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For the first time in human history, urban areas are home to more than half the world's population. Most of the urgent problems of our age—economic and racial tension, terrorism, environmental degradation, food and energy insecurity, and unequal education—are related to and mediated by the urban. Cities have faced such challenges for millennia. Among the oldest and most important human creations, they are both monuments to the human desire for peaceful coexistence and flashpoints of social conflict. For all their steel and concrete, cities are also products of human imagination—not only the visions of architects and engineers but the ideas of their dwellers and visitors. 

This is a crucial time to rethink urban paradigms. If humanity is to survive its urban futures, the metabolism of the city—its infrastructure, its flows of services and people, its relations and borders—must change to nurture, rather than deplete, the systems it inhabits. The 2017–18 Altman Program invites faculty, students, alumni, and community members to join distinguished visiting scholars for a transdisciplinary examination of the ideas and practices that scaffold our cities. How do philosophical, cultural, and historical narratives shape the material realities of urbanity? And what urban models and cultures can enable a socially just and ecologically viable future?

Distinguished Lectures

Times Square at night
Saskia Sassen
Robert S. Lynd Professor of Sociology, Columbia University

Who Owns the City?

September 19, 2017 5:00 PM
Donald W. Fritz Pavilion C, Armstrong Student Center
Illustrated image of New York buildings and landmarks crowded together artistically
Neil Brenner
Professor of Urban Theory, Harvard University

Is the Future Urban?

October 2, 2017 5:00 PM
John E. Dolibois Room, Shriver Center
the statue of liberty looks out over the New York Skyline
Teju Cole
Distinguished Writer in Residence, Bard College

Open City

October 9, 2017 7:00 PM
Harry T. Wilks Theater, Armstrong Student Center
An urban planning guide from the 1940s depicts a man showing a woman how the city should be developed
Alison Isenberg
Professor of History, Princeton University

Designs on the City: Gender and Urban Renewal in San Francisco

October 25, 2017 5:00 PM
Donald W. Fritz Pavilion C, Armstrong Student Center
earthy drawing of ribbons clustered together weaving in and out of each other
Andrew Ross
Professor of Social and Cultural Analysis, New York University

Plan for the Best or Anticipate the Worst? From Sustainability to Resilience

November 8, 2017 5:00 PM
John E. Dolibois Room, Shriver Center
graffiti of abstractly multicolored faces along a border wall
Teddy Cruz & Fonna Forman
Professor of Public Culture and Urbanism & Associate Professor of Political Science, University of California-San Diego

Cross-Border Citizens

March 8, 2018 5:00 PM
Donald W. Fritz Pavilion B, Armstrong Student Center
two city skylines overlayed over the other, blending together
Miguel Robles-Durán
Associate Professor of Urbanism, The New School, New York City

A Theory of Parallel Urbanization

April 5, 2018 5:00 PM
Marcum Center
Charles B. Qualia Chair in Romance Languages, Texas Tech University

Altman Symposium Faculty and Geoffrion Student Presentations

April 6, 2018 9:00 AM
Marcum Center
Charles B. Qualia Chair in Romance Languages, Texas Tech University
Susan Larson
Charles B. Qualia Chair in Romance Languages, Texas Tech University

Trash, Recycling, and Urban Culture in Contemporary Madrid

April 6, 2018 4:00 PM
Marcum Center
Tent city under a a freeway over pass
Ananya Roy
Professor of Urban Planning, Social Welfare and Geography and inaugural Director of the Institute on Inequality and Democracy, UCLA Luskin

Racial Banishment in the American Metropolis

May 3, 2018 5:00 PM
Heritage Room, Shriver Center

2017-18 Altman Fellows

Cathy Wagner

Cathy Wagner is a poet and essayist whose interests include labor, ecology, and connections between poetic form, social practices, and embodied experience. She is author of four books of poems, most recently Nervous Device (City Lights, 2012), and is working on two book projects. One, a poetry collection, interweaves notes taken in abandoned, semi-wild land between a golf course and a trailer park with documentary material on the area's racial and economic history. The other is a collection of essays and hybrid texts on academic labor and the role of the poet and poetry in the academy and in the broader economy.

2017-18 Geoffrion Family Fellows

Abigail Culpepper

Abigail Culpepper is a junior honors student from Dayton, Ohio pursuing a B.A./M.A. in French as well as a linguistics major and a German minor. She is a current Dean's Scholar and a former Undergraduate Summer Scholar with research interests in ecocriticism, conceptual metaphor, language & power, and phenomenology. She has studied in Luxembourg, France, and Germany.

