AMS 390 • American Space and Place
2:00 PM-5:00 PM
This graduate seminar will investigate the power of space and place in American culture. It takes as its starting point an apparent paradox embedded in the heart of globalization: at exactly the same time that the very political-economic processes that would seem to homogenize placeto render the globe placelessin fact increase its importance. Place-bound identities, David Harvey notes, become more rather than less important in a world of diminishing spatial barriers to exchange, movement, and communication. Thus, globalized flows of capital, population, goods, and terrorism not only bring the world together, but they tear it apart. At the center of this irony is the United States itself: a space created with an ideal of liberty, equality, individual opportunity, and social improvement, but set in a place of profoundly uneven patterns of wealth, crime, and pollution. We will address this contradiction from a range of multidisciplinary literaturesAmerican studies, geography, anthropology, architecture, sociology, history, and cultural studiesand by examining both theoretical materials and empirical case studies.
This course will be conducted as seminar with open discussion of the assigned readings and other course materials. I expect that students will come to class well prepared to present and respond to discussion questions and ideas about the readings.
TENTATIVE READING LIST (a sampling of the kinds of materials we will read in this class) Yi-Fu Tuan, Space and Place: The Perspective of Experience Doreen Massey, Space, Place, and Gender Michael Sorkin and Sharon Zukin, After the World Trade Center: Rethinking New York City William Leach, Country of Exiles: The Destruction of Place in American Life Edward Linnenthal, The Unfinished Bombing: Oklahoma City in American Memory Virginia Scharff, Twenty Thousand Roads: Women, Movement, and the West David E. Nye, Narratives and Spaces: Technology and the Construction of American Culture John Walton, Storied Land: Community and Memory in Monterey Gray Brechin, Imperial San Francisco: Urban Power and Earthly Ruin Erika Doss, Spirit Poles and Flying Pigs: Public Art and Cultural Democracy in American Communities