The Odyssey Project, Illinois Humanities, Chicago, IL

Justice in the City, Spring 2021

This course asks us to think about Chicago’s spaces and places, who shaped them, who will shape them in the future, and how concepts of power, rights, and justice determine our interactions with the city. Together we will explore Chicago’s history as a metropolis formed on occupied, colonized land and fueled by industrial labor, infrastructural and architectural innovation, trade, and political wrangling. At the same time, we will recover the ways these stories of power, profit, and growth distract from Chicago’s legacy as one of the most racially segregated, overpoliced, and unequal cities in the United States. Our course will examine the deep social problems and miseries produced by such inequalities. These conditions have also produced social movements and figures from a wide array of backgrounds dedicated towards social justice.  By the end of the semester, you will have gained greater facility in understanding how the city and its spaces function, as well as analytic and active tools to participate in making it more just. (Co-taught with Christophe Ringer)

New York University, Gallatin School of Individualized Study, New York, NY

Methods in Urban Practice, Spring 2020

What does it mean to advocate for social justice in the city? Ultimately, what does a just city look like? In this course we will explore these questions as they reveal themselves both in scholarship and in practice. Focusing on some of the methods of inquiry that constitute the academic researcher’s toolkit — participant observation, ethnography, archival research, survey design, interviewing, mapping — you will develop a set of concrete skills to take with you as you prepare to work with urban social justice organizations in the United States, Latin America, and Europe. At the same time, we will reflect as a group on broader, animating concepts such as the “right to the city,” urbanization, democracy, gentrification, urban planning, resilience, and preservation. The course will culminate in a scholarly, actionable, and flexible research plan that will help ground you for your summer research. Readings for this course may include David Harvey’s “The Right to the City”, Ananya Roy’s “The 21st Century Metropolis: New Geographies of Theory”, Pierre Bourdieu’s “Understanding”, Amy Starecheski’s Ours to Lose, and Eve Tuck’s “Suspending Damage: A Letter to Communities.”

Land & Property, Spring 2019 

New Yorkers talk about real estate the way most people talk about the weather.  We know each others’ mortgage interest rates, rental costs, and amenities.  We calculate our affective ties based on neighborhood-to-neighborhood subway travel and make lifelong commitments based on rent stabilization.  How did we get to be this way?  This course examines the long history of real estate and land use in New York through the lens of the Lower East Side/East Village.  We will encounter the work of historians, geographers, sociologists, activists, environmentalists, and journalists to excavate the meaning of land and property in this dense and culturally rich urban neighborhood.  As part of our classroom-based research, we will also collaborate with the Cooper Square Community Land Trust, a growing and revolutionary East Village institution, to investigate new ways to re-consider land not only as an exchangeable commodity, but as a social, cultural, and natural urban resource.  Readings will include Elizabeth Blackmar, Manhattan for Rent, 1785-1850, Janet Abu-Lughod, From Urban Village to East Village, Neil Smith, The New Urban Frontier, Amy Starecheski, Ours to Lose, and Miranda Martinez, Power at the Roots.

Critical Race Theory & Your Education, Fall 2018

This 2-unit, 14-week course is open to sophomores and juniors only. It is uniquely structured so that each session is co-taught by different Gallatin faculty. The list of instructors include Rebecca Amato, Sinan Antoon, Kwami Coleman, Sybil Cooksey, Marie Cruz Soto, Kim DaCosta, Lisa Daily, Anne DeWitt, Kristoffer Diaz, Michael Dinwiddie, Valerie Forman, Hannah Gurman, Kristin Horton, AB Huber, Rosanne Kennedy, Eugenia Kisin, Ritty Lukose, Meleko Mokgosi, Vasuki Nesiah, Myisha Priest, Frank Roberts, George Shulman, and Alejandro Velasco. This class will foreground race, racism and racial structures to interrogate and trouble dominant intellectual traditions. Co-taught by over 20 Gallatin faculty, each week we will attend to how different fields of study construct knowledge; we will try to better understand how we may unpack the racial grammar, sometimes visible often latent, that shapes and constricts disciplinary knowledge, and how particular assumptions and perspectives get authorized and amplified within the university’s walls. How might we situate different ways of knowing in relation to historical and contemporary maps of power and privilege, local and/or global? How might the dominant intellectual traditions in your area of concentration be challenged by foregrounding legacies of colonialism and/or slavery? How would feminist, queer, Marxist critique help us probe these questions further? And what will you have to unlearn in asking these questions? What new lines of inquiry, responsibility and solidarity might be open for you? The class will expose students to a rich body of literature that vividly challenges the racial unconscious of a broad variety of disciplines (anthropology, law, philosophy, history, literature, music etc.), and of course of the university experience itself. We will draw on texts that directly challenge the dominant traditions, as well as texts that have been shaped by subordinated traditions. Readings include scholars such as W.E.B. DuBois, James Baldwin, Edward Said, Derrick Bell, Achille Mbembe, Lisa Lowe, Fred Moten, Traci Lynn Voyles and Rod Ferguson.

