News and notes from across NYU's Campuses and Sites
New York University Florence announces the 13th edition of The Season at Villa La Pietra (Via Bolognese 120, Florence), a summer celebration of creative collaborations conducted throughout the grounds of the 15th century villa and its extraordinary and scenographic gardens from May 31 through August 4, 2017. World-renowned actors, writers, musicians and artists will gather to work collaboratively across disciplines to present a range of professional performances including classical compositions and concerts, theatre performances, the reading of new works and a visual arts exhibition.
As part of the worldwide celebrations of Monteverdi’s 450th birthday, The Season presented Il Ritorno d’Ulisse in Patria, May 31, excerpts from the opera, performed by the acclaimed Italian ensemble La Venexiana. English actor Richard Emerson brought portions of Homer’s original text to life from a script adaptation by American theatre director Erica Gould. A collaboration with Salon/Sanctuary Concerts.
Internationally celebrated fiction writers and poets read from their works during the Writers Reading with Mark Bibbins, Maaza Mengiste, Alexander Chee and Catherine Barnett on June 6 – 6:00 pm.
The Season continues on June 7 (7:00PM) with La Scolta and Le Passioni dell’Anima, two works by composer Roberto Scarcella Perino: “La Scolta”, a world premiere concert by the women’s choir Solensemble, soloist contralto Marcella Ventura, and pianist Iolanda Franzoso based on the text by Gian Maria Annovi, and “Le passioni dell’anima” from a libretto by Federica Anichini. The evening will be introduced by a reading by poet Gian Maria Annovi. The Writers’ Season/La Stagione degli Scrittori, dialogues and readings with poets Guido Mazzoni, Mark Bibbins, Vivian Lamarque and Catherine Barnett and fiction writers Alexander Chee, Igiaba Scego, Maaza Mengiste and Gianluigi Ricuperati, are scheduled for June 8 and 9 (6:00 pm). Dialogues, translated in Italian and in English will be moderated by Raoul Bruni and Diego Bertelli. On June 19 (6:00 pm) Villa La Pietra will host The Pirate Who Does Not Know the Value of Pi, a reading and performance by poet Eugene Ostashevsky.
In their eleventh year of participation in The Season, the Continuum Company of New York presents The Odyssey – Everyone’s Seeking Something, June 12 (9:00 pm) a new theatrical adaptation of Homer’s epic poem, directed by Jim Calder. To mark the 30th anniversary of Primo Levi’s death, on June 16 (9:00 pm) Jacob Olesen performs Primo, a stage reading of If This Is A Man, Primo Levi’s powerful account of survival at Auschwitz (in Italian with English subtitles.).
The festival’s theatrical theme continues on June 22 (7:30 pm) with Sogno Rapporto di Colore, a journey of dreams in illuminated colors, a site-specific performance of art, dance, drama, music, and meditation. Created in collaboration with visual artist Peter Terezakis, choreographer Allyson Green, Dean of NYU Tisch School of the Arts, actor John Gutierrez, choreographer Indah Walsh, British composer Alan Stones.
On June 25 (9:00 pm) the NYU Tisch School of the Arts Commedia dell’Arte students present The Imaginary Invalid, a crazy ride into the characters and plot twists of one of Europe’s most beloved playwrights, Molière. The Limonaia at Villa La Pietra will be the stage for The Merchant of Venice, June29 (9:00 pm), with four actors playing over fifteen characters in this scrappy production of Shakespeare’s dark comedy. Originally staged in a Chelsea textile warehouse, this production of The Merchant of Venice confronts how “just” justice can be in a world rank with prejudice. NYU Tisch School of the Arts Commedia dell’Arte students will perform Medusa, June 30 (1:00 pm – Courtyard of Palazzo Strozzi), a musical procession retelling the story of Medusa with a modern feminist twist.
