Category Archives: Courses

International Studies in Human Rights

Fall 2017

DRAP-GA 1048

Peter Lucas / Thursdays 6-9 PM

This purpose of this class is to introduce students to international human rights and the movement’s relationship to the field of comprehensive peace education. As a multi-disciplinary field, peace education takes a holistic approach to conflict and education. Essentially, peace education is the creation and transmission of knowledge needed to achieve and maintain peace. It is also about developing the critical and reflective capacities to apply knowledge in order to control, reduce, and eliminate various forms of violence. Using a peace education approach, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and related normative global standards will be used as the primary conceptual frameworks to guide our inquiries.

Throughout the course, we will also distinguish between “negative peace” and “positive peace.” Negative peace refers to the practices to limit and prevent war and collective violence. We’ll take a very holistic approach to violence because many of the major human rights violations can be considered as forms of violence. More often than not, the response to serious violations is enacted from a negative peace perspective in order to quell the immediate violence. Unfortunately, negative peace practices do not necessarily get at the root causes of the violations nor do they strive for substantive social change. Positive peace is more concerned with establishing lifelong and life-enhancing human rights values that are a necessary pre-condition for a culture of peace. Positive peace not only attempts to understand the base causes of violence, but it’s goal is fundamental social transformation.

Mirroring this negative/positive approach to peace, the course is set up as a dialectic of tragedy and hope. There are six, two-week themes in the course which cover economic human rights, health and human rights, due process rights, women’s human rights, crimes against humanity, and genocide. For each theme we will stay focused on the particular issue for two weeks. The first week we will explore the tragic dimensions of the issue at hand and note any negative peace strategies at work on the situation. The following week we will stay focused on the theme, this time stressing hope and exploring how human rights and peace workers respond to the situation with front line NGO work, as human rights educators, and as media workers within the human rights movement. The second week will highlight the positive peace approach.

Focusing on human rights as positive peace, students will study the major themes and events in the contemporary human rights movement. Students will be exposed to the international standards, the historical generations of human rights, and the basic conceptions and distinctions of human rights. Students will learn about international human rights organizations, how local NGOs “respond” to violations, and the role of peace education (both formal and non-formal) in promoting human rights and a culture of peace. Throughout the course, students will also be exposed to the issues surrounding human rights and representation and the various representational strategies such as reports on violations, personal narratives, journalism, documentary film, photo reportage, web sites, and other medias. And finally, students will have the opportunity to explore research interests concerning human rights and peace education.

New Course: Underworlds (Fall 2017)

Professor: Leo Goldsmith

Caves, labyrinths, mines, sewers, tunnels, catacombs, burrows, lost worlds: in the popular imaginary, the spaces beneath the surface of the planet have served as literal and metaphorical sites of concealment, subversion, repression, extraction, decay, and fantasy. This course explores these physical and figurative notions of the underground in multiple domains of both media (novels, films, television, and music; science fiction, horror, documentary, and avantgarde) and theory (new materialisms, media archaeology, media ecology, infrastructure studies, “history from below,” psychoanalysis, and conspiracy theories). Through these investigations,
this course will excavate a set of hidden connections between topics as dispersed as: lost world literature, Land Art, criminality, extraction, waste, Hollow Earth theory, concealment and repression, palimpsestic historiography, urban infrastructure, Palestinian subtopography, ancient aliens, sub- and countercultures, the occult, data bunkers, and political resistance.

New Course: The Curatorial (Fall 2017)

Professor: Lori Cole

What is the role of a curator? What is a curator’s relationship to artists, objects, texts, and exhibition sites? This seminar is intended to introduce students to the history, theory, and practice of selecting, displaying, and installing objects. The course begins with an overview of the role of the curator in a traditional museum setting before examining curatorial practices in non-profit spaces as well as curating public art, participatory art, and digital art to determine what the role of a curator is in an ever-expanding globalized art world characterized by new media, an expanding art market, and large-scale international exhibitions, biennials, and art fairs.


