Joseph Lambert Cain, New York Harbor

Waterfronts: Cities, Shipping, and the Sea (In-Person)

Instructor: Andy Battle
BISR Central
68 Jay Street, #425
Brooklyn, NY 11201

Does every “great” city possess a waterfront? Historical hubs of trade, waterfronts inculcate cultures that structure and permeate modern urban space—cultures of capital, labor, leisure, sex, and, in a de-industrial age, decay. Inextricable from the history of cities, waterfronts are, by extension, inextricable from the history of transnational capitalism. What can we learn, on the waterfront, about how waterways, transportation, and the city relate? How do port cities, and the networks that connect them, extend and endlessly transform global systems of production and accumulation? And how, in turn, do capitalist imperatives, mediated oceanically, create and destroy, summon forth and discard, cityscapes and city peoples? What are we to make of waterfronts—as sites of trade, struggle, community, and cosmopolitan freedom?

In this course, we will take up the waterfront as a lens by which to examine, in an experimental and interdisciplinary fashion, the phenomenon of ocean shipping, its associated sciences (what we call logistics), and the urbanized people, places, and cultures it attracts, engenders, and displaces. Through historical research, novels, films, photos, and memoir, we will explore the links between capitalism, logistics, urban form, and subjectivity, especially sexuality. Through the eyes of magnates, dock workers, artists, pirates, and queers, we will try and get a handle on key questions that shape our experience of transnational capitalism. What drives the relentless expansion of global shipping? What provokes ongoing transformations in shipping technology, from sail to steam to container, and associated processes of creative destruction in the cities that host ships, sailors, and workers? How and why have ships themselves and the cities where they docked emerged as sites of cosmopolitan freedom—social, sexual, and otherwise? What happens in the derelict spaces of outmoded infrastructure? Readings and films include works by Fernand Braudel, Giovanni Arrighi, Christopher Chitty, Fiona Anderson, Hubert Selby, Jr., David Wojnarowicz, Bruce Nelson, Stan Weir, Marco D’Eramo, Allen Sekula, Peter Cole, Peter Linebaugh and Marcus Rediker, Alvin Baltrop, Herman Melville, CLR James, Charmaine Chua, Deborah Cowen, Laleh Khalili, Roni Horn, Marcel Carné, Elia Kazan, Jackie Wang, and more.

Course Schedule

Thursday, 6:30-9:30pm ET
May 09 — May 30, 2024
4 weeks


Registration Open

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