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.

Urban Studies 2022-2023 Courses

Understanding Experience: Phenomenological Approaches in Anthropology

Open, Seminar—Fall

How does a chronic illness affect a person’s orientation to the everyday? What are the social and political forces that underpin life in a homeless shelter? What is the experiential world of a deaf person, a musician, a refugee, or a child at play? In an effort to answer these and like-minded questions, anthropologists in recent years have become increasingly interested in developing phenomenological accounts of particular “lifeworlds” in order to understand—and convey to others—the nuances and underpinnings of such worlds in terms that more orthodox social or symbolic analyses cannot achieve. In this context, phenomenology entails an analytic method that works to understand and describe in words phenomena as they appear to the consciousnesses of certain peoples. Phenomenology, put simply, is the study of experience. The phenomena most often in question for anthropologists include the workings of time, perception, emotions, selfhood, language, bodies, suffering, and morality as they take form in particular lives within the context of any number of social, linguistic, and political forces. In this course, we will explore phenomenological approaches in anthropology by reading and discussing some of the most significant efforts along these lines. Each student will also try her or his hand at developing a phenomenological account of a specific subjective or intersubjective lifeworld through a combination of interviewing, participant observation research, and ethnographic writing.

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Spaces of Exclusion, Places of Belonging

Intermediate, Seminar—Fall

This course explores issues of identity and difference, locality and community, through a close look at the interconnections between language and place. Engaging with recent scholarly work in the fields of linguistic anthropology, sociocultural anthropology, ethnic studies, sociology, geography, architecture, and literature, we will seek to decode sociospatial arrangements to better understand structures and processes of exclusion and marginalization. At the same time, we will observe how linguistic discourse and material realities shape people’s navigations through space and how efforts at placemaking create sites of collective identity, resistance, belonging, and recognition. We will ask questions such as: How does “talk of crime” instantiate racial segregation in a Brazilian favela? How does the use of everyday words like “nice” or “modern” disguise discrimination and define the boundaries of gated communities in places like Texas and Mumbai? And how does the language of public policy police green spaces to restrict access by people who are unhoused in San Diego? What does it mean to talk of “placeless” spaces or states, such as those instantiated through technologies like social media, radio, or meditative practice? How should we understand the connections between language, identity, and place in people’s experiences of displacement, transborder identifications, or longings for homeland as they play out for Sierra Leonean Muslims in Washington, DC, Ecuadorians in Italy, or Indigenous Latin American migrants in California and Wyoming? Posed in a wide range of ethnographic contexts, our efforts to puzzle through these issues will require attention to the ways in which space and place are spoken, embodied, gendered, racialized, and (il)legalized. We will likewise attend to the politics and ethics of decolonizing scholarship on space and place and to the meanings of an engaged anthropology that leans toward social justice.

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Specters of the Subject: Hauntologies of Ghosts, Phantasms, and Imaginings in Contemporary Life

Advanced, Seminar—Fall

“The future belongs to the ghosts,” remarked the philosopher Jacques Derrida in 1996. His interlocutor, Bernard Stiegler, phrases the main idea behind this statement: “Modern technology, contrary to appearances, increases tenfold the power of ghosts.” With the advent of the internet, various forms of social media, and the ubiquity of filmic images in our lives, Derrida’s observations have proven to be quite prophetic, such that they call for a new field of study—one that requires less an ontology of being and the real and more a “hauntology” (to invoke Derrida’s punish term) of the spectral, the virtual, the phantasmic, the imaginary, and the recurrent revenant. In this seminar, we consider ways in which the past and present are haunted by ghosts. Topics to be covered include: specters and hauntings, figures and apparitions, history and memory, trauma and political crisis, fantasy and imagination, digital interfaces, and visual and acoustical images. We will be considering a range of films and video, photography, literary texts, acoustic reverberations, internet and social media, and everyday discourses and imaginings. Through these inquiries, we will be able to further our understanding of the nature of specters and apparitions in the contemporary world in their many forms and dimensions. Students will be invited to undertake their own hauntologies and, thus, craft studies of the phenomenal force of specters, hauntings, and the apparitional in particular social or cultural contexts.

