Global and Local Displacements and Urban Sociology
Arianna Martinez, LaGuardia Community College (CUNY)
This semester I taught two courses, “Global and Local Displacements” (my theme for the Liberal Arts Capstone Course LIB200) and “Honors Urban Sociology.” I did not have specific goals or learning objectives when I began the seminar, I just knew I needed to integrate Asian American studies readings from the seminar into both of these courses.
Global and Local Displacements
Keywords: Citizenship, Deportation, Empire, Genocide, Globalization, Immigration, Incarceration, Refugee
These keywords were used weekly in my LIB200 course. In short, the course is about power and the economic and political structures of violence that lead to displacement in its various forms. The students are required to read a book chapter and watch a film at home weekly. One day a week we have class in a computer lab where they answer questions about the readings and documentary. The students must explain the author’s main claims, discuss something that the text made them think of outside of class, and analyze why I paired the week’s reading and film together.
I incorporated two readings from Building Asian American Studies seminar into this course – both weeks were effective and interesting. From the book Unsettled I used chapter one about how and why the Cambodians fled their country, the politics of genocide, and the role of US involvement. This reading was paired with the documentary “God Grew Tired of Us” about the Lost Boys of Sudan. The documentary is a sanitized version of refugee resettlement that makes the US government look like heroes. The stark contrast between Tang’s text and the film made for strong reactions both in writing and class discussion from students. The main concepts discussed were: refugee resettlement, politics of genocide, ethnography, and refuge temporality.
From the book How Does it Feel to be a Problem I used the Rasha chapter. This text was paired with the documentary “The State of Arizona” about Arizona immigration policy SB1070. This pairing gave students an opportunity to compare and contrast two types of immigration and xenophobic policies in recent history. The class discussed US immigration policy post 9/11, detention centers, racial profiling, and the use of oral history/deep interviews.
Keywords: Community, Enclave, Environment, Exclusion, Health, Immigration, Race, Riot
These are some of the keywords that are central to my Urban Sociology course. Again, I used the book Unsettled by Eric Tang, but this time I used chapter two “Housed in the Hyperghetto,” about the hyperghetto and life once Ra’s family is relocated in the North Bronx. Tang’s work is at the intersection of Asian and African American experiences and communities. This was a perfect addition to the Urban Sociology course because the students read two consecutive textbook chapters “Immigrants in Cities” and “African Americans in Cities” and the chapters are written in a way that could leave the impression that these two groups once they arrived in cities had little interaction. Once the students read both textbook chapters I used Tang’s chapter to unpack and complicate several concepts including: the 1965 federal immigration act, the beginning of the refugee resettlement program, the history of disinvestment and housing discrimination in African American neighborhoods like the Bronx, and the role of community organizers in neighborhood tenant fights. Additionally, this chapter was instrumental in helping disrupt the narrative/binary of ethnic enclave vs. ghetto.
The Asian American studies readings (in both courses) demonstrated for students the scope of research that is possible in the social sciences/ethnic studies, and the importance of the voices of folks that lived through these events to good scholarship. These readings are particularly vivid and the claims are clear and well argued. I was able to see a real improvement over the course of the semester in students’ ability to identify claims. Furthermore, in their final research papers they tried to incorporate first person accounts (either from their own experiences or through youtube videos or newspaper interview quotes) in a way that showed they learned the value of this.