Rachel Wydra

Rachel Wydra is a senior honors student majoring in history with minors in music, French, and Latin American studies. Her honors thesis examines the history of women in Costa Rica and she has studied cross-cultural musical exchange in Chicago. In 2017, she was an intern for the Chicago Legal Clinic.

Phoebe Myers

Phoebe Myers is a junior pursuing an individualized studies major that applies creative writing and social justice to individual empowerment and social change. She completed an Undergraduate Summer Scholars project on Cuban-American politics and her creative work has been published by Tricyle and East End Elements.

Sam Hunter

Sam Hunter is a senior pursuing a B.A./M.A. in English literature, a major in creative writing, and minors in rhetoric and women’s, gender, and sexuality studies. A former University Summer Scholar, his research interests include queer representations, intertextuality, and visual forms including films, graphic novels, and comics.

Jacob Bruggeman

Jacob Bruggeman is a junior honors student with majors in history and political science. He has conducted funded research on U.S. homelessness and, as a 2017 Undergraduate Summer Scholar, studied dystopian cityscapes in fiction. He studied in Italy during the summer of 2016.

2017-18 Altman Scholars

Damon Scott

Damon Scott examines the intersections of gender, sexuality, and urban planning in post-war America. His work has appeared in the Journal of Urban History, the Journal of Urban Planning History, and Planning Perspectives. His current book project, “The City Aroused,” investigates the impact of urban redevelopment on the sexual geography of post-war San Francisco and has received funding from the Social Science Research Council. His recent article on San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury neighborhood won theJournal of Planning History Prize at the 2015 meeting of the Society for American City and Regional Planning History.

Nishani Frazier

Nishani Frazier focuses on 20th-century American history, social movements, and oral history. She is the author of Harambee City: The Congress of Racial Equality in Cleveland and the Rise of Black Power Populism (2017) as well as essays on civil rights and black power.  Frazier recently completed a Fulbright fellowship in Norway. She is also a fellow of The Next System Project, a non-profit subsidiary of Democracy Collaborative that fosters innovative, practical approaches to the global challenges of community building and economic development.

Jordan A. Fenton

Jordan A. Fenton has published essays on the visual and performed expression of Nigerian masquerade arts, secret societies, esoteric knowledge systems, dress, economics, and ways in which so-called traditional arts and artists operate in metropolitan cities. Over the past decade, his ethnographic fieldwork in Calabar, Nigeria, has been funded by the Fulbright-Hays program, the Smithsonian Institution, and Miami University. He recently edited a special issue of Critical Interventions: Journal of African Art History and Visual Culture on the economics of urban African arts (2016).  

Diane Fellows

Diane Fellows is Associate Professor of Architecture and Interior Design. Her work in drawing, painting, photography, and digital film explores the long-term effects of displacement on individuals and communities and the creation of personal and cultural meaning in unfamiliar landscapes. Her recent architecture design studios have helped create needed structures for the Za’atari refugee camp in Jordan, in collaboration with camp residents and non-governmental organizations. Her work has been exhibited in Brazil, Germany, South Africa, and the United States. Her recent essay on forced migration will appear in Structures of Protection? Rethinking Refugee Shelter (Berghahn, 2020).

Annie Dell’Aria

Annie Dell’Aria studies the intersection of contemporary art, media, and public space. She has published essays in Public Art Dialogue and Moving Image Review and Art Journal (MIRAJ) as well as in edited volumes. Her current book project explores uses of moving image media as public art and the concept of mobile spectatorship. In summer 2017, Dell’Aria participated in the National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Institute on Space, Place and the Humanities at Northeastern University.

Tammy L. Brown

Tammy L. Brown is an interdisciplinary scholar, creative writer, and visual artist. Her research, writing, and art range from historical studies to abstract paintings and multimedia poetry. Her book, City of Islands: Caribbean Intellectuals in New York (2015), tells the life stories of Caribbean intellectuals to reveal the history of immigration to New York and the long battle for racial equality in modern America. She is currently working on a biography of rock ’n’ roll virtuoso Jimi Hendrix.

Jana Evans Braziel

Jana Evans Braziel is author of five monographs: “Riding with Death”: Vodou Art and Urban Ecology in the Streets of Port-au-Prince (2017); Duvalier’s Ghosts: Race, Diaspora, and U.S. Imperialism in Haitian Literatures (2010); Caribbean Genesis: Jamaica Kincaid and the Writing of New Worlds (2009); Artists, Performers, and Black Masculinity in the Haitian Diaspora (2008); and Diaspora: An Introduction (2008). She has also co-edited five collections and two special journal issues and contributed a number of articles and book chapters to scholarly forums.