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Stephen Duncombe

(212) 998-7327
1 Wash Pl, Room 602

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Stephen Duncombe’s interests lie in media and cultural studies. He teaches and writes on the history of mass and alternative media and the intersection of culture and politics. He is the author of Dream: Re-Imagining Progressive Politics in an Age of Fantasy (The New Press, 2007) and Notes From Underground: Zines and the Politics of Underground Culture (Verso, 1997) co-author, along with Andrew Mattson, of The Bobbed Haired Bandit: Crime and Celebrity in 1920s New York (New York University Press, 2006), editor of the Cultural Resistance Reader (Verso, 2002), co-editor, along with Maxwell Tremblay, of White Riot: Punk Rock and the Politics of Race (Verso, 2011), and writes on the intersection of culture and politics for a range of scholarly and popular publications. Duncombe is also the creator of Open Utopia, an open-access, open-source, web-based edition of Thomas More’s Utopia. In 1998, he was awarded the Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching by the State University of New York, where he taught before coming to New York University, and in 2012 was awarded the Dean's Award for Excellence in Teaching at Gallatin. In support of his forthcoming work Democratic Persuasion: Art, Culture and Communications of the New Deal, he was awarded a 2015 National Endowment for the Humanities summer stipend. He was also awarded a 2015 project grant from the Health Media Initiative, Open Society Foundations, for the School for Creative Activism/Europe and Africa. Duncombe, a life-long political activist, co-founded the School for Creative Activism in 2011, and is presently co-director of the Center for Artistic Activism.

Teaching and Research Interests

media and cultural studies; history of mass media; activist media and alternative culture; arts and politics

Stephen Duncombe


B.A. Sociology, SUNY Purchase, 1988
M.Phil. Sociology, CUNY Graduate Center, 1993
Ph.D. Sociology, CUNY Graduate Center, 1996

Recent News

Along with Patricia Jerido and Steve Lambert, Professor Stephen Duncombe has created The Pop Culture Salvage Expeditions, a podcast named “New and Noteworthy” by Apple iTunes.

Professor Duncombe was awarded a 2016 project grant from the National Endowment for the Arts for Artist/Activist Education with the Queens Museum. Duncombe was awarded a 2015-16 Teaching with Technology Grant from Gallatin. His School for Creative Activism was awarded a 2016 project grant from the LUSH Charitable Giving Program and a 2016 Organization Grant from the Shelley & Donald Rubin Foundation. Duncombe’s Arts & Activism Efficacy Project was awarded a 2016 Research Grant from the Compton Foundation.

Stephen Duncombe's “Does it Work? The Æffect of Art Activism,” published in Social Research, Volume 83, Number 1, in the spring of 2016.

Stephen Duncombe’s “Art of Imagination,” image and text was included in Meaning Making Meaning: Art and Pedagogy show, held at Valand Academy, University of Gothenburg, Gothenburg, Sweden, from March 16 - April 2, 2016.

Stephen Duncombe’s “Sacra Congregatio de Propaganda Fide,” a text and video loop, was included in Propaganda News Machine show, Creative Association of Curators TOK, Flux Factory, Queens, New York, from February 17-25, 2016.

Stephen Duncombe delivered the talk “The Politics of Utopian Art” at the Handwerker Gallery, at Ithaca College, Ithaca, New York, on April 14, 2016.

Stephen Duncombe delivered the keynote “Affect and Effect: Artful Activism and Political Impact” at The Democratic Public Sphere conference, which was held at Aarhus University, Aarhus, Denmark, in November 2015.

Stephen Duncombe delivered the talk “New Social Movements and Activism” to the Department of Society and Globalization, Roskilde University, in Roskilde, Denmark, on November 5, 2015.

Stephen Duncombe delivered the talk “Opening up Utopia,” via remote to the Fulbright Summer School in the Humanities at Moscow State University, Russia, on June 26, 2015.

With Steve Lambert, Stephen Duncombe delivered the keynote “Making Art Work,” to Creative Catalyst: Symposium on Art and Social Innovation, Toronto, Canada, on June 12, 2015.

Stephen Duncombe delivered the keynote “Spectacular Protest: Communications, Performance and Political Impact,” to the 2015 International Congress on Communication, Civil Society, and Social Change conference, Castellon, Spain, on May 21, 2015.

Stephen Duncombe was a visiting scholar at Universitat Jaume I, in Castellon, Spain, where he delivered the talk “Act Locally, Communicate Globally: Social Movements and the Mobilization of Culture” on May 18, 2015.

With Steve Lambert, Duncombe had the chapter "The Art of Activism," published in Truth is Concrete: A Handbook for Artistic Strategies in Real Politics (Sternberg Press, 2014). He was an invited respondent to the 2014 Brecht Forum launch for “Crises of Imagination, Crises of Power,” in Brooklyn, NY. He participated in the panel discussion “Designing Free Speech,” for the Cities and Citizenship conference held at NYU in March 2014. Professor Duncombe delivered his talk “Punk Aesthetics and DIY Design,” at the Smithsonian Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum in April 2014. He delivered "Fear of Art's Activism," at the conference Fear of Art, the 32nd Social Research, New School, New York, on February 12, 2015. He delivered "The Art of Policy," at the Washington Center for Equitable Growth, in Washington, DC, on January 20, 2015. He delivered "A New Approach to an Old Book: Open Utopia," at Digital U: The University in the Digital Age, held at William Patterson University, New Jersey, on October 29, 2014. Along with Brett Davidson and Steve Lambert, he delivered "Making the Impossible Possible," at the 2014 Communication Matters, Communications Network Conference, in Philadelphia, PA, on October 9, 2014. He served as a panelist for "Arts and Activism: A History of the Future," held at the Palitz Gallery, Syracuse University's Lubin House, New York, January 14, 2015.

He served as a visiting professor in the Department of Society and Globalization of Roskilde University, in Denmark, Spring-Summer 2014. He led the January 2014 weekend workshop for Portland State University’s MFA students in Art and Social Practice in Portland, OR. He taught "Art, Culture and Social Movements" as part of the Saturday Academy at the New York Historical Society, New York, New York, on November 22, 2014. Through the Center for Artistic Activism, Professor Duncombe worked with Russian activist artists in Saint Petersburg, Russia, June 2-6, 2014. He also, through the Center for Artistic Activism, worked with Access to Medicine activists from around the globe in Barcelona, Spain, December 15-18, 2014. Professor Duncombe, through the Center for Artistic Activism, worked with Sex Work Decriminalization activists from Southern Africa in Cape Town, South Africa, May 30-April 2, 2015.


2017 Spring

The Image: History of Mass Media II

2017 Fall

Gallatin Creative Laboratory: Art, Media and Politics

First-Year Interdisciplinary Seminar: The Social Construction of Reality

2016 Spring

How Art Works

Thesis Proposal Seminar