2018-2019 Team-Taught Courses

The Futures Initiative is pleased to announce our 2018-2019 Faculty Fellows and interdisciplinary team-taught graduate courses. As in years past, the aim of these courses is to support diversity, equity, and student-centered interdisciplinary learning at the graduate level, to strengthen faculty diversity at the Graduate Center, and to establish robust peer mentoring among faculty members across the CUNY system. The courses will complement our public programming in the ongoing University Worth Fighting For series. Faculty Fellows were selected in a CUNY-wide competition.

Students across CUNY and from all disciplinary backgrounds are welcome to register for Futures Initiative team-taught courses. Students in graduate programs at other CUNY campuses should apply for an e-permit following the guidelines at their home institutions. The Futures Initiative also gladly participates in the Interuniversity Doctoral Consortium (download this PDF for information about the IUDC Coordinator’s office at your home school). Non-degree students should follow the registration guidelines set forth by the Registrar at the Graduate Center. 

Please contact Katina Rogers, Director of Administration and Programs at the Futures Initiative, at krogers [at] if you have any questions about our upcoming courses or the registration process.

Fall 2018

  1. The Environmental Psychology of Care (David Chapin and Tomoaki Imamichi)
  2. Disability, Culture, and Society (Joseph Straus and Julia Miele Rodas)
  3. Mind the Gap (Ann Kirschner and guests)

Spring 2019

  1. Mediating Race: Technology, Performance, Politics, and Aesthetics in Popular Culture (Cathy Davidson and Racquel Gates)
  2. Afrofuturism—Race and Science Fiction (Jonathan Gray and Joy Sanchez-Taylor)
  3. Critical Race Scholarship: Theories and Pedagogies (Michelle Billies and Soniya Munshi)
  4. Reading and Speaking Race (Juan Battle and Sigmund Shipp)

Fall 2018

The Environmental Psychology of Care

David Chapin (The Graduate Center, Environmental Psychology)
Tomoaki Imamichi (LaGuardia Community College, Social Science)

Thursdays, 11:45am-1:45pm
Course Number: 63320
Listed in: Interdisciplinary Studies; Environmental Psychology; Women’s and Gender Studies; Earth and Environmental Sciences

Flyer promoting Environmental Psychology of Care - outdoor scene with textThe Environmental Psychology of Care
This course takes an interdisciplinary approach in exploring the relationship between care and the physical environment—how care (and the absence of it) is reflected in the physical environment and the physical environment can support care. The course will focus approximately two-week segments on the following topics:

Experiencing Places of Care.
Taking advance of the diverse settings and opportunities of New York City, this course includes field trips (such as Roosevelt Island, a Japanese Tea Room, and a guerrilla garden), phenomenological experiments (e.g. traveling with a stroller or suitcase through different environments), and guest speakers (possibly from the Adaptive Design Association and the Ramapough-Lenape Nation).

Understanding Care by Exploring Environments of anti-care.
We will focus briefly on concepts of power and how they are actualized in issues such as racism, class distinctions and the like; techniques of exclusion, exploitation, deflection and distraction. Who benefits?

The Architecture of Care: Caring for the Community.
Through readings, visual examples, and discussions, we will explore and analyze how the built environment enables and disables people, and what caring environments entail. Some of our focus will be on institutional settings, but we will also look carefully at everyday environments—environments designed for diversity and inclusion which allow people with diverse abilities, different cultural backgrounds and possible conflicting needs to feel welcome and participate in society.

Sustainability by Design: Caring for Our future.
How do architecture, urban design and policies of justice lead to more sustainable practices? We will consider innovative new building techniques and designs, as well as existing models of neighborhoods, global cities, and cultural traditions.

Environmental Attitudes of Care.
We will investigate different ideological and philosophical approaches with implications of how we relate to the environment, ranging from existential approaches of “being-in-the-world” to concepts of “dwelling” and wabi-sabi (an appreciation for imperfection and the aged) and how these attitudes can be manifested in practice, objects and the built environment.

Contemporary Issues of Care.
We must also consider care (and the lack of) in the evolving context of virtual environments, screen-life, and technological advances such as “care-giving” robots and “artificial emotions.”

Working in small groups, we will expect each class member to actively apply concepts from the class to a project defined as significant by the group.

