Mellon Urbanism Seminars

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SHUM 6819 Urban Justice Lab

Topic for Spring 2022: Seeing to Be in the Aftermath
(also ARCH 6408, AMST 6809, ASRC 6819, ENGL 6919)
Lyrae Van Clief-Stefanon, Associate Professor of Literatures in English
Mondays, 2:40-4:25 p.m.
4 credits

Call for Applications

The Spring 2021 Urban Justice Lab is an innovative seminar for graduate students in the humanities and design disciplines. Urban Justice Labs are offered under the auspices of Cornell University's Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Collaborative Studies in Architecture, Urbanism, and the Humanities grant and are organized by the College of Architecture, Art, and Planning and the Society for the Humanities.

Selected students receive a $1,500 stipend to support a final project. Since final projects will be collaborative, students with diverse backgrounds and skillsets (i.e. ethnography, film and video, critical theory, digital mapping, architecture, fine art, landscape architecture, city planning, etc.) are encouraged to apply. Applicants should be in their first three years of graduate training or enrolled in a graduate professional program. Advanced undergraduate students may apply, but preference will be given to graduate students.

Materials to be submitted: (1) C.V. (2) a 500 – 700-word statement of interest describing your background and interest in the seminar topic. No letters of recommendation are required.

Questions should be directed to Lauren Brown, leb69@cornell.edu.

Applications must be submitted via http://urbanismseminars.cornell.edu/apply by November 15, 2021.


Course Description

In 1964, in the aftermath of a riot, June Jordan wrote to Buckminster Fuller, proposing a collaborative architectural redesign of Harlem as a way, she wrote, “to save me from the hatred I felt.” In this seminar—grounding our study in works such as June Jordan’s New Days: Poems of Exile and Return, Gwendolyn Brooks's In the Mecca and In Montgomery, Nikki Finney’s Rice, and Sonia Sanchez’s Does Your House Have Lions—let’s think through the ways poets figure a correspondence between dreamscape and realscape, envisioning and interpreting the spaces we’re meant to inhabit. How do we read cities, houses, communities? Where and how do we learn these reading practices? How do these poems help us develop theories of place? How are emotional connections to place limned and how do poets help us see to be habitable worlds? In “The Second Sermon on the Warpland” Brooks insists we “know the whirlwind is our commonwealth.” Visualizing the vector fields suggested in these poems, what methods might we find for living, nevertheless? How do we move within and between conceptual experiments we walk through every day? How do experiments like the Tattoo Project in Detroit, MI, Lexington, KY and Boulder, CO speak to the ways community identity construction is entangled with poetic measure? Let’s think through the math and the aftermath. Our approach will be experimental, interdisciplinary, and emergent. Bring what you’re working on and let’s see how our projects intersect. Other texts may include Jen Brody’s Punctuation: Art, Politics, and Play and the Orion Magazine anthology Old Growth.

The course will include introduction to digital tools as well as integration of student research with collections available at the Rare and Distinctive Collections in Cornell Library and the Herbert F. Johnson Museum. Students will have the resources to develop innovative methodologies (curated collections, digital tools, video essays, etc.), and will be able to work on material or a location connected to their own interests as they investigate and imagine urban possibilities.