Underground Histories of the New York Waterfront (DSEM-UG 2009)

Gallatin School of Individualized Studies - New York University

Spring 2019 (1/28/19- 5/13/19) Tuesday/Thursday 2:00pm-3:15pm.

Course Description: In this course, we’ll explore waterfront landfill as an important category for historical analysis, with special attention to those marginalized and buried histories of race, class, and gender at the shoreline. In New York, landfill has been an important tool of urban growth. Today’s Manhattan is 30% larger than the island the Lenape inhabitants knew, and as a whole, the city has an added 9,000 acres of new land since European settlement. Through various texts, archival maps, and several site visits, we will explore histories of New York’s waterfront communities in the largest sense of the term, de-centering the human at times, for conversations about human and non-human species relationships and urban ecologies more broadly. Considering the intersections of environmental and social justice, we’ll analyze the liminal space between land and water - the beach, the piers, the bridges, etc. in order to advance historical and contemporary treatments of these man-made geographies. Final projects may take the form of a research paper or an urban intervention (social practice, a public program, a performance, an installation… etc) that develops new ways of seeing and engaging with a New York waterfront site.

Past Course Offerings

The Art of Change: Community Activism and Radical Art Practice in New York, 1960-1990

New York University - Department of Social and Cultural Analysis.


Course Description:This course explores the relation between social-transformation and artistic creation. Each lesson considers the works created by New York artists in response to socio-political and economic crises of the last half century. Among the many legacies of creative “artivism” in New York, we will study the Black Arts and the Anti-War movements of the late 60s and 70s, the women’s movement for inclusion in the city’s galleries and institutions, Act Up’s direct action with Gran Fury during the NYC Aids crisis in the 80s, and others. This course will provide a wide survey study of radical music, writing, fine art and performance produced in New York from 1960-1990. Academic texts will be supplemented by primary art sources and documentary film. Together we will study the legacies of activist movements and the implications of their artworks for social and environmental justice, challenging and leveraging institutional power, and rendering politics visual. For the final project, Students will have the option of developing their own art interventions that respond to a contemporary issues for partial credit of the final paper.