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First-Year Studies: Urban Ecology

FYS—Year

Ecology is a scientific discipline that studies interactions between living organisms and their environments, as well as processes governing how species are distributed, how they interact, and how nutrients and energy cycle through ecosystems. Although we may think of these processes occurring in “natural” areas with little-to-no human development, all of these processes still take place in environments heavily modified by humans, such as cities. This course will cover fundamental concepts in the discipline of ecology and then further explore how these patterns and processes are altered (sometimes dramatically) in urban environments. We will use examples from our local environment—the New York City metropolitan area—to understand ecological concepts in light of urbanization. The fall semester will include a biweekly outdoor lab session at local parks and field stations. Biweekly individual conferences with students will be held during both the fall and spring semesters. Special attention will be paid to the ecology of local streams and rivers, including field trips and work involving the Sarah Lawrence Center for the Urban River at Beczak. This course will also participate in interdisciplinary activities as part of the Sarah Lawrence Interdisciplinary Collaborative on the Environment (SLICE).

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Hip-Hop

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In this 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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Economics of Environmental Justice (Intensive Semester in Yonkers)

Sophomore and Above, Seminar—Spring

Environmental injustice is both an outcome and a process. As an outcome, environmental injustice is the unequal distribution of environmental burdens (or benefits) in a society. As a process, environmental injustice is the history and institutions that project political, economic, and social inequalities into the environmental sphere. In this course, we will focus on our immediate community: Yonkers, NY. We will first measure the disproportionate environmental burdens in the city’s low-income and minority neighborhoods. Then, we will utilize economics to examine the causal mechanisms of environmental injustice. We will focus on the evolution of the housing market, the changing demographics of Yonkers, the location choice of major pollution sources, and zoning policies. We will draw knowledge from multiple fields—economics, politics, sociology, geography, etc. We will examine the issue using multiple methodologies and assess different policy options for improving environmental and climate justice in Yonkers. There will be service-learning opportunities at local community organizations.

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The Working Girl Around the World

Open, Lecture—Spring

Since the Lumière brothers filmed their female employees leaving the factory in 1895, the "working girl" has become a fixture of global cinema. This lecture course approaches this archetypal modern character as a foundational figure for film history and an important vernacular link for national film industries competing with Hollywood. We begin by asking: What is a working girl? How has the category changed over the course of the 20th century, as the category has circulated around the globe? And how, despite its fraught ideological construction, can we turn the category into a tool for intersectional feminist film history? With these questions in mind, we launch our investigation in the United States and Europe—and then move onto the Soviet Union, Japan, China, India, South Korea, Mexico, Senegal, and Cameroon—by reading classic film theory, short fiction, and local histories of film culture and gendered labor alongside films about shopgirls, dancing girls, telephone girls, factory girls, office girls, laundresses, and maids. Topics to be discussed include working girls as moviegoers, cultural imperialism and vernacular modernism, migration and mass reproduction, sex work, workplace romance, and contradictions of capital and care. In this class, students will conduct comparative, multimedia analyses of film texts and read global film history through the globalization of modern gendered labor.

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Arcades, Trains, and Hysterics: 19th-Century Foundations of Film

Open, Seminar—Fall

This seminar will examine film history and analysis through a proto-cinematic lens inspired by the Arcades Project, Walter Benjamin’s montage-style compendium of Parisian modernization. With this canonical academic experiment as catalyst, we will excavate the 19th-century technocultural foundations of film, placing a particular emphasis on the train, department store, factory, metropolis, and mental life. How did these modern developments shape the materiality and content of early films? And what do they have to tell us about film today? Alongside weekly screenings, we will read classic texts of critical theory (Marx, Freud, Simmel, Benjamin, Kracauer, Adorno); modern/modernist fiction (Poe, Baudelaire, Zola, Pirandello, Keun, Du Bois); and new cultural history on hysterical performance, shell shock cinema, human motors, spectacular realities, and slapstick modernism. We will also watch films directed by Charlie Chaplin, René Clair, Jacques Tati, Chantal Akerman, Boots Riley, and Bong Joon-ho. In this class, students will get an overview of European modernity studies and learn to read films media-archaeologically, tying them to the major industrial shifts, perceptual transformations, and hybrid forms from which cinema emerged as a dominant mass medium.

