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GUIDE Program Courses

GUIDE Program

GUIDE Program

GUIDE Program Courses: Fall 2021

At the start of the sophomore year, up to 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.

The Qur’an


Instructor: Sinan Antoon

Meeting Days: Tuesdays from 4:55-7:40pm


The political upheavals and events of recent years have focused much attention on “Islam” and its cultures and texts, especially the Qur’an. Most of the attention and interest in the Qur’an, however, has been reductive and superficial, amounting to no more than de-contextualized misreadings of certain verses in most cases. This seminar will serve as an introduction to the Qur’an as scripture, but also as a generative and polyphonic cultural text. We will start with a brief look at the legacy of Qur’anic studies within the larger paradigm of Orientalist scholarship and “Western” approaches to all things Islamic. We will, then, address the historical and cultural background and context of the Qur’an’s genesis as an oral revelation, its intimate affinities with Biblical and Near Eastern narratives, and its transformation into a written and canonized text after the death of Muhammad. We will then examine the Qur’an’s structure as a “book” and read selections from its most famous chapters and explore how they were deployed in various discourses as Islam became the official religion of a civilization and an empire. Readings and discussions will focus on the themes of prophecy, gender and sexuality, violence and peace. The seminar neither assumes nor requires any prior knowledge of Islamic studies or Arabic.

Feminism, Imperialism, Decolonization


Instructor: Marie Cruz Soto

Course meeting day/time:  Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9:30-10:45 AM


The modern world is in fundamental ways the product of imperial interventions. And the workings and legacies of empires continue to devastate the lives of people around the world. Among the most vulnerable to the violence are women. Yet, women have also long challenged the terms of oppression. And, in the process, they have defied, in generative and liberatory ways, common conceptions of what constitutes opposition, freedom, solidarity, politics and knowledge. This course delves into the particularities of women’s experiences and feminist decolonizing imaginaries. It will be guided by the following questions. How have women from the broadly defined Global South been rendered vulnerable and unruly? How have contestations over gender, race, class and sexuality marked the histories of colonies, empires and the Global South? How have imperial interventions made evident the inextricability of the epistemic and material? And thus, what may be feminist decolonizing epistemologies? Readings may include texts from Christina Sharpe, Vandana Shiva, Chandra Talpade Mohanty, Silvia Rivera Cusicanqui, Jamaica Kincaid, Gloria Anzaldúa and Audre Lorde.

Pictures at a Revolution: Film as Political Rhetoric


Instructor: Rahul Hamid

Course meeting day/time:  Fridays from 9:30am-1:30pm


V.I. Lenin called cinema the most important art because of its power to persuade. And in fact, cinema has played a key role in many of the revolutionary movements of the twentieth century, in particular for the Russian and Cuban revolutions. In this course we will examine how the cinema works as political language by introducing a variety of theoretical writings both on revolutionary politics and on political aesthetics. We will explore the boundaries between propaganda and political cinema, and we will analyze whether there is a tension between the aesthetics of modernism and the clarity purportedly necessary for effective political persuasion. As we examine how filmmakers attempt to translate revolutionary ideas into cinema, our topics will include: Italian Neorealism, the French New Wave, Brazilian Cinema Novo, and New Queer Cinema. Readings will include: Franz Fanon, Trinh T.Minh-ha, Sergei Eisenstein, Bertolt Brecht and Glauber Rocha.


Hearing Difference: The Commercial Music Industry and the American Racial Imaginary


Instructor: Kwami Coleman

Course meeting day/time:  Mondays and Wednesdays from 2:00-3:15pm


In 1903, at the dawn of the commercial music industry, sociologist W. E. B. DuBois famously proclaimed that the foremost problem in twentieth century American society is “the problem of the color line.” Du Bois’s prescience sets the stage for this course’s exploration of racial identity in recorded, commercially available music. We will examine how racial performance has intermingled with music consumption in the United States since blackface minstrelsy in the 1830s. Our goal is to understand how deeply embedded race—both ascribed and claimed—is in American music culture, reverberating throughout the last century in debates on artists’ authenticity, propriety, and popularity. This course is organized chronologically; each week is devoted to a particular era and its corresponding musical genres leading up to the present. With the rising importance of visual media since the mid-20th century, a historically informed understanding of the confluences of race and ethnicity in American music culture through music media and technologies will offer an enhanced understanding of the past and our contemporary, internet-driven musical landscape.

