New York: A Global Perspective (or from Jay-Z’s Big Pimpin’ to Abdel Halim Hafez)

The second course that I am teaching, in addition to Urban Arrangements, is A Global Perspective in the International Studies department at City College. The course is designed to engage the literature on globalization through the events and spaces of New York City. The aim of the course, in addition to being an introduction to the literature on globalization, is to get students (and myself) to think more carefully about what we consider to be global and local. Influenced by thinkers such as Latour and Sloterdijk, I want to move away from the idea as the global as a field and the local as a point and towards a global that is local at every point and a local that is composed of events that take place elsewhere and elsewhen. I am excited to teach this class and have already learnt a lot in preparing the material for it. Best of all has been the discovery that New York native Jay-Z sampled, for his song Big Pimpin’, the legendary Egyptian singer Abdel Halim Hafez’s song Khosora (meaning loss in Arabic); a great example of the circulation of sounds and ideas through the world and the Jay-z’s video Big Pimpin’ is also a good example of the rather toxic implications of globalization.

The course will start with Sassen’s Global City (defined around the three cities New York, London and Tokyo) and then we will travel through New York beginning  in Manhattan and the events of 9/11. From the World Trade Center we will then travel to Wall Street and engage the literature on financialization and then we will go to Zuccotti Park and think about the Occupy Wall Street movement (I am still finalizing the literature for this, so any suggestions would be very welcome). From Wall Street we will move to Midtown and look at global governance through the creation of the United Nations engaging the amazing work of Mark Mazower. Then we move across to Brooklyn where we will explore issues such as historical globalization and race (through the art exhibit the Marvelous Sugar Baby), gentrification (excited to read The World in Brooklyn) and the garment industry. From Brooklyn it is up to Queens where we will engage issues surrounding immigration (still finalizing the literature for this). Then we move to the Bronx where we will engage with cultural globalization and the birth of Hip-Hop in Sedgwick Avenue. For our engagement with Hip-hop we will read Sujatha Fernandes’ book Close to the Edge and a couple of pieces on  hip-hop and the Arab world. Finally, we arrive in the “forgotten borough” of New York – Staten Island – where we look at the secessionist rumblings that have emerged in the city’s fifth part and link this to the broader debate around secessionism and globalization.

The course description:

A Global Perspective offers students an introduction to the complexities and controversies surrounding globalization through the particular spaces of New York City. This course is grounded in a perspective that disrupts distinctions between the global and the local and challenge students to think about how the local is always composed of the results of actions that take place elsewhere and elsewhen and a global that is local at every point. Students will think through the central debates in globalization through a focus on the cultural, political and economic productions and locations of New York City. Specifically, this course will engage the literature on globalization through the events and locations in Manhattan (9/11, Wall Street and Occupy Wall Street and the United Nations), Brooklyn (an art installation at the Brooklyn Domino Sugar Refining Plant and the garment industry), the Bronx (the invention of hip-hop at 1520 Sedgwick Avenue in the Bronx), Queens (immigration and race) and Staten Island (Secessionist movements).

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