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Documentary Filmmaking: The Personal Is Political I

Open, Seminar—Fall

In this documentary course, students will locate themselves in larger movements for change in order to produce a three-to-five minute film. The projects may be grounded in portraiture, historically informed, and even the experimental and will exist through a lens of social change and personal experience. Students will work in teams to produce their films, building trust among each other as collaborators and practicing filmmaking as essentially interdependent creative work. Students will be required to make their work public and create social-engagement strategies for their final films. Given these unprecedented times—as we are presented with new opportunities to shift our understanding of self, community, and the roles that we can play in pursuing a just future—this course is for those who are committed to using filmmaking as a tool for change. This semester-long collaboration is equal parts media creation, screenings, and an understanding of the power of artists in movements for justice.

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Critical Cartography and GIS

Open, Seminar—Fall

At first glance, the map is a pretty straightforward document. Its sole purpose (allegedly) is to orient us in our world. Orientation, however, is a big task; and when we trace the evolution of the map from the Tabula Rogeriana of the 12th century to the medieval mappa mundi and through the 3D landscapes rendered by the US military, we not only see the evolving ways in which we orient ourselves but also our evolving judgment of the worlds that we inhabit. Maps are historical documents unto themselves. For geographers, the map communicates the history of our discipline from tools of empire to Marxist counter-topography. Maps have never been value-free or objective. This course follows the evolution of the map, geographic thought, and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) through the following disciplinary moments: critical geography and GIS, feminist geography and GIS, queering the map, indigenous mapping, mapping environmental (in)justice, and urban geography, among others. At the same time, students will learn the basics of the mapping software ArcGIS. Our seminars inform the critical geographic work that we will do in these lab sessions, and the sessions give us the opportunity to practically understand the social and political tensions of mapping. Students will not only source, manage, and analyze data to create maps of their choosing for their conference project but also ground their research, as a whole, in one of the subdisciplines covered in class. Students will also be encouraged to continue their research by adding a GIS/spatial component to their conference work in the second semester.

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Space, Place, and Uneven Development: Building the Countermap of New York City

Intermediate, Seminar—Spring

The 1981 collection, This Bridge Called My Back (edited by Cherrie Moraga and Gloria Anzaldua), is a landmark text in women’s political and organizing literature. Forty years later, the text understandably no longer sits comfortably alongside our more contemporary critiques of gender and class. Despite its limits, and what no longer ages well, Audre Lorde’s essay, The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House, still resonates. We find the adage in our texts to one another, in our organizing materials, and in our own writing. For geographers, generally, and mappers, specifically, we encounter Lorde’s provocation every time we decide to map. The history of cartography is inexplicably linked to the history of imperialism and colonialism. Maps built the master’s house. And yet, despite this, countermaps of our experiences have also emerged to tell our stories of resistance. What do we make of this? Are they, too, tools that eventually undermine our efforts to carve out a different way of being and doing? Or are they truly radical bulwarks against racial capitalism? Whereas the Critical Cartography course in the fall focused on geography literature as it relates to GIS, this course discusses the politics of placemaking and, therefore, necessarily combines feminist, urban, and economic geography literatures. Here, we will situate what we already technically and critically know about spatial practices into the much broader context of placemaking in the unequal city. Our focus is New York, but our lens is varied. Student conference projects will focus on identifying particular vectors of inequality in New York, illustrating the spatial aspects of social, environmental, economic, or any other issue of the student’s choosing. This course will also be an opportunity for students to explore alternative, qualitative mapping practices.

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The Emergence of the Modern Middle East

Open, Seminar—Year

This course provides a broad introduction to the political, social, cultural, and intellectual history of the Middle East from the late 18th century to the present. After a brief conceptual overview, the course draws upon a wide array of primary and secondary sources to illuminate the manifold transformations and processes that have contributed over time to shaping what has meant to be “modern” in this remarkably diverse and dynamic region. Particular attention will be paid to the following themes: the question of modernization and reform within the Ottoman and Qajar empires; the experience of different forms of European imperialism in the Middle East; the integration of the Middle East into the world economy; World War I and the collapse of the Ottoman Empire; state-building in both colonial and postcolonial contexts; transformations in religious thought; changing family norms and gender roles and the genesis of Middle Eastern women’s movements; nationalism; class politics, social movements, and revolution; Zionism and the Israel-Palestine conflict; post-World War II geopolitics and the Cold War in the Middle East; Nasserism and pan-Arabism; the role of US power in the Middle East; the origins and spread of political Islam; the political economy of oil; globalization and neoliberalism; and the impact of various new cultural forms and media on the formation of identities across the region.

