Category Archives: Urban Studies

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Urban Studies

Urban Studies offers undergraduate and graduate degree and certificate programs that examine the problems of city dwellers in poor, immigrant, and working-class communities and efforts to address those problems through policy innovations derived from sound research and sharpened through democratic participation. Learn more here.

New Labor Forum Highlights: July 1st, 2019

The New Labor Forum has a bi-weekly newsletter on current topics in labor, curated by the some of the most insightful scholars and activists in the labor world today. Check out some highlights from the latest edition below.

The 50th anniversary of the Stonewall rebellion — commemorated yesterday as New York City hosted World Pride 2019 – offers an opportunity to reexamine the demographics and political goals of the contemporary LGBTQ movement in the U.S. While the media has for decades conveyed the image of the gay world as a white, middle-class, even affluent, one, the data simply doesn’t bear that out. According to a study by UCLA’s Williams Institute, the poverty rate of LGBTQ adults is, in fact, higher than for heterosexual adults. And nearly one in five members of same-sex couples in the United States are people of color. For just that reason, activists in the gay liberation movement a half century ago explicitly linked their struggle to broader movements, sometimes even anti-capitalist ones, fighting for social and economic equality. Since the 1990s, however, a sizable portion of the movement came to train its sights more narrowly on legal rights, especially the right to marry and join the military, in part conforming to the normative expectations of middle-class America.

The fact that yesterday’s enormous World Pride/ Stonewall 50 commemoration in New York City included the Queer Liberation march — an anti-capitalist, racial justice-infused alternative to the main Pride march — indicates a growing critique of the mainstream, assimilationist politics of the LGBTQ movement. We offer here two New Labor Forum articles on precisely these issues, one by Richard Blum, entitled Stonewall at 50: Whose Movement Is It Anyway? assessing the two marches and their diverging politics and constituencies; and another by Amber Hollibaugh and Margot Weiss, making the argument that the majority of LGBTQ people are poor and working-class and that the labor movement should take this fact into account as it seeks to organize in low-wage sectors where LGBTQ people make up a disproportionately high percentage of workers. And we close with an arresting poem Frank Bidart.

Table of Contents
  1. Stonewall at 50: Whose Movement Is It Anyway?/ Richard Blum, New Labor Forum
  2. Queer Precarity the Myth of Gay Affluence/ Amber Hollibaugh and Margot Weiss, New Labor Forum
  3. Queer/ Frank Bidart, Metaphysical Dog

Featured photo by samchills via flickr (cc-by)

Video: Rights in Transit

On Friday, March 8th, members of the SLU community gathered to hear Professor Kafui Attoh in conversation with Eric Goldwyn of NYU’s Marron Institution. The conversation cenetered on a fundamental question: Is public transportation a right? Should it be?

Check out the full conversation here:

Is public transportation a right? Should it be? For those reliant on public transit, the answer is invariably “yes” to both. For those who lack other means of mobility, transit is a lifeline. It offers access to many of the entitlements we take as essential: food, employment, and democratic public life itself. Rights in Transit offers a direct challenge to contemporary scholarship on transportation equity. Rather than focusing on civil rights alone, Rights in Transit argues for engaging the more radical notion of the right to the city.

Event: Rights In Transit: Public Transportation & the Right to the City (3/8)

Date: Friday, March 8th, 2019
Time: 6pm-8pm
Location: CUNY School of Labor and Urban Studies
25 West 43rd Street, 18th Floor
New York, NY 10036

RSVP HERE

Is public transportation a right? Should it be? For those reliant on public transit, the answer is invariably “yes” to both. For those who lack other means of mobility, transit is a lifeline. It offers access to many of the entitlements we take as essential: food, employment, and democratic public life itself.

Rights in Transit offers a direct challenge to contemporary scholarship on transportation equity. Rather than focusing on civil rights alone, Rights in Transit argues for engaging the more radical notion of the right to the city.

Join us as Professor Kafui Attoh of the CUNY School of Labor & Urban Studies and author of RIGHTS IN TRANSIT, discusses these topics with Eric Goldwyn of NYU’s Marron Institute.

Professor Attoh will sign copies of his recently published book, and special guest artist Jimmy James Greene will display his artwork, featured in Attoh’s book.

SLU Prof. Kafui Attoh on WNYC’s On the Media

Last week, SLU Urban Studies Professor Kafui Attoh made an appearance on WNYC’s On the Media to talk about the relationship between public transportation and democracy, closing out an hour that explores the injustices that undergird “feel good” stories about workers persevering through horrifying commutes and the perils of self-driving cars. From On the Media:

The lion’s share of our transit-oriented program this week has centered on the personal car and its infrastructure. This is no accident. The car speeds, stalls, thrills and kills us — all because we need a ride. But what if we’d really rather journey by bus? 

Brooke spoke with Kafui Attoh, professor of urban studies at the CUNY Graduate Center, about the deep political connotations of “transit rights.” Such rights, Attoh argues in his forthcoming book Rights in Transit, have roots in Marx, Engels and Lefebvre’s thinking on the radical nature of cities

Listen to the whole hour here or check out Prof. Attoh’s segment here.

Photo by Sergio SC via flickr (CC-BY-SA)

Taking Back the Wheel: On Labor’s Future

How do we understand the future of labor? Will it be one of total automation and increasingly precarious workers? Perhaps if Uber has anything to say about it. SLU’s Kafui Attoh has co-authored an article with Declan Cullen and Kathryn Wells in Dissent that tackles some of these thorny questions called “Taking Back the Wheel.” Here’s an excerpt:

Uber argues that its biggest boon to “driver partners” is to present them with independence, flexibility, and more-than-competitive compensation. In this argument the on-demand economy ushers in a bright new future and an ostensibly new labor category: the flexible worker. In a twist on Marx’s utopian dream, such a worker can, Frank Pasquale pithily comments, “knit Etsy scarves in the morning, drive Uber cars in the afternoon, and write Facebook comments at night, flexibly shifting between jobs and leisure at will.”

Of course, the neoliberal utopia of a sharing economy operated by highly contingent workers has been shaken by a multitude of analyses telling a markedly different story. These studies, including ours, emphasize precaritysurveillancecontrollow earnings, and insecure conditions. If the Uber model is the future of work, they tell us, that future looks bleak.

Behind all these debates lurks a deeper premise: that the future of work is actually no work at all. 

But according to Attoh and his co-authors, that future isn’t inevitable:

We should resist this logic of inevitability and see platform capitalism for what it is: a means to mobilize a reserve labor army, overcome barriers to accumulation, and fight declining rates of profit. We are not yet on the road to Uberworld. There’s still time for us to wrest back control, not just of the future, but also of the present.

How might we do that? Read the article here for an accounting of the stakes and possibilities — and learn why Uber is less in control of the future than we might be made to think.

Photo by Maurizio Pesce via flickr (CC-BY)

Congratulations to Spring 2018 Graduates!

On May 30th, the Murphy Institute hosted our spring graduation party.

The event was emcee’d by Diana Robinson, who graduated with an MA in Labor Studies, and Racquel Barnes, who graduated with an MA in Urban Studies. Thanks also to MA in Labor Studies graduate, and new father, James Van Nort for his stirring speech.

Some photos from the event are below.  A big congratulations to our graduating class of 2018!

Photos by Aaron Lenchner

And congrats to our graduates who attended the CUNY School of Professional Studies commencement ceremony at Lincoln Center’s David Geffen Hall on Friday June 1st. Some photos of our grads are among those posted on the SPS Facebook page.