Besides literature and theater, The Season will present Sammy Davis, Jr.: I’ve Gotta Be Me, on June 20 – 6:00 pm, world Première – a PBS biographical film from the acclaimed American Masters series, to be broadcast in the winter of 2017, directed by Sam Pollard and written by Laurence Maslon. It is the first documentary to examine the personal and artistic identity of this extraordinary entertainer in the context of social and racial evolution of the 20th Century. Followed by a conversation with Laurence Maslon.
New to the offerings of The Season is Regarding Women in the Acton Collection, an exhibition of the work of international artists Zoe Buckman, Alessandra Capodacqua, Patricia Cronin, Bärbel Reinhard, and Deb Willis, who will discuss their work at the exhibition opening on June 26 (6:30 pm), followed by a performance by Karen E. Finley, New York-based performance artist.
Karen Finley makes her Villa La Pietra debut with this performance of The Genital Election. Finley will present excerpts from her recent performance Unicorn Gratitude Mystery that examines pathological power, projection and gender in the US presidential election. In one excerpt Finley will perform as Donald Trump, embodying blonde feminine desire and degradation while unleashing psychosexual motivations for his presidential run against Hillary Clinton. Karen Finley is an award-winning artist of varying mediums, from her installations, music, painting, and writing to her most notable work as a performance artist. Her career brought her all the way to the Supreme Court of the United States in 1998 in a landmark case, National Endowment of the Arts v. Finley. Finley is known as one of the NEA 4, a group of artists defunded by the National Endowment of the Arts in the United States for their frank depiction of controversial and taboo issues in their work. Since the 1970s, she has pioneered in her field, recalled by many as “the chocolate smeared woman.” Her visceral work depicts issues surrounding sexuality, gender, violence, and celebrity. She is a Guggenheim fellow and recipient of the New York State Council on the Arts fellowship and the prestigious Richard J Massey Foundation Arts and Humanities Award. Her work has been featured internationally at the most esteemed venues (The Bobino in Paris, The ICA in London, Lincoln Center in New York). Her performance follows the inauguration of the exhibition Regarding Women in the Acton Collection. Using the Acton Collection as both a productive and discursive site, this exhibition examines the depiction of women with a transhistorical perspective, adding into the Villa’s collection contemporary responses by artists and poets in an effort to investigate, challenge and expand upon received art historical categories of iconography, patronage, material and function. Regarding Women in the Acton Collection is inaugurated as part of The Season, curated and produced by Ellyn Toscano. The Season was founded in 2004 by Toscano, the Villa’s director, from her vision to set contemporary work in conversation with the Villa’s expansive grounds and eclectic art collection. Since 2004, the Season has produced collaboration and exploration between international artists of varying mediums. In context with the exhibition curated by Toscano, Finley’s performance is sure to be a riveting event that is not to be missed.
On June 28 (8:30 pm) Imani Uzuri will present her experimental visual, performative, and sonic installation entitled Come On In The Prayer Room, inspired by visual artist, street evangelist, mystic and musician Sister Gertrude Morgan’s (April 7, 1900-July 8, 1980) “all white” Prayer Room. In this work, Uzuri explores the intersection of spirituality, ritual, spectacle, and sound.
The Season will conclude on August 4 (9:00 pm) with The Sir Harold Acton Anniversary Concert, a classical concert by world renowned musicians. (Program to be announced.)
Villa La Pietra – Via Bolognese, 120 – 50139 Firenze http://www.nyu.edu/global/lapietra/season/
NYU Shanghai honored its first graduates at the university’s inaugural Commencement on May 28. The 264 graduates, who hail from China, the United States and 31 other countries were awarded their NYU bachelor’s degrees as well as their NYU Shanghai diplomas in a ceremony at the Oriental Arts Center in front of professors, friends, and families who travelled from around the world to celebrate the historic event. For more information about the weekend’s festivities, see here.
NYU Abu Dhabi’s fourth Commencement was held on May 24, 2017 at NYUAD’s Saadiyat Island campus. For more information about the NYU Abu Dhabi class of 2017, see here.
Pharrel Williams inspired students, family, and faculty in Yankee stadium. See some highlights here. Congratulations graduates!