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The City of Yonkers: Histories of Change, Continuity, and Community

Open, Seminar—Fall

Yonkers, the fourth-largest city in New York State, is known as the “Queen City of the Hudson.” Over the course of its history, Yonkers has also been known as “The City of Gracious Living” and, more recently, “Westchester’s Hippest City.” During the 20th century, the city weathered social, economic, political, and cultural movements that mirrored national developments. A stronghold for industry, factories within Yonkers were vital to World War I and World War II production. In the wake of the world wars, the city became a site of mass deindustrialization, as companies looked westward and to the Caribbean for more cost-effective options. Following this economic wane, public housing became the centerpiece of a US Supreme Court case that linked desegregation to education and community. After a nearly 30-year battle, the case forever changed the landscape and composition of the city. The aftershocks of that monumental legislation have reverberated well into the 21st century, as Yonkers experiences a revitalization of its waterfront and downtown area. At the core of each of the transitions are communities and organizations that responded using a variety of tactics. This course studies the local history of Yonkers and its role within state and national narratives. Through readings, music, film, and course work, we will consider how history relied on the actions of individuals, as well as community groups. Moreover, we will analyze their role in dismantling or upholding systems of inequality. In order to do this, we will focus on conceptions of citizenship and examine the entwined relationships of the people, places, and ideas that have shaped the city. This semester-long class will enable students to develop an understanding of how race, class, gender, and community shaped the changes that the city experienced over the last century to provide an interdisciplinary discourse on how Yonkers continues to thrive and survive.

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Tradition and Transformation: 17th-Century British Literature

Open, Seminar—Year

In the 17th century in England, the great ordering coherences of medieval and earlier Renaissance thinking seemed to disintegrate under the warring impulses of individualism and authority, empiricism and faith, revolutionary transformation and reinforcement of tradition. Yet, even as monarchy and the established church were challenged and torn apart, the 17th century produced an extraordinary flowering of drama, poetry, and prose that expressed the contradictory energies of the period. We will study English writing of the 17th century in a roughly chronological sequence. The first semester will explore the aesthetics and ideology of the Stuart courts and the robust and bawdy urban century of London through a reading of masques and plays by Jonson and Shakespeare and their contemporaries; dramatic experiments in “metaphysical” and moral verse by Donne, Jonson, Herbert, and other poets; various developments in scientific, philosophical, and meditative prose by Bacon, Burton, and Browne; and the early poetry of Milton. The second semester will be devoted to major writers during the periods of the English Revolution and the Restoration of the Stuart monarchy. Our primary attention will be on the radical politics and the visionary poetics of Milton, particularly Paradise Lost and Samson Agonistes; but we will also study the work of the cavalier and libertine court poets, as well as Andrew Marvell, Katherine Phillips, Aphra Behn, and John Dryden. John Bunyan’s spiritual allegory Pilgrim’s Progress and Behn’s colonial romance novel, Oroonoko, will provide a retrospect of the imagined and the social worlds that we have traversed and a prospect of the worlds to come.

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Metaphysical Poetry

Open, Seminar—Fall

The best lyric poets of 17th-century England have been loosely characterized as “metaphysical poets” because of their “wit”; their intellectual range, rigor, and inventiveness; the versatility and trickery of their poetic strategies; and their remarkable fusion of thought and passion. Masters of paradox, these poets stage and analyze their expressive intensities with technical precision. They eroticize religious devotion and sanctify bodily desire with fearless and searching bravado. They stretch their linguistic tightropes across a historical arena of tremendous political and religious turmoil, in response to which they forge what some critics consider to be early evidences of the ironic self-consciousness of modernity, poetic dramatizations of the Cartesian ego. We will test these claims, as well as the sufficiency of the category “metaphysical,” against the evidence of the poems themselves. We will closely read significant poems of Donne, Jonson, Herbert, Phillips, Herrick, Vaughan, Crashaw, Milton, Marvell, and Behn. We will attend primarily to how they work as poems, looking at argument, structure, diction, syntax, tone, image, and figure. We will also consider their religious, cultural, and psychological implications. Students will prepare three papers based on class readings. Conference work is recommended in correlative topics: the English Bible, Spenser’s The Faerie Queene, Shakespearean and Jacobean drama, or influences on and comparisons to Romantic or Modern English poetry.

