stress, and coping with illness and will highlight research, methods, and applied issues. We will also explore the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic within the frame of these theoretical perspectives. This class is appropriate for those interested in a variety of health careers. Conference work may range from empirical research to bibliographic research in this area. Community partnership/service-learning work may be an option in this class.

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Borders and Transnational Mobilities

Open, Seminar—Year

In a global context, where immigration has become one of the biggest flashpoints in political discourse, our understanding of how human and nonhuman mobility takes place needs constant reexamination and refinement. In addition to major humanitarian issues leading to global refugee crises, we are looking at an ever-growing number of people who move across and within national borders in search of work, opportunities, education, and a chance to fulfill their aspirations for a better life. People also move because of conflict, dispossession, coercion, and environmental issues. Classical scholarship on migration has focused predominantly on the two largely distinct phenomena of “immigration” and “emigration,” while more recent developments in transnational studies and the “mobility” turn have led to a stronger emphasis on cross-border movements and flows of people, goods, capital, ideas, and vectors. Here, we will focus on building our knowledge about global and transnational mobility from an issue-based interdisciplinary perspective, drawing from the fields of sociology, anthropology, economics, history, and global studies. These issues include refugee crises, human trafficking, economic exploitation, modern-day slavery and indentured servitude, the global care-chain, and the emergence of new groups of precarious people around the world. To help with our exploration of these issues, we will be looking at how different regimes of mobility have developed, under the auspices of globalization in the past three decades, from a national, regional, international, and transnational perspective. What are some of the reasons influencing the movement of people away from their homes and countries of origin? How does the movement of people from privileged and wealthier backgrounds differ from that of people from poorer, marginalized communities (particularly in the Global South)? What are some of the institutional frameworks and regimes that govern, regulate, and produce new classes of “migrants” in today’s world? The course will follow a modular structure that focuses on various themes within mobility studies. In each module, we will be using classical and contemporary readings that address the themes and issues at hand in addition to nontraditional sources, such as videos, blogs, online forums, and websites. The second half of the course will be focused on helping students design and propose projects based on some of the issues covered and through an engagement with different forms of data and methods: surveys, ethnographies, demographics, historical, and digital. This course will likely appeal to students interested in learning, researching, and working with different migrant communities around the world.

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Intensive Semester in Yonkers: Everyday Cosmopolitanism in Yonkers: Understanding Informality and Diversity in the City

Intermediate, Seminar—Fall

This course is open for interviews and registration. Please visit Intensive Semester in Yonkers on MySLC for program information and application.

Cities and urban spaces are important places in which the marginalized poor and other underprivileged communities seek refuge and shelter by engaging in forms of rebuilding and placemaking that tend to fall outside of the purview and control of the state and authorities. Here, we take a transnational perspective on how the precarious and vulnerable urban poor develop strategies and practices of living, geared toward securing greater autonomy and dignity, primarily through forms of peripheral development and informality. We will explore interconnected themes of family, kinship, work, gender, and social reproduction as they pertain to the urban poor. We will also pay attention to how diversity and difference are negotiated daily by communities of faith, creed, color, ethnicity, and gender who share the same urban work and communal spaces. Some of the theories and concepts that we will read include: Teresa Caldeira’s “autoconstruction,” Asef Bayat’s “quiet encroachment of the ordinary,” Henri Lefebvre’s “right to the city,” Ananya Roy’s “subaltern urbanism,” and Mignolo’s “border thinking.” The City of Yonkers will be a case study for many of those themes of difference, informality, everyday cosmopolitanism, and hyperdiversity. This course is available to students as part of the Intensive Semester in Yonkers or as a stand-alone seminar. Students taking it as a stand-alone will be encouraged to consider participation with one of our various community partners.

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Practices, Techniques, and Strategies in Photography

Open, Seminar—Year

$200–$400 materials expense per semester

The course offers a trio of necessary skills to build a photographic practice, including critical theory, art histories, and technique. Students will learn analog and digital, from photographic capture to scanning and printing. Through a series of assignments and lectures, students will consider the overarching concepts that inform their work. Dynamic themes include working within and against a field of influence, the roll of documentary and conceptual approaches to photography, subjectivity versus structural systems of production, and photography as event and narrative. Our time will be divided between group critiques and lectures. In the spirit of experimentation and play, drawing from research and the everyday, students will test their theories in practice. Students will develop a cohesive and original body of photographs and develop a generative practice based on a process of making, thinking, and remaking. Final work will be compiled into an artist-made, print-on-demand book.

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Intensive Semester in Yonkers: From the Known to the Unknown: Getting to Know the World Through Writing

Intermediate, Seminar—Fall

Students may take this course individually or apply to participate in the Intensive Semester in Yonkers.

This course is open for interviews and registration. Please visit Intensive Semester in Yonkers on MySLC for program information and application.

We will begin the semester by writing about the familiar—how it becomes beloved, despised, forgotten, lived within. We will explore how we experience the familiar at different ages while we take notes on the new, using words, photographs and sketches at our sites, on bus rides and walks, and in restaurants, parks, and churches. We will move from writing about the known to writing about how we get familiar with the new. We will pick five or more pieces to finish, revise, and edit for conference work and make chapbooks, using sketches and photographs to illuminate the world of our words. We will read other people’s explorations of their worlds, known and new, in an anthology that includes these writers, graphic novelists, and oral tale tellers: Dominican-American Junot Diaz, Iranian Marjane Satrapi, Malaysian Lat, Russian Isaac Babel, Italian Natalia Ginsberg, The Arabian Nights, African American folk tales, and poems from three languages—both ancient and modern.

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Ecopoetry

Open, Seminar—Year

In this poetry class—a yearlong school of poetry and the living world—we will consider the great organism Gaia, of which we are a part. We will read and write poems every week. We will ask questions: When did we begin to think of nature as apart from us? Why did we begin to speak of the animals as if we are not also animals? What are the stories and myths that have determined our attitude toward what we are and what we believe? We will read some of these stories and myths (myths of creation; Eden, the lost garden). We will read the long and rich tradition of poetry addressing itself to this subject, from the early indigenous peoples through the Zen monks and Wordsworth and right up through Gary Snyder to utterly contemporary poets writing right now. We will read books and articles that teach us about the other animals and living entities that we call plants and trees and planets and galaxies. Each student will research an aspect of the living world and teach the rest of us what they have learned. And we will write poems that incorporate that knowledge. We will read books of poems but also watch films, take field trips, and meet with each other outside of class in weekly poetry dates. By the end of the class, my hope is that each of us will have a greater understanding of the great organism that we call Earth and will create a collection of poems that engage the questions that our class raises: What is time? What is death? What is Eden? Where is the garden now? Who are the other organisms? How have we, as a species, affected the other organisms? How have we affected the oceans, the Earth, the air? How can poetry address the planetary emergency? Required for this class: intellectual curiosity, empathy, and a willingness to observe the world, to pay attention, and to write poetry that matters. This is a class for experienced writers, as well as for those who want to give writing poetry a try. All are welcome.

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