Disability, Culture, and Society

Joseph Straus (The Graduate Center, Music)
Julia Miele Rodas (Bronx Community College, English)

Wednesdays, 2-5pm
Course Number: 63321
Listed in: Interdisciplinary Studies; Music; Women’s and Gender Studies

Syllabus (pdf); public events series

Like the fictions of gender and race, disability is a cultural and social formation that sorts bodies and minds into desirable (normal) and undesirable (abnormal, sick) categories. Regimes of representation in literature, art, music, theater, film, and popular culture—the ways that bodies and minds constructed as disabled are depicted—both reflect and shape cultural understandings of nonconforming identities and extraordinary bodies, affecting the lived experience of people understood as disabled, often in negative ways. Drawing on examples from the arts and popular culture, this course will interrogate the many ways disability identity has been confined to rigid and unproductive social, political, and aesthetic categories. It will also explore a significant counter-tradition in which disability is seen as a significant artistic resource and a desirable way of being in the world. Topics will include: the medical and social models of disability; narratives of disability; disability and performance; disability writing (memoir and fiction); narratives of overcoming; the histories and cultures of autism, deafness, blindness, intellectual disability, and madness. We will pay particular attention to the intersection of disability with other more familiar tropes of human disqualification, including race, gender, and sexuality.


Mind the Gap

Ann Kirschner (The Graduate Center)
Guest lecturers, TBA

Tues, 6:30-8:30pm
Course number: 63322
Listed in: Interdisciplinary Studies; MALS; Political Science

Coming soon to your neighborhood…Driverless cars. Stores without cashiers. Supermarkets stocked with food that was harvested by robots and delivered by drones. Restaurant with automated burger flippers. Classrooms stocked with virtual reality headsets and no teachers. Nursing homes with comfort care e-surrogates. Hospitals with virtual doctors. Brain-computer interfaces that cure blindness and fix spinal cord injuries.

Sometimes called the Fourth Industrial Revolution, or the Second Machine Age, we are on the cusp of an era in which artificial intelligence, automation, genetics, robotics, nanotechnology, 3D printing, to name just a few, are transforming how we live, learn, and earn. In previous eras, major shifts in technology created as many new jobs as they destroyed. Are we doomed to a period of massive unemployment and social unrest? Or is this the new utopia?

Mind the Gap will address this question: As we think about the range of possibilities — from the utopian to the dystopian — what are the policies, technologies, and social systems that should be anticipated today to ensure positive outcomes for the future? The course will examine the historical role of work, the outcomes of previous technological shifts, and the ethical dimensions that should inform our planning for the future. The focus will not only be on technology but on drivers for change, the context in which they are taking place, from changing demographics to globalization to climate change.

The course assumes that technology is not created in a vacuum, that the future is a page not yet written, and that we have a window of time in which business, government, and the individual can proactively adapt and shape a better future.

Spring 2019

Mediating Race: Technology, Performance, Politics, and Aesthetics in Popular Culture

Cathy N. Davidson (The Graduate Center, English and the Futures Initiative)
Racquel Gates (College of Staten Island, Media Culture)

Wednesdays, 2-4pm
Course Number: IDS 81630

What does it mean to be “cool,” to be “fierce,” or to “slay”? This course focuses on technologies, techniques, performance, and style (including fashion) as components contributing to our ideas, representations, conventions, and stereotypes of race. More specifically, this course asks how cinematic and media aesthetics have contributed to how we identify and “read” blackness in popular media. Rather than treat film, television, and new media as straightforward reflections of social realities, this course will analyze how the media established, and continues to shape, our understandings of what blackness “looks” like.

Blackness occupies a complicated space within the popular imaginary and popular culture. On the one hand, film and media have, since their inception, marginalized blackness in literal and figurative ways in order to reinforce the centrality and normativity of whiteness. At the same time, however, the world has obsessively consumed black performance and black style and celebrated black stars. When we talk about the “swag” of former President Barack Obama on the cover of Ebony magazine, or the glamour of Lena Horne in the 1940s, what are we seeing? When we identify Sidney Poitier’s cool film demeanor or Beyonce’s fierceness in her 2013 Super Bowl halftime show, what does this consist of?

These seemingly conflicted impulses are perhaps one of the most enduring legacies of the formation of American society, originating with the capture and introduction of African slaves (and their attendant cultures and traditions), solidified in the early days of minstrel performance, and reinscribed through today’s hyper-mediated culture. Debates around cultural appropriation have often focused on the racial politics of African American stylistic and cultural traditions being coopted by whites and other non-blacks, but there has been less exploration of how certain seemingly “ineffable” traits have become associated with blackness in the first place. This course asks how popular culture has created the aesthetic vocabulary for how media consumers “read” blackness in all of its various incarnations.

This is an ideal course for anyone in the humanities and social sciences, for those interested in traditional and new media, and for anyone looking for sophisticated, critical, and original approaches to issues of race, racism, and representation in American popular culture. In addition, the course will be using a number of active learning pedagogical techniques that will both make this a lively “workshop” of ideas to which every student will contribute and will offer anyone who is teaching, at any level, a new set of methods, activities, and ideas about active learning and the teaching of controversial, difficult, and complicated subject matter.