We will read texts by curators such as Helen Molesworth, Nato Thompson, Kellie Jones, and Hans Ulrich Obrist, and critics such as Svetlana Alpers, Bruce Althsuler, Brian O’Doherty, and Elena Filipovic, and examine work by artists who curate such as Fred Wilson, Hans Haacke, and Rirkrit Tiravanija, as well as both domestic and international group shows such as the Whitney Biennial and Documenta. Our classes will feature guest speakers from New York-area museums, galleries, and non-profits and will include site visits to artist studios. Students will be asked to write a variety of assignments—wall texts, exhibition catalogue essays, acquisition forms, and art reviews—and the seminar will culminate in a final in-depth exhibition proposal.


New Course: Decolonization Is Not A Metaphor (Fall 2017)

Professor: Amin Husain

The election of Donald Trump as 45th President of the United States makes it imperative that we ask and be honest with ourselves, as Grace Lee Boggs had insisted on for years, What Time Is It On The Clock of the World?

There is a war being waged in the imagination and (most) people are losing. What if, when we speak of “art” and “activism” after Occupy, we put both under erasure? What if we strike art to liberate it from itself? Not to end art, but to unleash the powers of affirmation and radical imagination. What if we reject the -ism and look at what does it mean to live engaged lives and be engaged intellectuals? We revitalize real life by making it surreal. This surreal spirit is less that of Breton’s European vanguardism than Suzanne Cesaire’s freedom dream, informed as it is by the ongoing histories of slavery, imperialism, internal and external colonialism, and debt. Such art and engagement can defamiliarize life, asking us how we live – and why we live this way? It challenges us to respond with action as we simultaneously acknowledge that we ourselves are responsible for freedom and oppression, rather than any pre-existing institution, or ideology. And, what if, as we act we imagine a refugee camp collaged into the symbolic heart of finance capital. We imagine a self-organized commons installed at the ground zero of empire, or an empty minimalist plaza flooded with bodies and voices and cameras, a de-occupation of New York City, and a never-ending process of experimentation, learning and undoing, resisting and building in the unexplored terrain of an historic rupture.

This class will seek to interrogate current efforts at art-making and activism through decolonization as a process and framework for a shared horizon of liberation. The class will look at Occupy Wall Street, Black Lives Matter, No DAPL, Gulf Labor Coalition and Global Ultra Luxury Faction, as well as Direct Action Front for Palestine as case studies and examples. Select readings of texts and screening of visual materials, and visiting guests form the core of the class, which will be supplemented by field ­trips, and special guests. A major component of the course is a collaborative work project that combines research, aesthetics, organizing and action. Choice of practice and medium is open to students and can include multimedia projects.

New Course: Data Rules (Fall 2017)

Data Rules: How quantification shapes science, selves, and states
Instructor Laura Norén Course Details
Office: NYU Center for Data Science Fall 2017 Day/time TBD
Course Description
This course traces the historical precursors in the construction of knowledge and thought that are part of the contemporary emphasis on quantification, discrete numerical measurement, and predictive automated systems. The course examines the scientific revolution both as an historical event and a philosophical shift
in the way truth claims are constructed and substantiated. We examine the evolution in the way truth and facts are constructed as this ethos intersects with the rise of bureaucratic institutions, including the corporation and the state. Along the way, we examine the logic of categories, the difficulty humans have in cognizing large numbers and statistical thinking, the role of data visualization in telling stories with/about
data, and key problems in expert-driven knowledge production. We conclude the class by examining the contemporary turn towards predictive uses of large datasets.
Knowledge production via prediction is a break from descriptive uses of data, even in schemas where descriptive data was used to support causal reasoning. Predictive implementations of knowledge production are fraught with the dangers of false positives, false negatives, and “true” positives & negatives drawn from training data that is laced with the social problems of the past (e.g. sexism, racism, elitism).
What has not changed, however, is the way that ruling elites are harnessing data at a scale that enhances the potential of ‘control creep’ both at larger scales than we have previously seen and with more precise impacts on specific individuals than was previously possible.