We seem to have a penchant for gentrification scholarship here at Indoor Voices. It shouldn’t be that surprising, since we are a large public university in a vast metropolis, and CUNY boasts a wealth of accomplished urban studies scholars. In previous episodes we’ve heard from Richard Ocejo, Sharon Zukin, and David Puglia about the urban economy, identity and cultural shifts and schisms in New York and in Baltimore. Ed Snadr and Shonna Trinch, John Jay College faculty and authors of What the Signs Say: Language, Gentrification, and Place-Making in Brooklyn, our guests from the summer of 2020, visit us again in this episode to talk with two more colleagues about the topic, adding Asbury Park, New Jersey to the list of places that have undergone significant change in recent years. Ed and Shonna’s guests are Mary Gatta and Molly Vollman Makris, faculty members at Guttman Community College and authors of the new book, Gentrification Down the Shore, published by Rutgers University Press. See their recent Progressive column addressing actions that can be taken to alleviate the struggles faced by places like Asbury Park.
For those interested in continuing to explore Brooklyn, there is an upcoming free two-part event “What the Signs Say” offered by the Brooklyn Public Library’s Center for Brooklyn History. Ed and Shonna will talk about streetscapes, race, making place, aesthetics, nostalgia and activism with other Brooklyn and urban studies experts on February 23 and March 25. More info and registration can be found here.
It’s a pleasure to listen to these two talk about their shared interest. You don’t need to be familiar with the nuances of crust punk, drunk punk and straight edge or to know the music of Los Crudos or Spitboy in order to get something out of this episode (though if you do, you are going to be all over this!). It’s largely about how punk operates and frames itself in different contexts. Even the meaning of diversity and multiculturalism within punk can change, perhaps even depending on who is in the White House. Ray and David discuss the experiences and participation of immigrants, women, people of color, and the continuum or rejection of politics and commercialism vis à vis punk.
In Spring 2020, Cathy Davidson and Eduardo Vianna were co-teaching a course at the Graduate Center, an offering of The Futures Initiative titled “Introduction to Engaged Teaching and Transformative Learning in the Humanities and Social Sciences.” Like millions around the world, they and their students were forced to make the move to remote teaching and learning in the middle of the semester due to the COVID-19 shutdown. This group made the best of a fraught and traumatic situation. I can’t help but say they almost literally made lemonade from lemons, because what came out of the class was a surprise to all of them – a cookbook. You’ll hear how that happened in this episode. The ambassadors are Cathy Davidson, Dree-el Simmons and Tatiana Ades.
The course website is freely available at hastac, an online network cofounded by Cathy Davidson in 2002 and the world’s first and oldest academic social network.
During their conversation, they mention several people and programs that you’ll undoubtedly want to know more about:
Almost a year ago, I talked with the editors of the nationally recognized, Pushcart Prize rankedJ Journal: New Writing on Justice, the literary journal edited by John Jay English department faculty members Jeffrey Heiman and Adam Berlin (see Episode 38). In this – our 50th! – episode, they are back and in conversation with J Journal contributor, poet Estha Weiner. The three have a rich discussion about her work, and she reads three of her poems. I’m grateful and honored to partner with Adam and Jeffrey in this way, and I hope this is the first of several J Journal discussions and readings to come.
Over the last decade, Victoria Bond and T.R. Simon published the award-winning trilogy, Zora and Me, a fictional series based on the life and work of anthropologist and writer (and as Vicky says, “dynamite cultural critic”), Zora Neale Hurston. The third and final volume, Zora and Me: The Summoner, has just been published this month, and she talks about it with her colleague from the John Jay College English department, Allison Pease. They discuss the joys and challenges of writing solo and co-writing, Kipling, and – my favorite part – an imagined conversation with Zora. Allison is a thoughtful and appreciative reader and their conversation will make you want to read the entire trilogy, as it did me. The book touches on a number of issues – racism, death, lynching, colonialism, threats of violence – that would be compelling reading for the middle-grade reader it targets as well as anyone who goes in for historical fiction, ZNH, fantasy, and a little horror. For background on where we are in the trilogy before you listen to the conversation, this will help.
Victoria Bond teaches first-year writing at John Jay. You can follow the Zora & Me series on Twitter.
Allison Pease is Professor of English and Associate Provost for Institutional Effectiveness at John Jay. You can follow her on Twitter. Her new podcast Creating a Framework for a Culturally Affirming, Inclusive and Anti-Racist Curriculum which she co-hosts with Dara Byrne, Associate Provost and Dean of Undergraduate Studies, can be found here.
In chronicling the sweeping account of the Twentieth Century Fox film studio – the first scholarly history of the empire – Frederick Wasser, Professor in the Department of Television, Radio and Emerging Media at Brooklyn college, shines a light on the history of business and entertainment in 20th century America. In fact, as he shares tales about the movies from each decade, it serves as a survey of not only American film history but, as he writes in the book’s introduction, “at times it becomes a history of the century itself.” In describing the story of the studio and its major players, Wasser uses analogies of the “Fall of Rome” and a “Greek tragedy.” The volume is one of eight that will eventually come into being as part of the Routledge Hollywood Centenary series, celebrating the 100-year anniversary of the establishment of the major Hollywood studios.
