At the start of the sophomore year, eight BMCC students will enter the GUIDE program as GUIDE Finalists. Each finalist will enroll in one NYU Gallatin course focused on social justice during the Fall semester.
A strong component of Gallatin’s curriculum is the study of social justice, which is understood broadly to include a variety of fields and approaches, including but not limited to: social movements, law and governance, urban democracy, economics, identity formation, political literature and art, arts activism, and environmental concerns.
The course will introduce GUIDE students to the nature of interdisciplinary study and make visible the array of academic fields that engage social justice.
This year's GUIDE Finalists will choose from among the courses below.
Course meeting day/time: Wednesdays 3:30pm to 6:10pm
This interdisciplinary seminar explores children and childhood in the United States from two vantage points—those of public policy makers and of parents. In what ways does public policy shape children’s lives? What historical trends influence the ways that people parent? What happens when parents disagree with laws or conventions regarding how to parent? The first half of the course examines common conceptualizations of the child figure historically and today. While all children possess some universal characteristics that transcend time, place and personal circumstance, we can also understand the contemporary child figure to be a social construction, with “childhood” as we know it emerging as a coherent life stage only in the past few centuries. Public policy—laws about healthcare, education and labor, in particular—have both shaped and responded to these conceptualizations of childhood. The second half of the course examines children as members of families. Just as we can understand the symbolic child figure as a social construction, so we will see that race, class, gender and sexual orientation are key factors influencing the lived experiences of actual children and their parents. Additionally, we will examine how the proscribed “best methods” of child-rearing seem to change continuously—parents who consult various “experts” often receive contradictory advice. Works we may engage include Guggenheim's What's Wrong with Children's Rights? , Lareau's Unequal Childhoods , Postman’s Disappearance of Childhood , and the photography of Sally Mann. By the end of the course, we should have deeper understandings of childhood as a social construction, of the debates surrounding some of the issues that society currently deems relevant to children, and of differing child-rearing practices that parents employ.
Course meeting day/time: Tuesdays 9:30am to 12:15pm
Ethnography has been narrowly construed as the research methodology that defines the discipline of cultural anthropology, but this course explores ethnography more broadly as both a mode of inquiry and a genre of writing through which we grapple with the experience of Self and Other at the intersection of overlapping cultural worlds. We begin by linking modern ethnographic writing to early travel narratives, to missionary accounts, and to colonial reports serving evolving imperial formations. We then examine the consolidation of an "ethnographic" perspective in the emerging discipline of anthropology, as well as more recent critiques of this genre. Our own method is reading classic and contemporary ethnographic works. These reveal ongoing tensions between the scientific and the literary; between abstract "theory" and ethnographic "practice;" and between the claim to truth-telling and the power and limits linked to the positioning of the author. In response to these tensions we also trace the textual experimentation that mixes ethnography, poetry, memoir, and travel writing, fiction, and film. Our goal is to develop a self-reflective ethnographic imagination, open to the possibilities and difficulties in cross-cultural understanding, as we consider the complexities in encounter and contact, looking and describing, representing and translating. Possible texts include travel writings from the period of early European expansion, Conquest of America by Todorov, Argonauts of the Western Pacific by Malinowski, Coming of Age in Samoa by Margaret Mead, Zora Neale Hurston’s Of Mules and Men , Writing Culture: The Poetics and Politics of Ethnography by Clifford and Marcus, Vita: Life in a Zone of Social Abandonment by J. Biehl, In an Antique Land by Amitav Ghosh, and the films of Trin Minh Ha.
Course meeting day/time: Mondays and Wednesdays 12:30pm to 1:45pm
The United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world. This course examines the US criminal justice system, including (i) the causes and consequences of the rising incarceration rates that the nation has witnessed over the past 30 years, and the role of politics in driving society's appetite for locking people up; (ii) the labor market effects of having a prison record, along with the "spill-over" effects that incarceration has on ex-offenders' communities and families; and (iii) the costs borne at the state and federal levels of government. The course explores its subject matter from an interdisciplinary perspective, connecting ideas from economics, political science, sociology, and law. It will combine conceptual and statistical approaches to analysis. Possible texts include Bruce Western, Punishment and Inequality inAmerica ; Garland, David, Punishment and Modern Society ; Mary Pattillo, David Weiman and Bruce Western, eds., Imprisoning America: The Social Effects of Mass Incarceration ; and Norval Morris and David Rothman, The Oxford History of the Prison .
