Month: February 2015

Studying NYC

My research, teaching, and daily life are in and about New York City. The city is a laboratory, as is often said in many a grant application — or proposal for a New School. And yet it can be difficult to figure out how to study it when you are in the swirl of the petri dish. My research assistant, Katerina Vaseva, suggested that I pool together resources for students and others interested in understanding this maze: check out the new page here. Suggestions for additions welcome!

West Side Story: A Life

A writing experiment: to describe the book as a biography.

Biography (A Life). Washington: A Life by Ron Chernow. James Joyce: A Life by Edna O’Brien. West Side Story: A Life by Julia L. Foulkes? That is the central idea. Read more…

The Carceral City

I walked through Crown Heights a few days ago and came across this odd mobile police unit. Students in my class knew exactly what it was: a M.U.S.T. – a mobile utility surveillance tower. It can be moved to a “place of interest,” a platform elevated from the base, flood lighting, infrared cameras – all monitored by one officer in the lifted hub, the driver’s seat of the van, or, I believe, remotely. If chaos ensues below, that person can call in extra troops with the push of a button from the encased hub, without having to exit to the street. The 21st century version of Jeremy Bentham’s panopticon, on a city corner near you. Read more…


Translation: to China! I have been selected for a one-week residency at Renmin University in Beijing sponsored by the Organization of American Historians. In June, I will give seminars on U.S. cultural history to faculty and graduate students there. Possible topics: the turn to visuality; the role of cities, urbanization, and institutions; transnational circulation; gender, race, and performance. There’s no doubt, however, that I will learn more from them.