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Graduate Center scholars innovate, advance social justice, and promote public debate through their work. Our hundreds of free, public events with prominent GC scholars and artists as well as guests are designed to spark conversation, inspiration, and action.
June 21, 2022
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June 15, 2022
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Y Tu Mamá También
Y Tu Mamá También (2001), an intelligent and sensual road movie directed by Alfonso Cuarón and co-written by him and his brother Carlos, is both an acclaimed feature by a director who would go on to win Oscars and a box office success abroad and in its native Mexico, where it was the biggest grossing local film of all time. Its teenage protagonists Gael García Bernal and Diego Luna went on to be major stars of global cinema.
Yet on its release the film was vilified by established Mexican critics as a coarse comedy and 'Penthouse fantasy' of youthful lust for an older woman. Paul Julian Smith's lucid study of the film argues that Y Tu Mamá También not only addresses with playful seriousness such major issues as gender, race, class, and space, which are yet more urgent now than they were on its release; but that the film's apparently casual aesthetic masks a sophisticated audiovisual style, one which brings together popular genre film and auteurist experiment.
Smith suggests Y Tu Mamá También remains an example for world cinema of how a very local film can connect with a global audience that is ignorant of such niceties. Combining production and distribution history, based on unexplored material held in Mexico City archives, with close textual analysis, Smith makes an argument for Cuarón's film as an enduring masterpiece that hides in plain sight as an ephemeral teen movie.
Published September 2022
British Film Institute
The Battle Nearer to Home
The Persistence of School Segregation in New York City
Despite its image as an epicenter of progressive social policy, New York City continues to have one of the nation's most segregated school systems. Tracing the quest for integration in education from the mid-1950s to the present, The Battle Nearer to Home follows the tireless efforts by educational activists to dismantle the deep racial and socioeconomic inequalities that segregation reinforces. The fight for integration has shifted significantly over time, not least in terms of the way "integration" is conceived, from transfers of students and redrawing school attendance zones, to more recent demands of community control of segregated schools. In all cases, the Board eventually pulled the plug in the face of resistance from more powerful stakeholders, and, starting in the 1970s, integration receded as a possible solution to educational inequality. In excavating the history of New York City school integration politics, in the halls of power and on the ground, Christopher Bonastia unearths the enduring white resistance to integration and the severe costs paid by Black and Latino students. This last decade has seen activists renew the fight for integration, but the war is still far from won.
Published July 2022
Stanford University Press
The Roads to Hillbrow: Making Life in South Africa's Community of Migrants
This highly accessible portrayal of a post-apartheid neighborhood in transition analyzes the relationship between identity, migration, and place.
This book is co-authored by Ron Nerio.
Since it was founded in 1894, amidst Johannesburg’s transformation from a mining town into the largest city in southern Africa, Hillbrow has been a community of migrants. As the “city of gold” accumulated wealth on the backs of migrant laborers from southern Africa, Jewish Eastern Europeans who had fled pogroms joined other Europeans and white South Africans in this emerging suburb. After World War II, Hillbrow became a landscape of high-rises that lured western and southern Europeans seeking prosperity in South Africa’s booming economy. By the 1980s, Hillbrow housed some of the most vibrant and visible queer spaces on the continent while also attracting thousands of Indian and Black South Africans who defied apartheid laws to live near the city center. Filling the void for a book about migration within the Global South, The Roads to Hillbrow explores how one South African neighborhood transformed from a white suburb under apartheid into a “grey zone” during the 1970s and 1980s to become a “port of entry” for people from at least twenty-five African countries.
The Roads to Hillbrow explores the diverse experiences of domestic and transnational migrants who have made their way to this South African community following war, economic dislocation, and the social trauma of apartheid. Authors Ron Nerio and Jean Halley weave sociology, history, memoir, and queer studies with stories drawn from more than 100 interviews. Topics cover the search for employment, options for housing, support for unaccompanied minors, possibilities for queer expression, the creation of safe parks for children, and the challenges of living without documents. Current residents of Hillbrow also discuss how they cope with inequality, xenophobia, high levels of crime, and the harsh economic impacts of COVID-19.
Many of the book’s interviewees arrived in Hillbrow seeking not only to gain better futures for themselves but also to support family members in rural parts of South Africa or in their countries of origin. Some immerse themselves in justice work, while others develop LGBTQ+ support networks, join religious and community groups, or engage in artistic expression. By emphasizing the disparate voices of migrants and people who work with migrants, this book shows how the people of Hillbrow form connections and adapt to adversity.
Published June 2022
Fordham University Press
The Thought Project
The Thought Project shares the knowledge, research, and innovation of Graduate Center scholars with the world. Through a podcast and a Medium blog, The Thought Project allows Graduate Center faculty and students to discuss how their scholarship goes beyond academia and affects the public good.Podcast Episodes
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