Cities and Citizenship: Readings in Global Urbanism
Course meeting day/time: Mondays 12:30pm to 3:15pm
Cities have long been viewed as the crucible of citizenship. But over the last few decades, the rapid urbanization of the global South has recalibrated Western derived models of cities and citizenship. This course draws on interdisciplinary readings from urban studies, geography, anthropology, and history to grapple with this global “urban revolution." Rejecting the language of crisis, chaos, and exception that is so often used to characterize cities in the global South, it will provide theoretically informed perspectives on social, cultural, and political life in rapidly urbanizing places throughout the postcolonial world. Attention will be paid to histories and legacies of colonialism alongside novel forms of governance and claims to the city. Though focused primarily on cities in the global South, the class is intended to probe how these cities reconfigure conventional understandings of being a citizen in the city (anywhere), and will also examine the global South within the ‘North’. Topics may include the rights to the city, infrastructure and planning, gentrification, political ecologies, technologies of rule, informality and slum upgrading, and urban social movements. Selected authors may include Ananya Roy, James Holston, Mamadou Diouf, Nikhil Anand, and AbdouMaliq Simone.
Course meeting day/time: Thursdays 2:00pm to 4:45pm
How is art made to matter through the law? How do policies for governing cultural heritage define art as a valued resource to be protected for future generations, and what are the histories and anxieties surrounding these regulations? This course will focus on several instances of art’s intersections with legal regimes, with special attention to the attempt to treat art as a form of property. We will look at examples of legal conflict over the status and meaning of art including: the censorship of “dangerous” art and exhibitions; the repatriation of Indigenous cultural property in the United States, Australia, Aotearoa/New Zealand, and Canada; uses of art as evidence in court hearings; and the place of propaganda in international art worlds. We will develop understandings of how art shapes and is shaped by the “lawfare” that regulates property and propriety. Moving beyond representational understandings of art, we will engage with the connective and critical practices of artists such as Bonnie Devine, Maria Magdalena Campos-Pons, Félix González-Torres, James Luna, Fred Wilson, and Lorna Simpson. We will read texts by social and critical theorists who interrogate the relationships between aesthetics and justice, including Jennifer González, Audra Simpson, and Lynda Nead.
Course meeting days/times: Tuesdays and Thursdays 9:30am to 10:45am
Jamaica Kincaid once said, “I now consider anger as a badge of honor. [It is] the first step to claiming yourself.” Anger, rather than Betty Friedan’s “problem that has no name,” has haunted the life of many women whose negotiations of the meaning of gender, race and sexuality are marked by the violence of colonial-imperial encounters. Accordingly, this course examines the following questions: How have colonial-imperial encounters shaped the imagination of gender, race and sexuality? How have women built feminist solidarities amidst, or perhaps based on, the shared experience of violence and anger? In turn, how has the imagination of gender, race and sexuality redefined the histories of colonies and empires? To pursue these questions, course readings include literary and other scholarly texts engaging feminist and postcolonial theory. Readings range from Kincaid’s The Autobiography of My Mother and Rigoberta Menchú’s I, Rigoberta Menchu: An Indian Woman in Guatemala to other texts by scholars like Uma Narayan, Patricia Mohammed, Vandana Shiva, Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak and Ann Stoler.
Course meeting day/time: Wednesdays 11:00am to 1:45pm
Consumerism—the linking of happiness, freedom, and economic prosperity with the purchase and consumption of goods—has long been taken for granted as constitutive of the “good life” in Western societies. Increasingly, global economic shifts have made it possible for some developing countries to engage in patterns of consumption similar to those in the West, such that one quarter of humanity now belongs to the “global consumer class.” At the same time, however, nearly three billion people struggle to survive on less than $2 a day. This course takes an international and interdisciplinary approach to examine consumption in different societies, and we do so by asking several central questions: What are the key determinants of patterns of consumption, and how are they changed or reshaped over time? In turn, how do patterns of consumption shape class formation, racial inequality, identity, aesthetic sensibility, and international boundaries? How do practices of consumption inform the ways in which people understand their values and individuality, imagine success and failure, or conceive happiness? By reading widely in sociology, anthropology, and history we will develop a framework for analyzing the ethical, environmental and social justice implications of consumerism. Readings include case studies from the US, China, India, Europe and Africa Some likely authors include: Keynes, Marx, Marcuse, Benjamin, Mary Douglas, Bill McKibben; Arlie Hochschild, Lizabeth Cohen.
Course meeting day/time: Tuesdays 2:00pm to 4:45pm
This course will examine the relationship between race and criminal law in the United States. Through the use of legal cases, law review articles and contemporary analyses and critiques, the course will expose students to the ways that race has shaped the criminal law and its administration. The goal of the course is to explore both the historical and contemporary treatment of race in the United States by the courts, policy-makers and to examine the construction of race as a concept and identity in the law. Students will gain a basic understanding of legal decision-making at the various discretionary points in the criminal process and how race informs the exercise of discretion.