Nanoparticles are tiny microscopic particles that have diverse applications in various fields such as physics, chemistry, optics, and medical science while drug delivery systems are a breakthrough approach in biomedical engineering that enables doctors to direct highly potent drugs to specific disease-infected sites in the human body.
Research scientist Farah Benyettou collaborated with Ali Trabolsi, assistant professor of chemistry at NYU Abu Dhabi and head of the Trabolsi Research Group, to create a magnetic nanoparticle that can carry the chemotherapy drug Doxorubicin and can be guided straight to tumour sites.
“What we are trying to do is to use existing therapies like chemotherapy and thermal therapy but in a new way. The idea is to fight cancer at the same level that it develops in,” said Trabolsi.
Anticancer drugs have to be administered in high doses to make sure that the required dose reaches the tumour but these drugs also attack healthy cells because they can’t differentiate between them. This causes severe side effects. Drug delivery systems are safer alternatives. They even provide the option of controlling the amount of drug released at any given time while enhancing its absorption. This results in administration of lower doses.
Benyettou’s magnetic iron-oxide nanoparticles act like special vehicles that ferry the drug straight to the tumour and can be directed using magnets. When exposed to alternating magnetic fields, they absorb the energy and increase the temperature of the tumour thereby killing them using a combination of chemotherapy and thermal therapy. They can even be observed using an MRI.
These nanoparticles are also designed to release the drugs only in a particular environment — the more acidic environment of tumour cells — which means that they are harmless to healthy cells and are also eliminated naturally from the body once their job is done. The Trabolsi group has also employed a structure where several nanoparticles cluster together to create a porous ‘super’ nanoparticle that can ferry more medicine.
Cancer cells evolve to resist the very drugs that treat it. When these drugs try to diffuse into the drug-resistant cell one by one, which is how they usually gain entry, it triggers an ‘alarm’ and is denied entry. In vitro tests have shown that these magnetic nanoparticles are effective against doxorubicin-resistant cancer cell lines because they use a different method to enter these cells thereby cheating them into thinking that they are harmless.
“This is how these nanoparticles work so effectively against cancer cells. Almost like a Trojan horse,” explained Benyettou.
For Trabolsi, all of these properties combined with its affordability and “how relatively easy they are to prepare under 30 minutes” is evidence that they could change the way cancer treatment is approached.
This research was made possible by two grants awarded by the Al Jalila Foundation to the Trabolsi Research Group. Papers detailing the properties of this class of nanoparticles were recently published by Chemistry – A European Journal, and RSC Advances.
This post comes to us from NYU Abu Dhabi and was originally posted here.
Ally Week is important across the NYU community. Here, three students from NYU Buenos Aires, Matthew Gibson, Ellen Heaghney, and Maritza Rico, share how they observed this tradition. Matthew is a junior in Gallatin studying Globalization who chose to study at NYU Buenos Aires to improve his Spanish skills and take advantage of the internship program. Ellen is a junior in Global Liberal Studies with a focus in Politics, Rights and Development and a double major in Spanish. She chose to come to Buenos Aires for the full academic year to improve her Spanish and also because after taking a course on International Human Rights she became very interested in the political history of Argentina. Martiza is a junior majoring in Latin American Studies who came to NYU Buenos Aires to learn more about the history and literature of Argentina in preparation for writing her senior thesis.
Ally Week in Buenos Aires – Conversation with Alba Rueda
Ally Week in Buenos Aires, an annual tradition across New York University’s global network, culminated last week after three days of discussion of culturally specific approaches to allyship in Argentina. On April 11th, NYU Buenos Aires welcomed Argentine professor and Trans activist, Alba Rueda, to have a conversation with students about the history of Trans movements in the country and her current work on the issue. Rueda currently serves as the president of Trans Women Argentina in addition to her work with the National Institute against Discrimination, Xenophobia and Racism.