(Dis)Placed Urban Histories, Spring 2015, Spring 2016, Spring 2017, Spring 2018

Neighborhood change comes in many varieties. Mid-twentieth century urban renewal in U.S. cities brought bulldozers and tower-in-the-park housing developments to dozens of poor neighborhoods considered ripe for revision. Early-twenty-first century gentrification, meanwhile, has brought high-end commerce and affluence to areas once occupied by low-income and working class communities. In the Melrose section of the South Bronx, a series of changes have influenced the streetscapes and lives of residents. Rampant arson in the 1970s and 1980s destroyed acres of the neighborhood, for example, while migrants from Puerto Rico and immigrants from the Dominican Republic, West Africa, and Bangladesh, among others, settled in the remaining homes of Melrose to build new lives in a new city. Most recently, federal dollars have been earmarked for Melrose’s reconstruction and redevelopment. This course, offered in partnership with the Bronx-based community empowerment organization WHEDco, invites students to become activist historians whose objective is to learn what histories are at risk of being silenced or displaced as the South Bronx changes. Students will conduct archival and secondary research; produce collaborative oral histories with neighborhood residents and business owners; and meet with activists who are working to protect the interests of the current community of Melrose. The course will culminate in an on-line archive and a physical, history-based exhibit to be co-produced with neighborhood residents and displayed in a publicly accessible, outdoor park. Readings may include Jonathan Mahler’s Ladies and Gentlemen the Bronx is Burning and Jill Jonnes’s South Bronx Rising. (Spring 2017 version)

Place and Memory, Spring 2009, Spring 2010

By exploring a variety of source materials, including museums, memoirs, historic sites, material artifacts, and documentary evidence, we will begin to consider the ways in which our uses of the past have contemporary social and political impact.  Today in the Fatih district of Istanbul, the 15th century Roma (gypsy) neighborhood of Sulukule is under threat of demolition as the city begins the process of urban renewal and gentrification. Meanwhile, in Nottinghamshire, England, the Workhouse Museum documents and interprets the brutality of the 19th century British “welfare system” within the dreary walls of an actual, landmarked workhouse. Such conflicting projects prompt us to ask:  How do we choose to destroy certain places while preserving — or recreating — others, and what are the consequences of making these choices? What are the ethical problems we face when we save or demolish historic sites, and how are they tied to questions of individual, community, and national identity? These questions derive from political discourse that imagines how nationhood is created and sustained, as well as historical and anthropological inquiry, which so often attempts to locate the “truth” of the past. Texts will include selections from Van Wyck Brooks, Orhan Pamuk, David Thelen and Roy Rosenzweig, Susan Slyomovics, and Christopher Mele.

American Bohemia, Spring 2007, Fall 2007

What is bohemia and who qualifies as a bohemian? Can bohemia be chosen or is it thrust upon artists and intellectuals by political ferment and economic flux? Is bohemia in the United States fundamentally different from what it is elsewhere? Do race, gender, and sexuality play a part in how bohemia functions? Can it be bought and sold, felt and measured, or is it simply a state of mind, what rock critic Ann Powers has described as “the floating world where artists and other weirdos made their own rules, turning their lives in the city’s twilight into one long experiment?” Through critical readings that will include the work of Charles Baudelaire, Jack Kerouac, James Baldwin, and Nelson Algren, as well as the analysis of Christine Stansell, Richard Lloyd, Thomas Frank, and Malcolm Cowley, we will explore the multiple meanings of bohemia and assess its value as both a tool for social critique and a fertile landscape for consumer cooptation. We will also apply our theories to the living, self-proclaimed bohemias of New York and test the boundaries of our theories against contemporary versions of bohemianism.

Faculty Mentor and Administrator for Gallatin Global Fellowship in Urban Practice, 2014-Present

Based on a vision of sharing resources, producing practical scholarly research, and self-reflexively critiquing systems of power and privilege, the Gallatin Global Fellowship in Urban Practice is built upon established long-term partnerships with community-based organizations. Each research project is co-designed by the host organization with faculty mentors, the fellowship administrator, and fellows. Since its inception in 2014, fellows at both the undergraduate and Master’s level have participated in extended, community-engaged, practice-based research projects in partnership with urban social justice organizations in New York, Madrid, Chicago, IL, Jackson, MS, Oakland, CA, Buenos Aires, and Berlin.

Guttman Community College, City University of New York, New York, NY

Arts in New York City, Winter 2013

This course is a collaboratively developed, required component of the innovative community college curriculum at Guttman Community College. I was one of the first instructors of the course when the college was founded in 2012.

Academic Writing and Skills Workshops, Fall 2012, Winter 2013, Spring 2013

Also a component of the Guttman Community College curriculum, the writing and skills workshops were offered as a way to include college-readiness instruction concurrently with college-level courses. A cohort of students worked with me throughout the 2012-2013 year to develop greater mastery of grammar, critical thinking, study habits, and e-portfolio management.

Marymount Manhattan College, New York, NY

American Feminism: Roots and Issues, Fall 2005

This course examines the relationship between the roots and issues of American Feminism from the era of the American Revolution to the women’s movement of the 1970s and beyond.  Through readings, discussions, writing, and presentations, the course will focus on the most important intellectual and ideological influences and social movements that spurred and supported the fight for women’s rights.  It will explore the ways in which women have approached power dynamics within the greater society and the problems of differences and inequalities based on race, ethnicity, and class among women fighting for equality in an unequal society. Readings include selections from Ellen Dubois, ed. Unequal Sisters: A Multicultural Reader in U.S. Women’s History. bell hooks, Feminism is for Everybody: Passionate Politics, and Rory Dicker and Alison Piepmeier, eds. Catching a Wave: Reclaiming Feminism for the 21st Century.

Hunter College, City University of New York, New York, NY

U.S. History, Civil War to the Present, Summer 2004

This course is a survey of U.S. history from the Civil War to the present. Through lectures, readings, discussions, and other in-class activities, we will examine the major political, economic, social, and cultural developments that have taken place in the nation since 1865.   While you will gain a broad understanding of this dynamic era in U.S history and will be expected to be able to identify the prominent people, places, and events that characterized these years, emphasis will be placed upon social and cultural history – the elements of everyday life in the United States.  In addition to your textbook, we will be examining various primary and secondary materials, ranging from artwork, poetry, and correspondence to book reviews, web sites, and essays. One question to keep in mind as you plow through this semester is this: what does it mean to be American?