Month: November 2015

#SeeRikers

We are moving in on Rikers. Students have decided upon the theme of the visibility/invisibility paradox of the island. For some, Rikers is hypervisible. They work there, they know people confined there, they’ve been locked up there. For others, it is largely invisible from their New York. An island in a city made up of islands, connected by one lone long bridge, one public bus, and guarded by patrols on water and land. The closest some come to the place is in flying right over it as the plane charges off the runway at LaGuardia. Even then, you have to know what you’re looking at to see it. Read more…

Brokers

In the most recent Writing History seminar, Nathan Connolly discussed how to narrate large social structures and processes through the tales of individual people. (His much-honored book, A World More Concrete, takes up this question by looking at real estate in Jim Crow Miami.) This is an enduring question for historians, particularly those trained in the politics and ideologies emerging from social history, history from the “bottom up,” the past of plumbers not presidents. How do we make structural forces, such as capitalism and racism, dynamic narratives? How do we engage readers with stories of these forces in lives instead of relying on concepts to do the action? Read more…

Aaron Shkuda and I co-edited a special section in the Journal of Urban History on arts and urbanization in postwar U.S. cities. Articles by Joanna Dee Das, Susannah Engstrom, Matt Reynolds, Jeffrey Trask, Aaron, and me. (Introduction by me as well.) It’s available here!

Critiquing Critics

In class recently we discussed the role of critics. Much like a curator (our previous week’s topic), critics mediate an artwork for an audience. If a curator has multiple concerns, taking care of artwork, artist, institution, and audience, a critic is more solely concerned with the artwork, how it works, whether it works, for whom. Read more…