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An Introduction to Statistical Methods and Analysis

Open, Lecture—Fall

Variance, correlation coefficient, regression analysis, statistical significance, and margin of error—you’ve heard these terms and other statistical phrases bantered about before, and you’ve seen them interspersed in news reports and research articles. But what do they mean? And why are they so important? Serving as an introduction to the concepts, techniques, and reasoning central to the understanding of data, this lecture course focuses on the fundamental methods of statistical analysis used to gain insight into diverse areas of human interest. The use, misuse, and abuse of statistics will be the central focus of the course; specific topics of exploration will be drawn from experimental design theory, sampling theory, data analysis, and statistical inference. Applications will be considered in current events, business, psychology, politics, medicine, and other areas of the natural and social sciences. Statistical (spreadsheet) software will be introduced and used extensively in this course, but no prior experience with the technology is assumed. Group conferences, conducted in workshop mode, will serve to reinforce student understanding of the course material. This lecture is recommended for anybody wishing to be a better-informed consumer of data and strongly recommended for those planning to pursue advanced undergraduate or graduate research in the natural sciences or social sciences.

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First-Year Studies: Cities, Suburbs, Trains, and Highways: Politics and Geography

FYS—Year

Winston Churchill purportedly remarked that “we shape our buildings; thereafter, they shape us,” suggesting that the built environment and geography more generally have a profound impact on society, culture, and politics. This course explicitly will take the study of politics and the social world out of the narrow and traditional views of political science—views that regularly see individuals as “atoms” that are, in the words of Kenneth Shepsle, “unconnected to the social structure in which he or she is embedded”—and, instead, look at how “politics and people” are embedded in particular spaces and places, and networks are highly conditioned, based on specific locational qualities, histories, and features. This course rejects the idea that individuals are atoms and explicitly brings geography into the picture in our study of American politics at the start of the 21st century—in a moment of intense rancor and polarization. After examining theory and methodology, the course tackles a number of big issues that are hotly debated in academic, political, and policy circles vis-à-vis the built environment. One example is the ever-growing literature on geographic differences and regionalism in the United States as an underlying cause of American division and fractionalization. These geographic fissures do not fall along easy‐to‐map state lines but, rather, along a variety of regions in the United States that have been described and mapped by scholars in a number of social-science disciplines. We will examine and review a number of literatures and large amounts of localized data that will enable us to look more precisely into the numerous claims that there are nontrivial regional differences in terms of political beliefs, behaviors, and distinct regional political cultures. While American regions display varied histories and cultures, the question that we will attempt to answer is whether these histories and cultures have an impact on contemporary political attitudes, behaviors, and social values. We will take on similar empirical topics throughout the year, using many tools available from the social sciences—from GIS to historical election and economic data—to examine issues of welfare, mobility, and “hollowing out the middle”; employment; innovation; gerrymandering and issues of representation; competition over natural resources; mass transit and the impact of transportation and highways on sociopolitical development; and urban and rural differences. Many of these topics will be familiar, but the tools through which we examine them will be via a geospatial lens; and the way in which we understand the surrounding politics will, hopefully, be more complete when compared to the traditional lenses of political science. This FYS seminar will be an open, nonpartisan forum for discussion and debate. As such, the course will be driven by data, not dogma. We will use a variety of approaches based in logic and evidence to find answers to various puzzles about American policy and will treat this material as social scientists—not ideologues. Comfort with numbers and statistics is expected. This course will have weekly conferences for the first six weeks; biweekly conferences thereafter.