Rueda set the stage for her discussion by explaining that although Argentina became the first Latin American country to legalize marriage equality, there still remains plenty of work in the fight for equality, for example the recognition of transgender identities in schools. She also illustrated a timeline of the relationship, fraught with tension, between the police and Argentine society, and in particular the LGBTQ community. She explained the persecution that arose during the last military dictatorship in the 70s and 80s and the ways in which traces of this discrimination are still very much present today. Rueda brought with her the personal testimony of a friend, who explained her struggle as a Trans individual in Argentine society. This individual was so often targeted by the police that she grew accustomed to being arrested, and even remembers being arrested three times in a single day. Her life was so often disrupted that she lost her job, and she always left the house with a change of clothes, just in case.
Beginning in the 1980’s, social organizations emerged to tackle the issue of persecution of queer communities like what this woman faced. Over time these organizations gained influence and won important victories, but they faced obstacles as well. Argentina as a nation is heavily influenced by its Catholic history–not to mention that the current pope is from Buenos Aires. Catholic organizations were large opponents in the fight for equality and recognition, and Rueda still remembers the moment Pope Francis proclaimed that God was against them.
Nonetheless, organizations like Rueda’s persevered, and with time were key players in important social change. In 2010, marriage equality was legalized, and in the following years rights for the queer community, especially Trans people, were increasingly protected. Soon, Argentine’s of any age were granted the right to change their name and gender officially on documents without any justification other than their own word. And throughout it all, those same organizations that fought for equality, were turned to in order to develop the content of new legislation. Today, Rueda emphasizes the importance for the Trans community of having role models–trans men and women who are respected and accepted in Argentine society.
Of course, there are still many challenges and more progress to be made. But we are at a point that Rueda never thought she would see in her entire life. From her point of view, more people than ever before are comfortable going out into the streets and living their lives. Thanks to the hard work of community leaders like Rueda, positive change was achieved in Argentina. A particularly impactful part of the talk with Rueda was the important reminder that LGBTQ communities are specific to local cultural nuances. She reminded us that each community, although in theory universal, still holds specific spaces that need to be understood and studied with local lenses and historical contexts in mind. Today, they continue their work, part of which includes education and awareness, such as speaking to students like those of us at NYU Buenos Aires – teaching us all how to understand and contextualize Trans movements around the world, and be better allies moving forward.
NYU’s global presence is an important part of what distinguishes the university. And study away is an integral experience for students from NYU Shanghai and NYU Abu Dhabi.. Here, three NYU Shanghai juniors share their study away stories from Buenos Aires to Berlin.
Global China Studies Major
Study Away Sites: NYU Madrid and NYU Buenos Aires
Enlightenment is a funny thing. You never know when it’s going to hit you. For Lizzy LeClaire, the moment of truth came when she found herself the only non-Chinese person in her Shanghai yoga class. The teacher was giving instructions in Mandarin and Lizzy, who was born and raised in Boston, understood what she was saying. “I’d been practicing my Mandarin, but this was a real litmus test,” says Lizzy, who is majoring in Global China Studies in order to gain an understanding of the country’s educational system. “For the first time, even as I was twisted into a pretzel, I felt accomplished and ready to go beyond the classroom.”
What Lizzy did with her new fluency was travel to a rural village in the Fujian Province to observe a small primary school. “Because many people in China are leaving the villages for the cities in search of work, small schools are being shut down due to declining enrollment. I wanted to see how this trend affected the teachers and students,” she says.
Education is highly valued in China, and although a school may have just a few students and maybe one teacher, there is still a strong desire to keep going. “I saw with my own eyes the excitement in the children’s eyes as they were being taught, and it made me realize that no matter where they live or what their parents do, kids want to learn,” says Lizzy. It was then she realized that educational activism, a movement that works to improve educational access for all children worldwide, was what she wanted to concentrate on.
