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Please visit the website for Mellon Collaborative Studies in Architecture, Urbanism, and the Humanities at


spring 2016 expanded practice seminar:


The College of Architecture, Art, and Planning and the Society for the Humanities announce an innovative graduate traveling seminar for students in the humanities and design disciplines. The Fall 2016 seminar is, “Cuba as Project: Urban, Political, and Environmental Transformations of the Island” (ARCH 6308, SHUM 6308, COML 6073). Expanded Practice Seminars are offered under the auspices of Cornell University’s Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Collaborative Studies in Architecture, Urbanism, and the Humanities grant. Selected students receive a $1,000 stipend and a funded, week-long travel program to Cuba in Fall 2016.

Expanded Practice Seminars bring students and faculty in the humanities and the design disciplines together around a common and pressing urban issue such as the cultural and material practices induced by national or ethnic divisions; the increasingly leaky taxonomy of the terra firma in areas where land/water boundaries are rapidly changing; and the inadequacy of static zoning models that fail to capture dynamic, urban economics and performance. The intent of the Expanded Practice Seminar is to study complex urban conditions using theoretical and analytic tools derived in equal part from the design disciplines and humanist studies. The Expanded Practice Seminar includes a site visit to experience the conditions under study and meet with local experts, designers, and authorities. This on-site component is a vital and novel aspect of these seminars. The seminar is open to selected students in a range of humanities and design disciplines. Due to the interdisciplinary nature of the Expanded Practice Seminar, a wide range of skills and backgrounds are welcome. Advanced undergraduate students may apply, but preference will be given to students in their first three years of graduate study.

Materials to be submitted:
1. C.V.
2. 500–700 word statement of interest describing your background interest in the seminar topic

No letters of recommendation are required.

Applications must be submitted via by June 30, 2016.


SHUM 6308 Cuba as Project: Urban, Political, and Environmental Transformations of the Island
Fall.  4 credits. 
Limited to fellowship recipients. 
T. McEnaney & T. DuFour
R: 12:20 – 2:15

This seminar explores the symbolic and political tensions and contradictions inherent in the motif of the island, in relation to both its contrast and conflation with the theme of the urban. Cuba stands, in this regard, as an exemplary site of the modern insular project. The seminar situates the island in its archipelagic context, as both a spatial and historical category, inquiring into continuities and ruptures that implicate Cuba in a wider horizon of appropriations of islands as both concrete geographies and symbolic territories.

Positioned within the Caribbean archipelago, Cuba has long been a space of transition. The restored colonial neighborhood of La Habana Vieja or the UNESCO-honored city of Trinidad, the monumental edifices of the Plaza de la Revolución in Havana and the “Che” Guevara mausoleum in Santa Clara, the towering constructivism of the Russian embassy, and the U.S. prison at Guantánamo Bay stand as physical markers of Cuba’s tumultuous political, economic, and cultural history. Alongside these structures, the legacy of socialist industrial and agricultural development leaves traces of its environmental effects on the culture, and in the soil, the sea, and the atmosphere. How will these conditions shift now, when Cuba is again at a nascent moment of fundamental change? In order to grapple with the island’s current transformation, and its relationship to the Caribbean, the Americas, and the wider global horizon, this course situates Cuba at the intersections of literature, architecture, art, urban planning, cartography, anthropology, political philosophy, and political ecology. We will investigate urban agriculture, neo-baroque aesthetics, colonial restoration projects, “ruinology,” public housing, new media infrastructure, and state projects oriented toward the incorporation of rural and hinterland geographies. We will explore themes of the “insular” from its understanding in antiquity to its medieval substitution of the forest as the domain of the marvelous and the wild, its cartographic genesis, its emblematic significance as utopia, its ideological appropriation toward modern notions of community, and its continuity as an ecological horizon of ontological plurality. The seminar will examine how symbolic and material practices structure the social and environmental space that shape and are shaped by the activity of the natural world, the extensions of the communist state, and the experience of everyday life.

Course Instructors: Tom McEnaney (Assistant Professor of Comparative Literature, College of Arts & Sciences) and Tao DuFour (Visiting Assistant Professor, College of Architecture, Art, and Planning)