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Stephen Duncombe

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

Office Hours
Monday By Appt
Tuesday By Appt
Wednesday By Appt
Thursday By Appt
Friday By Appt

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

Stephen Duncombe’s interests lie in media, art, and culture. He teaches and writes on the history of mass and alternative media and the arts, 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. Duncombe is co-founder and co-director of the Center for Artistic Activism, a research and training institute that helps activists to create more like artists and artists to strategize more like activists. His scholarly and activist work has been supported by, among others, the Open Society and Fulbright foundations and the National Endowment for the Humanities and National Endowment for the Arts.

Awards & Honors


The Copenhagen Experiment

Engaged Urbanists Working Group participant Stephen Duncombe and Silas Harrebye (Rothskilde University) published The Copenhagen Experiment, a report on artistic activism.



Duncombe 2018 Publications

Stephen Duncombe's Notes from Underground: Zines and the Politics of Alternative Culture (20th Anniversary Edition; Microcosm, 2017) was reissued. In 2018, the Spanish edition of Dream: Re-Imagining Progressive Politics in an Age of Fantasy (Tinta Limón Ediciones, 2018) was published.


Stephen Duncombe and Thomas More's "Open Utopia"

Stephen Duncombe and Thomas More's Open Utopia was published by Minor Compositions.


White Riot

Stephen Duncombe's White Riot: Punk Rock and the Politics of Race was published by Verso.


Stephen Duncombe's "Dream or Nightmare: Re-Imagining Progressive Politics in an Age of Fantasy"

Stephen Duncombe's Dream or Nightmare: Re-Imagining Progressive Politics in an Age of Fantasy was published by The New Press.  

Teaching and Research Interests

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

Recent News


Duncombe was the invited debater speaking on the proposition “This House Believes Art is the Best Means to a Peaceful Revolution,” at The Oxford Union, Oxford University, UK, on May 10, 2018.

Duncombe’s Center for Artistic Activism was awarded the following: a 2019-2021 Organization Grant from Open Society Foundations; a 2018-2019 University Research Challenge Fund (URCF) from New York University for the Æffect App; a Project Grant, with Co-PI Silas Harrebye, from the 2018 Fritt Ord Foundation, for The Copenhagen Experiment.

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.


Duncombe was the lead author for “Assessing the Impact of Artistic Activism,” a white paper commissioned by the Open Society Foundation, January, 2018.

Duncombe contributed the chapter “An Age of Protest, Protest for the Age,” ito PROTEST: On the politics, mediality, and aesthetics of protest cultures (Lars Müller Publishers, 2018).

Duncombe, along with Steve Lambert, contributed the chapter “Artistic Activism,” in Routledge Companion to Media and Activism (Graham Meikle, editor; Routledge, 2018)

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


On December 6, 2018, Duncombe was the invited to deliver “From Revealing Lies to Animating the Truth: New Strategies for Countering New Models of Disinformation,” at the UNESCO Communication and Information Sector, at UNESCO, Paris, France.

Duncombe delivered the talk “The Politics of Utopian Art” at the Handwerker Gallery, at Ithaca College, Ithaca, New York, on April 14, 2016. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. Duncombe 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. Through the Center for Artistic Activism, Professor Duncombe worked with Sex Work Decriminalization activists from Southern Africa in Cape Town, South Africa, May 30-April 2, 2015.

Stephen Duncombe