Our friends at CUNY SUM have summarized Frederick’s book here. A couple of other random teasers I’ll add: William Fox once asked Upton Sinclair to document his story. And Fox TV was an exemplary purveyor of the phenomenon known as “tele-rudeness.”
You’ve seen Char Adams’ work already if you are a reader of CUNY SUM, because she is the site’s digital editor. She is also a race and identity journalist whose work has appeared in The New York Times, The New Republic, Teen Vogue, People, and more. And as of quite recently she is also the co-creator and host of a new podcast, COVID University New York which releases its third episode on Sept. 16. I recommend listening to this conversation with Char, then following it up with one or more COVID University New York episodes – they are all informative, engaging and moving.
Shonna Trinch and Ed Snajdr moved to Brooklyn in the early 2000s, just as the borough was beginning to witness a nascent sea change in its cultural position in New York City and in the world. As newcomers, they experienced their environment with a heightened sensitivity, and as anthropologists, they almost immediately began documenting and note-taking. What they paid particular attention to were storefront signs. Their new book, What the Signs Say: Language, Gentrification, and Place-Making in Brooklyn (Vanderbilt University Press), is the result of a decade of ethnographic research that deconstructs the public language of storefronts and the wide-ranging but often nuanced effects of these signs on a community’s inhabitants as well as on visitors, developers, and potential residents. While signage may seem like mere words to some, Trinch and Snajdr show how significantly interconnected signs are with so many urban issues – real estate, gentrification, race, and class. They address “old school” vs. “new school” signage, use of standard vs. non-standard language forms, the idea of “capitalism without distinction” and its relation to a democratic system, Brooklyn mothers and their impact on and power in a given neighborhood, and much more.
Shonna Trinch is a sociolinguist and faculty member in the Department of Anthropology at John Jay College, and Edward Snajdr is a cultural anthropologist and faculty member in the Department of Anthropology at John Jay College.
Make sure to listen to the entire episode so you don’t miss the celebration of CUNY scholars – both students and faculty – and our #FundCUNY message. And if urban sociology is up your alley, you might also be interested in Episode 1 with Richard Ocejo and Episode 41 with Sharon Zukin.
If you watched the FX series Mrs. America this past Spring, you were, depending on your age, either reminded of or clued into the retrograde attitude of one Phyllis Schlafly, the anti-ERA political activist who wielded more power and influence than many of her contemporary legislative office-holders. So, too, the Miss America Pageant, turning 100 next year, has long set forth particular ideas of what a woman should be. While the Pageant has made some progress toward evolving, it, like Mrs. Schlafly, generally sought to preserve a traditional place for women. Mrs. America referred to a person, but Miss America was and still is an institution, one that has seen numerous controversies as well as some bright spots. As its future teeters on the edge, like many stalwart establishments in this moment, it’s the perfect time to look back at its century-long existence and examine what it hath wrought: the good, the bad, and the beautiful. Margot Mifflin, Professor of English at Lehman College and the Newmark Journalism School has done so. She is the author of Looking for Miss America: A Pageant’s 100-Year Quest to Define Womanhood which will be released by Counterpoint Press on August 4. In this episode, she talks with our great friend and guest interviewer, Beth Harpaz, editor of CUNY SUM.
Jean Halley is Professor of Sociology at the College of Staten Island and is our first repeat guest (a little milestone for us!). We picked up where we left off last year, when we discussed her book Horse Crazy: Girls and the Lives of Horses. Jean’s new work-in-progress is a memoir that includes themes of the Western U.S., race, violence, and memory itself. Most of these themes, along with her exquisite writing, can be observed in the essay “Killing Deer” which was published in Harper’s and which will find a place in her new collection. “I should tell you that the very real possibility of intending to do good, and instead doing bad, has haunted me my whole life,” she writes. “I knew about this particular kind of wrongdoing—it lived as close to me as skin. My family was full of good intentions and terrible happenings.” Jean has explored in depth the role that racism has played in her family and confronts and reveals how it has impacted her own life. In another short and powerful story from her memoir, “Joan Trestle: A Good Egg,” she writes: “Like many white people, even white people like me who know about and acknowledge the reality of boundless racism in our world today, I was surprised at Joan’s racism. Like many white people, I can go through life, naively, free from noticing the racism around me.” She reads the story in this episode.
Jean talks about her experience at the Centre for Multidisciplinary Studies on Racism (CEMFOR) and gives us a sneak preview of another forthcoming project, a book she has co-authored (with Ron Nerio) about the Hillbrow neighborhood of Johannesburg that was known as the queerest space in Africa in the 1980s and in more recent years has been called the most violent neighborhood in the world.