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First-Year Studies: Urban Health in a Multicultural Context

FYS—Year

This FYS/community-partnership course will focus on the health of humans living within physical, social, and psychological urban spaces. We will use a constructivist, multidisciplinary, multilevel lens to examine the interrelationship between humans and the natural and built environment, to explore the impact of social-group (ethnic, racial, sexuality/gender) membership on person/environment interactions, and to explore an overview of theoretical and research issues in the psychological study of health and illness across the lifespan. We will examine theoretical perspectives in the psychology of health, health cognition, illness prevention, stress, and coping with illness. And we will highlight research, methods, and applied issues. This class is appropriate for those interested in a variety of health careers or for anyone interested in city life. The community-partnership/service-learning component is an important part of this class; for one morning or afternoon per week, students will work in local community agencies to promote health-adaptive, person-environment interactions within our community. 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.

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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, which 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. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, we will give special consideration to public space and home environments. As a discussion-based seminar, topics will ultimately be driven by student interest. Several films will be incorporated into the class.

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Critical Urban Environmentalism, Space, and Place

Intermediate, Seminar—Spring

In North American countries, 83.6 percent of residents live in cities as of 2020, and 56 percent of the world’s population is urban. Traditional environmental movements focus on the “natural” world, and the built environment tends to be undertheorized and perhaps underanalyzed. Yet, urban spaces are also sites of resistance, as residents create community gardens from vacant lots, paint public-housing project exterior walls, and lobby for city government support of the built environment. This course explores paths toward humanistic urban revitalization and civic engagement through community partnership. We will read in three main domains: knowledge of local and global urban environments; physical, mental, and social/community health; and theory and philosophies of urban environments. The relationship between urban sustainability and social dynamics, such as ethical decision-making and sociopolitical power relations (Sze, 2020), seem to lead to a particular set of public-private solutions. These are implemented from the top downward, without input from stakeholders and residents, with serious implications for resident health. In turn, health is strongly affected by the urban physical environment, infrastructure, pollution, population density, and the concomitant social environment (Galea and Vlahov, 2005). And as development occurs, long-time residents of neighborhoods are being displaced. How can we ensure that the health and welfare of all denizens are developed as well as purported positive economic change? The community-partnership/service-learning component is an important part of this class. For one morning or afternoon per week, students will work in local community agencies to promote health-adaptive, person-environment interactions within our community.

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Mobility and Modernization: Exploring Received Narratives in American Jewish History

Open, Seminar—Spring

What is “Jewish” about American Jewish history? Does a single “American Jewish history” even exist? What does “Jewishness” mean, and does it differ from “Judaism”? How do we reconcile history and memory? This course invites us to think critically about American Jewish history beginning in the colonial period, when Jews first settled on American shores, and thereafter and continuing into the present. These questions will allow us to explore how Jews developed a diverse and fluid array of social, cultural, political, and religious practices as they encountered new social structures, ideologies, and cultures throughout what became the United States. Through the lenses of gender, race, ethnicity, class, religion, and disability, our discussions will center Jewish communal formation and evolution in response to the changing conditions of the United States over time. In our classroom community, we will deepen our conceptions of American Jewish history by analyzing texts, featuring both storied figures and marginalized voices, as we learn to apply different theoretical approaches and examine how historical narratives evolved and coalesced. Students will analyze primary sources, write creative pieces unpacking historical events, and produce a research paper on a topic of their choice. The readings chosen for this course are not meant to be exhaustive but, rather, to strengthen students’ understanding of American Jewish history, provide a range of theoretical approaches to enhance their analytical toolboxes, and illuminate the construction and perpetuation—and, when relevant, associated agendas—of American Jewish historical narratives.

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Sociology of the Built Environment

Open, Lecture—Fall

This course begins with a question: What is nature? Over the course of one semester, we will answer this question—drawing on insight from science and technology studies and the tools of ethnographic methods. Lectures will explore key concepts in the sociology of nature—including Karl Marx’s reproduction, Michael Bell’s natural conscience, and William Cronon’s second nature—in addition to substantive topics like the human ability to act on nature, the politics of land ownership, the relationship between humans and animals, and the conception of humans and cities as natural spaces. Group conferences will be devoted to training in ethnographic methods and peer review of ongoing ethnographic work. For their final conference work, students will craft an ethnographic portfolio of weekly ethnographic fieldnotes, memos reflecting on connections to course concepts, and a final analysis that summarizes key findings.