Afrofuturism—Race and Science Fiction

Jonathan Gray (The Graduate Center and John Jay College, English)
Joy Sanchez-Taylor (LaGuardia Community College, English)

Wednesdays, 11:45am – 1:45pm
Course Number: IDS 81640

In 1994 Mark Dery defined Afrofuturism as “speculative fiction that treats African-American themes and addresses African-American concerns in the contexts of twentieth-century technoculture,” locating its origins in the early work of Samuel Delany (and O. Butler? and Sun Ra?). Our seminar takes Dery’s definition as a point of departure to examine the fiction, films, graphic narratives and music videos produced in the sub-genre of Afrofuturism. Because Afrofuturist expression runs the gamut from literary (science) fiction to popular music, it is incumbent for graduate students interested in African American and Africana literature and culture, American Studies, popular culture studies, and science fiction and fantasy to engage in the necessarily interdisciplinary inquiry that Afrofuturism demands. Indeed, the question of Afro-futurity informs recent creative work (Junot Diaz’s “Monstro,” HBO’s Westworld) and technical innovation (Black Twitter) that would seem to fall outside of an Afrofuturist paradigm. Thus, our exploration of this topic will problematize our understandings of speculative fiction (also known as science fiction or sci-fi), question how the imbrication of technology into our lives transforms human subjectivity, and survey literary theory to arrive at an understanding of how Afrofuturism has developed since the mid-20th century and how it promises to propagate itself into the future.

This course is grounded in student participation. Students in the course will thoroughly investigate primary and secondary sources on Afrofuturism and will play an active role in the course by taking turns as facilitators of class discussions and through the completion of a class project with a digital humanities component.

Critical Race Scholarship: Theories and Pedagogies

Michelle Billies (The Graduate Center and Kingsborough Community College, Psychology)
Soniya Munshi (Borough of Manhattan Community College,Social Sciences, Human Services, and Criminal Justice)

Thursdays, 11:45am-1:45pm
Course Number: IDS 81650

In this interdisciplinary course, graduate students will engage with critical race scholarship to build from and integrate this scholarship into their own research and pedagogy. Readings will span an expansive array of critical race theories and methods. Scholarly traditions will include transnational and diasporic feminisms; Black geographies and Caribbean philosophies; indigenous studies and critical ethnic studies; critical whiteness studies; queer studies; disability studies; activist scholarship; and, literature addressing pedagogical approaches in these areas. Students will use course readings to craft a writing project useful in their research or teaching. They may deepen an understanding of a particular theorist or body of work; rewrite the philosophical or theoretical underpinning of their research; create a course, syllabi and/or set of teaching plans; collaborate with another student to generate theory or a team-taught course; examine internalized dominance or internalized racism and its relationship to their scholarly work or teaching; or another project they propose. Students will be invited to contribute a reading to the syllabus.

Contemporary challenges in the academy and society at large confirm the crucial need for intellectual engagement with critical theories of race and intersectionality that address systemic, historic racism. This graduate course is a means of proliferating knowledge and critiques of race in and out of the academy while developing strategies for furthering this work in the undergraduate classroom. The pedagogical approach will foster open discussion of personal relationships to the readings as well as experiences of race and ethnicity.

Reading and Speaking Race

Juan Battle (The Graduate Center, Sociology, Urban Education, Public Health)
Sigmund Shipp (Hunter College, Urban Policy and Planning)

Mondays, 4:15-6:15pm
Course Number: IDS 81660

This course will provide students with a deeper understanding of contemporary academic and public discourses surrounding race and ethnicity. Grounded in a sociological approach, students will read key social scientific texts on the meaning of race from both historical and contemporary perspectives. This class is different than a traditional race and ethnicity graduate course because it asks students to not only understand academic discussions of race and ethnicity but also work to make these complex arguments accessible to wider audiences. With journalists and publics becoming increasingly interested in nuanced discourse about the influence of race in the Post-Obama era, the class presents a unique opportunity to help emergent scholars hone their voices and analysis.

The contemporary political environment necessitates a language and nuance that helps articulate an increasingly diverse yet still unequal world. Weekly discussions will be facilitated by rotating members of the class. Students in the course will be expected to develop three written products: 1) an op-ed targeted at a major news publication such at the New York Times or a national news publication; 2) an article for Contexts magazine, The Conversation or a similarly public facing publication; and 3) a book review for an academic publication. The course will draw primarily from two texts: Beyond Black and White: A Reader on Contemporary Race Relations edited by Zulema Valdez and Going Public: A Guide for Social Scientists by Arlene Stein and Jessie Daniels. We plan to incorporate guest speakers who specialize in public facing work including a journalist, an editor from public facing publication, and academic with high profile success engaging publics.

Archive of past courses



The Futures Initiative
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