Square: Campus Happenings Around the Globe
Breaking Old Ground
“The kind of questions that I want to ask about the past can’t be excavated,” said guest lecturer Jason Ur during his “Spying on Antiquity” talk at the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World. His interest in the origins of lost cities and the construction of canal systems—and how people traveled through those spaces—demands alternate ways of acquiring data. “I found it’s useful to pull back and view things from a distance,” the visiting Harvard professor told the crowd. And what a perspective he and his fellow anthropologists have been given, thanks to CORONA, Cold War–era American spy satellites that circled Earth between 1960 and 1972 (pictured above is the Tell Hamoukar archaeological site in the Jazira region of northeastern Syria).
Declassified by President Bill Clinton in 1995, CORONA’s high-resolution imagery is an astounding record of bygone landscapes since destroyed or damaged due to development. The pictures reveal much about agricultural patterns and movement in the nearly 3,000-year-old Assyrian empire through tracks and discoloration in the terrain. They also point to unplumbed archaeological sites that aren’t so apparent from the ground; so far, Ur has discovered 516 of these untapped locales just waiting to be studied.
Three NYU units—the Center for Mind, Brain, and Consciousness; the Center for Bioethics; and Arts and Science’s Animal Studies program—joined forces to host the two-day conference “Animal Consciousness.” A handful of the world’s leading thinkers on the topic convened at the Cantor Film Center to debate and discuss whether and what kind of awareness resides in creatures of the nonhuman variety. Guest speakers included such pioneers in the field as Oxford professor of animal behavior Marian Dawkins and Princeton bioethics professor Peter Singer, whose 1975 book Animal Liberation kicked off the modern animal rights movement. Talk touched on everything from the decision-making behavior of bees to measuring octopus intelligence to whether the study of animal awareness is itself ethically problematic. The event was lively, humorous, occasionally heated, and, above all else, vastly illuminating.
“In the case of all of these uncertainties, we should give animals the benefit of the doubt when we can. That relates to questions of what are the benefits for us in doing something that might cause them pain or suffering and what are the costs for them?”
The Lost Picture Show
Times Square in 1945Photo credit: Courtesy of Prelinger Archives
Fiddler in Washington Square Park, 1959Photo credit: Courtesy of Prelinger Archives
World's Fair, 1939Photo credit: Courtesy of Prelinger Archives
Lower East Side, 1926Photo credit: Courtesy of Prelinger Archives
Horse Rider on the George Washington Bridge, 1931Photo credit: Courtesy of Prelinger Archives
Rick Prelinger refuses to let bygone eras be bygones. For decades, the filmmaker-archivist has rescued old amateur, educational, industrial, and commercial film footage and made it available for free online (above, a random sampling of stills from these reels) or presented it to charmed audiences—like the one assembled at the Skirball Center that screened Lost Landscapes of New York. During the 80-minute film cohosted by the Tisch School of the Arts’ Cinema Studies program and the Museum of the Moving Image, snippets of everything from the decommissioned Third Avenue el to the 1939–1940 World’s Fair in Queens flickered on-screen as Prelinger provided the who, what, and where when he could. “It’s primarily a silent film,” he advised viewers in advance, “so I am relying on you to identify places, people, and events that you can recognize.” Addressing one section of the movie, he said they suspected it to be “somewhere in Brooklyn,” to which a woman in the audience shouted back, “That’s the Broadway-Bushwick line!” An early sequence shot on 8-millimeter Kodachrome prompted Prelinger to ruminate, “The color’s kind of gone, but it has a feeling about it.” He might have been describing the entire endeavor.
Not so long ago, chess was king in Greenwich Village, embodying the community’s intellectual, philosophical, and rebellious attitude. Although the culture of the game is still vibrant within Washington Square Park itself, all but one of the local shops devoted to the pastime are gone, along with the matches that took place in establishments like Chumley’s, Cafés Figaro and Reggio, and the White Horse Tavern. Elayne Tobin, a clinical assistant professor at Liberal Studies and a Village historian, attributes the shift to escalating rents and younger residents who prefer to play online, if at all.
As a result, Tobin says, “we’re losing the physical chess nation, being able to touch chess pieces, touch chess boards, sit across from each other. We’re also losing part of that esprit de corps of the Village that was so important.” Take solace in the still-standing Chess Forum at 219 Thompson Street between West 3rd and Bleecker streets, a regular hangout for faculty and students, according to owner Imad Khachan (GSAS ’90). “It’s fantastically interesting,” Tobin says of the unabashedly antiquated venue. “When you go in there, it feels like ancient history.”
—Dulcy Israel (Photos by Joseph DiGiovanna)
So Far, So Good
The stated mission for the College of Global Public Health is “to significantly improve the health of populations by pioneering solutions that advance health equity around the world, today and tomorrow.” The college is both achieving these goals—and living up to its planetary moniker. Students are currently conducting field research (e.g. mapping childhood undernutrition, analyzing environmental health risks, accessing vaccine safety) and making a major impact across the United States and in 17 other countries around the world.
This fall, the Students of Color Collective (SOCC) at the Silver School of Social Work held its first open-mic night at the Center for Multicultural Education and Programs on the eighth floor of the Kimmel Center for University Life. Working with the theme of social justice, members offered up poetry, stories, songs, raps, and a step performance by current SOCC president Karen Garrido. In addition to meeting almost weekly at Silver, the group, founded in 2009, hosts panels of clinical and nonclinical practitioners. As for future SOCC open-mic nights, the goal is to make it an annual event.