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Travel and Tourism: Economies of Pleasure, Profit, and Power

Sophomore and Above, Seminar—Fall

This course takes a long view of travel, seeing it as a “contact zone”—a contradictory site of learning and exchange, as well as exploitation. Among the questions the course will address are the following: What are the reasons for travel historically and in the modern world? What factors draw individuals to travel singly and as members of collectivities? What sites draw the traveler and/or the tourist? What is the relationship between the visited site and the sight of the visitor? How is meaning produced in/through/of particular sites? How do these meanings differ, depending on the positionality of the traveler? What makes particular sites inviting? What is the relationship between the visitor and the local inhabitant? Can one be a traveler in one’s own home (site)? What is the relationship between travel and tourism, pleasure and power in/through travel? How are race, gender, and class articulated in/through travel? We will examine these questions through a multiplicity of sources—including but not limited to diaries, journals, and memoirs by travelers, as well as films and scholarly writings on travel and tourism. Throughout, the relation between material and physical bodies will remain a central focus of the course. Conference possibilities include analyses of your own travel experiences, examination of travel writings pertaining to specific places, theoretical perspectives on travel and/or tourism, or the political economy of travel. Fieldwork locally is yet another possibility for conference work.

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PostConcreteness

Open, Seminar—Fall

PostConcreteness explores an emergent phenomenon in the built environment; namely, the imperative to move beyond concrete (as a material) and the erosion of conceptual concreteness around the proper role of an architect in the Anthropocene. Rather than focusing on the immediate output of a building, PostConcreteness asks students to consider the longer timescales of building and the larger political and social regimes shaping labor, material extraction, and climate adaptation both for today and for decades into the future. PostConcreteness will explore these questions through individual and collective work—students will investigate the supply chains and embodied costs of specific construction materials, proposing current and future scenarios for their use, while collectively intervening into the studio space itself to create a recyclable display for the studio’s work at 1:1 scale.

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Stories And

Sophomore and Above, Seminar—Spring

This class will involve telling stories, writing or recording our own and other people’s stories, and illustrating stories with photos or drawings. It involves becoming collectors of the storytelling around us and analyzing its form, type, uses, and pleasures. It centers on oral storytelling—formal and informal, short and long, fantasies, tales, family stories, and gossip. It also involves practice in being both a leader and a member of a storytelling group at the Wartburg Elder Care Residence in nearby Pelham or at some other venue, perhaps involving children or teens. Homework will include reading, practicing your stories, working as a group leader with a classmate, and calling on family and friends to tell their stories. Anyone interested in their own or other people’s lives, in leadership and followership, in teaching, and otherwise in stories should consider this course.

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Children’s Books: A Reading and Writing Adventure

Open, Seminar—Fall

Who doesn’t love Frog and Toad? Have you ever wanted to write something like it—or like Charlotte’s Web or A Snowy Day? Why do our favorites work so well and so (almost) universally? We will begin by reading books we know and books we missed and discuss what makes them so good. We may look at books for older children and consider what good children’s history and biography might be like. We will talk about the place of the visual, the careful and conscious use of language, notions of appropriateness, and age level. Then, we will try our hand at writing picture books, older children’s narratives, collections of poems like Mother Goose. Conference work will involve making a book, an animation, or a game for children with narrative content.

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Wrongfully Accused

Open, Seminar—Year

Long-form investigative journalism has opened many doors, perhaps most literally in America’s penal system where journalists have regularly revealed—and freed—the wrongfully convicted. This class will set out to expose the innocence (or confirm the guilt) of a man or woman convicted of a controversial murder or other serious felony. Working collectively and using all of the tools and traditions of investigative journalism, the class will attempt to pull out all known and unknown threads of the story to reveal the truth. Was our subject wrongfully accused? Or are his or her claims of innocence an attempt to game the system? The class will interview police, prosecutors, and witnesses, as well as friends and family of the victim and of the accused. The case file will be examined in depth. A long-form investigative piece will be produced, complete with multimedia accompaniment.

Faculty