“My time in China was so valuable as far as opening my eyes to the possibilities of advancing education in other rural areas, but I knew, to complete my studies, I would have to see other places,” says Lizzy. One of the countries on her wish list was Spain. “The reason I chose NYU Madrid for my junior year was to gain fluency in Spanish. I figured that by being fluent in three of the most widely spoken languages in the world, I could go wherever I was needed most.” Now in Buenos Aires, Lizzy is perfecting her Spanish. “My favorite part of being in Argentina is living with a host family and learning what they really value in life. Education is something that is held in high regard here, and it’s reaffirmed my commitment to improving educational opportunities in different parts of the world.”
Global China Studies Major
Study Away Site: NYU Berlin
What Was Your ‘Global Experience’ Like Before Coming To NYU Shanghai?
I’m from The Netherlands, and I’m majoring in Global China Studies with plans to double major in Social Science. I’ve studied in Bosnia and Herzegovina, at UWC — a global NGO that aims to unite people, cultures and nations for sustainable development by education.
Besides studying abroad, I love to travel, hike and camp with my family in many different countries. I’ve hiked in Belgium, Italy, France, Germany, Czech Republic, Bosnia and Herzegovina, China, and also a mountain four hours away from New York City.
Why Did You Choose To Study Away In Berlin? What Was It Like?
It was really a choice between traveling somewhere I hadn’t been before–like Ghana or Buenos Aires–or advancing towards my future. Berlin is a big, alternative center of Europe, a great hub for young people and especially for start-ups. It felt familiar to me; it’s not far from my home, and in fact after spending all of last semester there, I became pretty fluent in German, which is similar to Dutch, my mother tongue. Being back in Europe, I was able to reflect on what I’ve learned from my experiences abroad, and how they are applicable to my own culture.
What Was The Best Thing About Studying Away?
Building connections with a professor who taught a social environmental movement class, and establishing the future possibility of working on projects with him and his company. In general, I value being in a new environment where you can meet and learn from people who have different backgrounds. Regardless if at first it seems irrelevant to your future plans, exposure to other cultures will only benefit how you work in an international environment. My advice is: be amazed every single morning.
And You Had An Internship In New York?
In New York I interned at The Partnership on Sustainable, Low Carbon Transport (SLoCaT) an NGO branch of the United Nations. The organization depended on my note-taking in conferences and I also wrote daily reports for them to assist in how they could inform their partners about our progress and cause. I worked at a climate change conference, did some lobbying, and found it exciting to see how people from multiple nations come together to work on international issues and develop policies.
Study Away Site: NYU Abu Dhabi
Driven by graphic design, IMA major Teng Ma (Martin) ‘18 used his study away semester at NYU Abu Dhabi to join the basketball team, introduce a logo to the sheikh of Abu Dhabi, and contemplate how to open up design jobs in his northeast China hometown.
Why did you choose to study away at NYU Abu Dhabi?
I’m an IMA major who is passionate about technology, graphic design and basketball. The year before my study away, I had visited New York as an actor for the NYU Reality Show, and I wanted to explore Abu Dhabi to complete my travel among the three main global sites. I also had heard many good reviews about the design courses there from friends–plus, I couldn’t resist the fact that they had a state of the art indoor basketball court.
What was it like for you there?
I joined the basketball team–practice was rigorous and as early as 6:30am–I took up boxing and other fitness activities, and made a lot of friends with whom to explore the city. I loved the courses I took; a friend recommended a class called Yes Logo, taught by Goffredo Puccetti. In that course, we designed logos for WWF–the panda logo, as well as a logo for Italy and UAE’s 45 Years Celebration. My logo was picked in the top 3 of all the students’ individual designs. Professor Puccetti taught us through direct experience–from start to end, from brainstorming, using software and creating finished products. We even presented our WWF logo to the sheikh, who was impressed.
Along with design, I took a painting course and a strategic management course out of pure interest. And I believe that studying across disciplines will inform how I approach graphic design in my future plans. Learning about how people succeed and what they do to reach their goals was eye opening for me.
One the best experiences was making new friends in Abu Dhabi who are now visiting me at NYU Shanghai while they study away here for a semester. It’s really cool that our adventures together will continue.