Literature and/of Human Rights


Instructor: Sara Murphy

Course meeting day/time:  Mondays and Wednesdays from 2:00-3:15pm


The extent and the manner in which we can think of literary or cinematic genres as linked with human rights raises many questions. The historian Lynn Hunt has argued that the emergence of the novel as a genre in the eighteenth century is the site of the emergence of human rights: the novel invited its readers to engage with an individual's story, to sympathize and empathize with a character whose situation might be quite different from the reader's own. Literary works might even be understood as participating in the construction of the rights-bearing individual and designating the boundaries of the human. However, as Samuel Moyn points out, human rights, as a concept associated with legal frameworks and political claims, is a product of the mid-twentieth century. Testimony, autobiography, plays, essays, and film have been recruited to expose violations of what we might call human rights, inciting awareness and sympathy--and sometimes action. We will begin by sketching a microhistory of the emergence of human rights, testing--and complicating--Hunt's claims for the novel. Then we will move on to look at specific sites and issues. What are some different ways in which literary genres and discourses represent, render visible, and perhaps even constitute human rights violations? How do the techniques of representation associated with the literary communicate? What are the stakes of these forms of representation? How have writers negotiated the limits of genre and language to engage with that which cannot be readily represented? To what extent do the norms of some forms of literary representation serve, paradoxically, to silence or occlude certain voices? Do certain kinds of literary discourse implicitly sustain a problematic opposition between the humanitarian and the political? Authors and texts discussed may include Mary Hays, Olympe De Gouges, anti-gallows literature, Hannah Arendt, Costas Douzinas, Jane Taylor, J. M. Coetzee, Toni Morrison, James Baldwin, Leslie Marmon Silko, and Rigoberta Menchu, among others.

Imagining Justice


Instructor: Myisha Priest

Course meeting day/time:  Thursdays from 2:00-4:45pm


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 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.

NYC Coastlines: Past, Present, and Future


Instructor: Karen Holmberg

Course meeting day/time:  Fridays from 11:00am-1:45pm


In this course, we will examine the past, present, and future of NYC waterways. The course entwines archaeology, geomorphology, climate change considerations, urban ecology, citizen science, and science fiction to think about the changing coastlines of NYC and the impact of urbanism on the natural environment. In addition to scientific publications, we will draw from historic representations such as The Big Oyster by Mark Kurlansky, the futuristic imaginations of Kim Stanley Robinson’s NY 2140, and contemporary efforts such as the Billion Oyster Project to regenerate the waterways in order to envision the relationship between the historical, contemporary, and post-21st century material culture and coastlines of New York City. Important note: The first 8 weeks of this course will be held on Governors Island and will focus on citizen science data collection. If permitted by time and COVID restrictions, we may include additional field trips or data collection sites in weeks 8-12.

Critical Disaster Studies


Instructor: Jacob Remes

Course meeting day/time:  Wednesdays from 4:55-7:40pm


It can seem like we are living in an era of constant disaster: climate change leads to more floods and droughts, heatwaves and storms; global urbanization to seismicly active cities leads to massively destructive and fatal earthquakes; highly complex systems on which we increasingly rely fail; radiation, chemicals, and other effluvium of modernity go where they are not intended and harm us. This course takes up the idea of disaster to ask interpretive questions about how and why disasters operate in society. What constitutes a disaster? What makes disasters different from ordinary bad things? How does society shape the experience of disaster, and how does disaster shape society? What makes people vulnerable to disaster? What does it mean to be resilient? Disasters are moments of severe distress, deprivation—and also possibility. How people, organizations, and governments have responded and continue to respond to disasters says much about how we imagine society to be and how we hope it will be in the future. Readings may include texts by Kai Erikson, Eric Klinenberg, Rebecca Solnit, Dara Strolovitch, and others.

The Politics of Care


Instructor: Rosanne Kennedy

Course meeting day/time:  Fridays from 11:00am-1:45pm


The defining events of 2020 – the pandemic and its unequal distribution of death and precarity on people of color, women, and the poor and the continuous police violence and killings of black citizens and the ensuing protests – have led to a call for an alternative political vision based on “care.” In one sense this is a material demand for equal access to healthcare, resources (housing, food, and basic necessities), and protections for “essential workers” (those tasked with care’s labors). In another sense, a politics of care signals a different political imaginary that runs in opposition to liberalism’s discourse of individual rights that has more recently found amplification in neoliberalism’s brutal discourse of personal responsibility and the ever-widening privatization of the commons. This other imaginary insists on our connectedness and interdependence and centers caring for others, our world, and our natural environment. In this course we will explore the material and theoretical demands of a politics of care (and how the material and theoretical are mutually reinforcing). Of course, there is a history of care (and “love”) as central to an oppositional politics from anti-racist and feminist theorists such as Martin Luther King, Jr., James Baldwin, Audre Lorde, and Joan Tronto. We will begin by first readings these earlier calls for a politics of care before turning to present iterations. Current may include Robin Kelley, George Gonsalves, Judith Butler, Silvia Federici, and Anna Tsing.

The Colonial Invention of Race


Instructor: Duncan Yoon

Course meeting day/time: Wednesdays from 4:55-7:40pm


Where did the idea of race come from? In this course, we will examine the history of race and racism as it emerged through European imperialism beginning in the early modern period. We will also analyze how these race theories intersected with, and were informed by, constructions of gender, sexuality, and class. To do so, we will examine works ranging from legal documents, colonial policies, travelogues, anthropological accounts, visual representations, critical essays, philosophy, and literature. Particular attention will be paid to how theories of race functioned in French imperialism and its colonies. We will interrogate how these policies mapped phenotypical difference onto hierarchies of the human and civilization in order to justify dehumanization and enslavement. While critical race theory as it emerged within the U.S. is crucial to many of the works we will examine, we will focus on how the idea of race functioned in relations between colony and European metropole as a way to historicize what is now referred to as postcolonialism.