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Mellon Seminars/ Bronx Lives

Mellon Seminars/ Bronx Lives

In Spring 2014, I enrolled in an interdisciplinary class Mellon Seminar: Urban Representations Lab, "Home and the World: Urban Representations of Harlem and the South Bronx". The course was taught by Noliwe Rooks from Africana Studes and Mary N. Woods from Architecture and included forays into digital research tools such as text-mining, topic modeling, geographical mapping, data visualization and also a workshop on Scalar and Omeka

Librarians, archivists and curators introduced us to the Rose Goldsen Archive of New Media Art , the Cornell Hip Hop Collection, and held some classes at the Johnson Museum. Other than one-week guest professors (Oneka La Bennett and Travis Gosa, both from Africana). Regular guest professors included Jeremy Foster (Architecture), Bill Gaskins (Art) and Sabine Haenni (Performing and Media Studies). 

For 11 students, (from government, city and regional planning, anthropology, history of architecture and urban development, and comparative literature (that's me), it was a lot of attention, a lot of work and a little overwhelming at times.

In the end, we formed 3 groups and worked together on a project each. The seminar also comes with a $1000 stipend to help fund the project. The project descriptions are here:

I worked with 4 other Ph.D students: José Castañeda, Elena Guzman and Natalie Nesvaderani (anthropology) and James Macmillen (city and regional planning) Lai Weijie, my longtime collaborator, was roped in for his cinematography, producing and editing expertise. With part of our stipend, we rented an apartment via AirBnB over Spring Break and shot footage mainly in the Bronx. After rounds of editings and presentations (we, along with the other groups, also presented to Earl Lewis, President of the Mellon Foundation when he dropped by for a class), we will  be doing a final workshop in Cornell, supported by the Cornell Council for the Arts.

It has been such a journey. After the screening, we'll proceed to the final parts of post-production: colour grading, sound mixing, music composition...Andthen...we'll see. 

I relished the opportunity to do interdisciplinary & collaborative work which is what drew me to HASTAC in the first place (though I have been very reticent as my online persona has always been more of the silent stalkertype). 

I'm curious about Mellon Seminars in other schools since it is such a new initiative. I'm enrolled in another one this semester which took 11 of us to Southeast Asia and Hong Kong over 10 days (I'll save the details for another time). Anyone has an experience to share with Mellon Seminars in your institution?


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