Where are you interning and what will you do in the future?
I am currently interning at Bigger Lab, an educational startup aimed at high schoolers in China and based in Puxi, Shanghai. I am helping them meet their various design and branding needs as well as create a new visual identity. After graduation I will probably work in Shanghai for a while. But, I’m keeping an eye out for opportunities in my hometown, Changchun in Jilin province.
My hometown is far from being a big city like Shanghai. Maybe right now people aren’t paying much money to focus on branding and development of logos, but I want to eventually return and empower people there with the experiences I’ve gained in Shanghai and abroad. I want provide opportunities for other people to learn about and understand brand consulting, especially how having design skills can benefit their endeavors.
When Andrew Schapiro’s family cleared out his grandmother‘s attic after she died in 1990, they came upon the correspondence between his grandparents and relatives left behind in Prague during WWII. The letters tell the story of the Nazi occupation, written by Czech Jews confronted by increasing racism and ever-changing rules as they desperately tried to escape.
“The letters must have been too painful for my grandmother,” Andrew Schapiro told his audience when he came to NYU Prague to share stories and photos. His family published the correspondence in 1992 in a book entitled Letters from Prague 1939-1941. When Mr. Schapiro became the US Ambassador to Prague in 2014, interest in a Czech edition emerged. The letters were recently published in Czech and were edited by NYU Prague professor Katerina Capkova.
The correspondence begins in 1939, when Mr. Schapiro’s grandparents got three exit visas to the USA – for a family of five. This left them with a heart-wrenching decision: whom to leave behind? Two of their three children (including Andrew’s mother, aged 5) stayed in Prague in the care of their grandmother (Paula) and their Uncle Erwin. The first half of the book is about the complications in getting the girls visas so they could join their family in St. Louis. Finally, shortly after Germany Poland and the war began, the girls left for the USA.
“That would have been the happy end,” said Mr. Schapiro. “if it weren’t for the family left behind.” The second half of the book is an increasingly desperate first-hand account of assimilated Czech Jews trapped. “Uncle Erwin was a successful doctor – one of the leading gastronetrologists in Europe. It makes me sad that people who might have been able to help didn’t stick their necks out.” The last letter in the book is from 1942 – a postcard sent by his great-grandmother to her sister:
I must tell you that on Monday I [depart – crossed out] am boarding [the train] . God bless us all, farewell. Your Paula.
Neither Paula nor Uncle Erwin survived.
As Ambassador in Prague, Andrew Schapiro lived only a few blocks away from where his mother had lived as a child, and when he moved to Prague, suddenly so many of the references in the letters came to life. His office in the Embassy also evoked memories. It was there that visas for his mother and aunt had been issued. But it was also there that Uncle Erwin’s request for a visa was delayed. One of the very few documents to survive the war was a letter from the US Embassy from 1939 saying it would take several years for them to process his request for a visa. “I had mixed feelings as the US Ambassador. I represented a country that had saved our lives but had also shut out so many people.”
Mr. Schapiro remarked on some of the parallels that refugees trying to escape war are confronting today. He reminded students of the inscription on the Statue of Liberty:
Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!
This post comes to us from Leah Gaffen of NYU Prague.
Today we are in conversation with Arjun Appadurai, Goddard Professor in Media, Culture and Communication at NYU Steinhardt, where he is also Senior Fellow at the Institute for Public Knowledge. He is currently in Berlin for a year and in this interview discusses how being there has informed his scholarship and vice versa.
How did you first come to NYU? What drew you to the institution?
I came to NYU in 2009 from the New School. So I was not physically very far away, but institutionally NYU is quite different. I had previously been provost at the New School for couple of years so was engaged with the large issues related to educational institutions. For various reasons I stepped down from that role to focus on my professorial work, but the transition was hard. I was not unhappy but it was a challenge, so when I received an offer from the Media, Culture, and Communication department at NYU Steinhardt, that seemed compelling. It offered a good opportunity to fully reenter the academic world in a very appealing department. NYU was just entering to its global phase so that was an added appeal for someone with my interests. The department seemed interesting, NYU’s global moves also seemed interesting. So NYU was a good place to shift to in 2009. I have not been disappointed.
