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Stephen Duncombe

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

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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 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. 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.

Teaching and Research Interests

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

Stephen Duncombe

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.


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'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.


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.