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Just Art: Equity, Immigration and Art in the Global City

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Woven Chronicle, 2011–16 by Reena Saini Kallat

SINY 166


“Art is where and how we speak to each other in tongues audible when ‘official’ language fails.  It is not where we escape the world’s ills, but rather one place where we go to make sense of them.”

–Elizabeth Alexander, The Black Interior 

This course focuses on relations between art, immigration and equity. Through several case studies, we will learn to think critically about how aesthetics and politics work together.   In addition to studying particular works of art, we will travel to several foundations and institutions to learn about their strategies for fostering equity and the arts.  How do art, activism and racial justice connect in performances aimed at changing ideas?  How do major arts institutions address questions of equity and difference? We will discuss how art can function as a form of aesthetic knowledge in the service of justice.  In doing so, we will grapple with the role of the creative arts in mitigating social change and study artists who have sought to intervene in the restrictive covenants of racial, gender and other segregationist or national orders.   Our case studies will shift across media, subjects, objects and temporalities.   From artists in New York responding to the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, to the radical work of Yayoi Kusama’s 1960s performances, to a plays about immigration such as Lynn Nottage’s Intimate Apparel and Lin Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton—the latter a show that exemplifies how  art, activism and racial justice come together--the cross-cast musical gave paid opportunities and leading parts to a full cast of performers of color while also recasting the history of immigration in the United States and produced a new form of hip hop.   We will read work by James Baldwin and more!  We will visit the Tenement Museum as well as the Schomburg museum and archive and meet with current curators and arts professionals from across the city.  

Meet the Instructor(s)

Jennifer DeVere Brody

Jennifer Brody, Stanford in New York

Jennifer DeVere Brody graduated with a B.A. in Victorian Studies from Vassar College and did her graduate work in English and American Literature at the University of Pennsylvania which awarded her the Thurgood Marshall Prize for Academics and Community Service. Her scholary essays have appeared in Theatre Journal, Signs, Genders, Callaloo, Screen, Text and Performance Quarterly and in numerous edited volumes. Her books, Impossible Purities: Blackness, Femininity and Victorian Culture (Duke University Press, 1998) and Punctuation: Art, Politics and Play (Duke University Press, 2008) both discuss relations among and between sexuality, gender, racailization, visual studies and performance. She has served as the President of the Women and Theatre Program, on the board of Women and Performance and has worked with the Ford and Mellon Foundations. She received that Monette-Horwitz Prize for Independent Research Against Homophobia. She co-produced “The Theme is Blackness” festival of black plays in Durham, NC when she taught in African American Studies at Duke University. Her research and teaching focus on performance, aesthetics, politics and subjectivity as well as feminist theory, queer studies and contemporary cultural studies. Currently, she with Prof. Nicholas Boggs on the re-publication of James Baldwin’s illustrated book, Little Man, Little Man and is writing a new book about the intersections of sculpture and performance. She held the Weinberg College of Board of Visitors Professorship at Northwestern University.