How did you come to NYU Berlin? I understand that you received support from the Provost’s Global Research Initiatives program. I also understand that you are now a visiting professor at Humboldt University in Berlin. What work have you been focusing on while in Berlin?
I am on sabbatical for this year and was additionally supported with a GRI stipend for the autumn. I am here for the whole academic year – at Humboldt for the full year as a sabbatical and I remained linked to NYU through the GRI last term. My affiliation with NYU Berlin technically ended in December so I am now a just visiting professor at Humboldt. Throughout the year and with the various affiliations, I have been working on the same things: two very short book projects and one other project that has grown out of my time here. Starting with the latter, in response to news and recent current events in Europe, I was asked to a contribute to an edited book with eleven other authors about “the great regression’ – the global swing to right wing leaders. The book will be published in German and simultaneously translated into twelve other languages. This affiliation has lead to other contributions to the European media. I was recently interviewed by the French paper Journal du Dimanche. I also appeared on a German television program, Kulturzeit, which airs on an educational channel comparable to PBS in the United States. Because of the engagement with this book project, I have been able to participatee in a most interesting, unplanned public engagement while in Europe. My essay for that book is entitled “Democracy Fatigue.” I wrote it during the fall and finished it about three weeks after Trump’s victory in the US election. It has considerably broadcast my interests and arguments in the German and European press. In general over the eight months that I have been here, including during my time at NYU Berlin, I have had a considerable engagement not just in the academic world in Berlin but also outside Berlin, with quasi-public institutions, cultural institutions, and academic institutions concerned about my interests. Some of my long-term areas of interest – migration, refugees, globalization, the future of Europe, the future of nation states – are of great interest in Europe at the moment. So I find myself discovering and becoming part of the very wide flow of ideas and events that straddle academia and public institutions.
In terms of the two books I have been working on, one is related to this set of topics, the other less so. The one less related is a short book on failure – in design, technology, states, markets but also in life – careers, marriages, and such. What do we learn from failure that we do not learn from success? I raise that question and also consider how failure is historically and culturally defined. I ask what is failure and what is not; what parts of thinking about failure are interconnected and what are more idiosyncratic and particular to a particular place or moment in time.
The other book seeks to explore the prima facie contradiction between the ideals of enlightenment entitlement – freedom, equality, humanity – that took hold precisely as Europe went about mass colonialist projects that were racist, exploitative, and seemingly trampled the universalist values of the Enlightenment. Entitled Enlightenment and Empire, this work is a deeper historical look at how Europe has for a very long time had internal debates about itself and a certain measure of volatility about its identity or essence. I consider whether current concerns might be just a recent chapter in this history as opposed to a crisis in an otherwise settled European project.
How have you found the experience at NYU Berlin and at Humboldt University? How has researching Germany influenced your scholarship? What has been most challenging and what has been most rewarding?
I find that my stay in Berlin is particularly timely in relation to how my interests have evolved over a long time. I have come to be very interested in the European story itself – in terms of ideas, politics, the nation state, the economy. Earlier I saw this from an Indian or South Asian or “Third World” perspective which pre-disposed me not to look very carefully inside Europe. I saw Europe broadly and without nuance. Then I began to question how Europe made itself and to wonder what were and are the stresses or uncertainties of that enterprise. I had been doing this for a few years so when I had the opportunity to come here I had some hopes that the interest would find fertile ground. It has been much more fruitful than I had anticipated. In Berlin perhaps especially there is an active search for the hidden histories of Europe and a focus on Europe’s entanglements with the rest of the world. There is lots of active research at universities, think tanks, and other places exploring the histories that have been marginalized and seeking to bring them back to light in part to offer different alternatives for the present. So my timing in being here and my experience has been better than I had hoped.