Course meeting day/time: Thursdays 2:00pm to 4:45pm
What is the proper place of nature and agriculture in cities? How do cities shape nature, and vice versa? Where do—and where should—city-dwellers get their food? “Concrete jungles” (as opposed to “real” ones) often seem to be purely human-built, unnatural places where things are made and consumed, not grown. But the place of nature in cities, and our relationship to it, has long been contested. When we look at food in relationship to urban centers, we end up seeing far beyond the questions of what we eat and where we get it. The proper place of nature in cities is at the heart of many contemporary debates over urban policy, including food and agriculture, land use, disaster policy, and immunization. In this class, we will think historically and critically about these debates both in the past and in contemporary cities, focusing on North America, especially New York. Readings will include William Cronon, Ted Steinberg, Catherine McNeur, Katherine Leonard Turner, and others.
Cultural work is political imagining. This course asks just where the picture of a just world comes from. The common link between recent political movements like Occupy, Black Lives Matter, contemporary radical feminisms and queer politics is the claim that justice is not for everyone. Through events, actions and statements, movements urge us to see who is left out of the collective imagination of a just world. The creative work of our culture, as much as much as any political document or decree, teaches us what justice is and whom it is for. This means that it is crucial for us to examine how novels, film, exhibitions, memorials and events represent histories of political change and the achievement of justice. Our time is ripe for this exploration, since in the last few years we have been inundated with work in many genres that represent the anniversaries of the Civil Rights Movement, the Women’s Rights Movement, LGBTQ movements and more. Who do these narratives teach us that justice is for, and what happens to those who fall out of their view? We will investigate a range of texts, considering how they uphold or limit forms of justice and also how they intervene against those limits. A range of primary and secondary texts might include Morrison's Beloved , Walker's Meridian , Baldwin's The Fire Next Time , Coates's Between the World and Me , and the recent films Selma and 12 Years a Slave.
Underground Alien Outsider Queer: Black Culture at the Margins
Course meeting days/times: Wednesdays 3:30pm to 6:10pm
Underground Alien Outsider Queer: Black Culture at the Margins is a seminar in which we will consider the long association of each of the title adjectives with the experience of social marginality, political insecurity and existential anxiety. Our aim is to explore whether and how non-belonging inspires (and requires) alternative, transformative, creative, even subversive, approaches to subjectivity and society. Drawing from black studies, cultural studies, performance studies and sexuality studies, the seminar is aggressively interdisciplinary—be prepared to critically engage history, literature, philosophy, art, music and film texts—and rather eclectic. We will wend our way through topics as varied as fugitive slave laws and avant-garde jazz, black existentialism and afrofuturism, Afropunk, Pariah and The Brother from Another Planet as we analyze works by Bruce Nugent, Richard Wright, Ralph Ellison, Thelonious Monk, James Baldwin, Amiri Baraka, Sun Ra, Samuel R Delany, Octavia Butler and Audre Lorde. Our readings, writings and discussions will provide us with occasions to think about new and unexpected ways—underground alien outsider queer ways—of appreciating and studying black culture.
Can the Past Be Repaired? The Dilemmas of Reparations as Justice
Course meeting days/times: Fridays 3:30pm to 6:10pm
When a dictator is overthrown, when armed conflict ends, when historical injustices remain unresolved, how do we seek justice? Some call for trials. Others call for truth. For the survivors and families of massive killings and forced disappearances, of rape and torture, and for communities subjected to long-term dispossession of their land, culture and identity, the idea of justice often takes the form of reparations. This course will ask students to reflect on the moral and philosophical issues around reparations and the practical challenges in their implementation. There are challenges involving resources and feasibility. There are dilemmas, real or imagined, over moral responsibility and historical truth. In the global South, these dilemmas have emerged in the on-going transitions from colonialism, war, and dictatorship. Even in the global North, demands for reparations for slavery or for the treatment of indigenous people and persons of color are caught in some of these questions. This course will bring together political science, history, art and culture, law, medicine, forensic investigations and economics, and the experiences of specific countries involving reparations and tackle how questions of justice and memory can or cannot be answered through reparations. Readings may include Carranza, de Greiff, Coates, Rubio-Marin, Magarrell and case studies involving Latin America (Argentina, Chile, Peru), Africa (South Africa, Sierra Leone and Kenya), the Middle East and North Africa (Tunisia, Morocco, Iraq) and Asia (the Philippines, Timor-Leste, Nepal and Cambodia) and the United States and Canada.