Your last book, The Future as a Cultural Fact: Essays on the Global Condition (2013), was the product of many years’ worth of research and writing and an important contribution to globalization studies. It has been described as laying the foundation for “a revitalized, and urgent, anthropology of the future.” Can you tell us more about this book? How do you see the future of higher education, and NYU’s global presence, in the context of globalization?
The book is indeed a collection of essays with some highly connected themes and it is in part a manifesto to say that anthropology has not paid sufficient attention to what is coming next. We usually look to custom, tradition, habit – the past – but all societies also have views about what is coming next – how to ensure it, realize it, achieve it. But the book also asks what are the lightest and darkest sides of current global horizons. It takes a generally hopeful view of the future, and for the anthropology of the future, focusing on ideas like design and research that need to be pursued in a global, cosmopolitan way that involves egalitarian transactions and interactions between institutions in other countries and the West. It is within our powers to put ourselves on the same plane. Although I am not an expert, having only been to Abu Dhabi and Berlin, my view is that NYU global has the potential for helping to create an egalitarian, mutually recognizing and affirmative climate for research, teaching, and learning. This requires a great deal of of commitment and value-driven institution building. This is happening at a time when the countries or regions that drove us in the past will not necessarily drive us tomorrow. China and India are powerful, as are Brazil, Russia, and Turkey. All are now facing some form of political dampening, but they will are major powers. But the idea of a university in which in undergrads, graduates students, and faculty are in different orbits but are circling the same globe while remaining connected vertically through interactions between research and teaching, is exciting. This is a most hopeful idea. NYU’s global locations can play an important role in trying to forge connections perhaps not so easily made at the home campus because it is so large and established. For example, getting US scholars to meet local scholars, having students meet local students. Having the single global umbrella is a terrific opportunity with a powerful potential. What makes NYU special is experimenting with how the university could or should work.
You are an acclaimed author and scholar who has not only lived a globalized life but thought critically about globalization and the serious issues of our time – design, planning, finance, and poverty. You have been described as embracing the “politics of hope.” Can you tell us what that means about what you are currently working on?
The idea of the politics of hope is tied up with another phrase I have coined – the capacity to aspire. That concept was my effort to intervene or contribute to a debate among scholars about inequality and how to rectify it. Some thinkers, for example Charles Taylor, focus on recognition, while others focus on redistribution.
To me, if you look at the capacity to think optimistically, to look ahead, to aspire, no one lacks that, but poorer populations lack the experiences upon which to build robust ideas about where they would like to go or what they would like to do or be. This is not an inequality of the mind, but of experience. They simply have a smaller stock of experiences to draw on in thinking about their own future. They lack, but need, the capacity to aspire and that is where we should focus our attention.
The capacity to aspire sets the foundation for the politics of hope, which endeavors to find methods to look for better solutions to our biggest problems. Problems like inequality, racism, exclusionary politics, and climate. And solutions that that include poorer populations and so are not merely solving them for the few. Such an approach emphasizes the capacity to look ahead, design, and plan in the long run. The politics of hope is made up of whatever methods can strengthen the capacity to aspire – the capacity to research, to design, to make your world more as you would like it to be – for all people.
Do you think that time abroad is valuable for students’ academic and personal development? If so, how do you think that value manifests?
I think it is not only valuable, but vital. However, the structure is very important which is why the nature of NYU Berlin and the other NYU programs is consequential. How you help students see their new situation and do your teaching and relating is vital. Having the best of human talent engaged in that really helps, and this is true at the NYU global sites. In our world this kind of education is urgent and indispensable because today time studying abroad has the capacity to do something that the cosmopolitan urge in earlier times did not. Earlier this was only a self- broadening endeavor – you become a fuller person. But today you develop the capacity to live with, recognize and address harsh realities for other people. Now the global study experience is about collective horizon expansion, not only about US students becoming more mature or wise. It builds their capacity to be global thinkers and doers. That is the gold standard and NYU is a part of it.