[Video of Professor Jack's Walking Cure. Transcript follows.]  Production/editing team: Ian Brill, Michael Collins, and Ee Ching Ng.
  • [Title 1] Professor Jack's Tips for Street Savvy Urban Walking
  • [Title 2] or How to Not Look Like a Tourist and Pass (Sort of) as a New Yorker (Results Vary)
  • [Title 3] How to Look Good (and Feel Fine) While
  • [Title 4] De-Cartesianizing Your Mind, Body & Spirit
  • [Title 5] In the Time/Space Continuum

    I am here to talk to you about a serious affliction that has victimized virtually every person in this lecture hall. How many of you are only left handed?
    [Show of hands.]
    Keep your hands up …
    How many of you are only right handed?
    Did you realize you are suffering from what Michel Serres has diagnosed as "hemiplegia," or one-sidedness?

    And if this affliction was not bad enough …

    How many in this room are ABDs, PhDs, on the tenure track, tenured?

    All of you, including myself, suffer from F. L. O. C. D.

    Or Frontal Lobe Obsessive Compulsive Disorder!

    But, I am here to tell you—there is hope!
    And since you've already paid your registration for this conference, I will provide for you, free of charge, the secret therapeutic cure to this deadening disability….

    [whisper] I will share the secret of "the walking cure!"
    You can do this anywhere, but I, Dr. Jack,
    recommend it in NYC—
    where the curing vibes are the strongest,
    and the incentive to walk is the greatest.

    So, when you venture forth right after this session, into the streets of NYC where throngs of people actually share the civic commons we in NYC call sidewalks & subways,

    keep in mind the tips I am sharing with you
    on how to practice walking NYC with other people.

    To cleanse our hyperactive, overly developed frontal lobs, thereby learning how to rediscover our bodies, decolonize our minds, and fly with our spirits step, after step, after step…
    On how to open all your senses,

    that reconnect
    your toes with your fingers
    your lower body with your upper torso,
    your pelvis with the James Brown in us all …

    step, after step, after step will reconnect

    how you sense—

    the present with the past,
    the present with the future,
    and the future with the past.

    You will know you are on the road to recovery:

    when on Broome Street you start seeing the spirit of Jane Jacobs,

    when up on 125th Street you hear a syncopated blues song of James Baldwin.

    When at the shell middens by the Manhattan Bridge, you smell the brine and feel the presence of the Lenni Lenape peoples…
    Once you leave this building, try to develop your NYC walking practice with the following four walking exercises….
  • Walking Exercise #1: The Linear Progress Narrative

  • [Walking Cure (WC) 01] Michel de Certeau begins his "practice of everyday life" from the 110th floor of the World Trade Center looking down at the antlike pathways creatures made below.
  • [WC 02] From these commanding heights "all that is solid melts into air." Not even King Kong, Godzilla, the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, nor the Joker could conquer Mammon.
  • [WC 03] From this vantage, can you discern:
    The industrious beaver.
    The Protestant ethic.
    The propertied, self-owning, Viagra'd, heteronormative proper citizen.
    The machine in the garden,
    the ghost in the machine
    … all energizing the Grid.
  • [WC 04] The hills are moved to fill the wetlands. The microclimates disappeared to enhance a uniform business atmosphere. The ever-uptown land rush, up Fifth Avenue, leaves the dirty, wretched downtown behind.

    The canal opening up the heartland. The port of New York grows exponentially. The exchange of pelts for tools, of making shells into wampum, the mint moves from the marge to Federal Reserve.
  • [WC 05] The digital binaries that stream through those cables which run along the rail track right of ways, the cables which lead to vast rooms of superheating servers surge juice into our lovely iPads and Androids.
  • [WC 06] We, after all, are advocates of the much-fantasized clean, cutting-edge, creative, informational economy which New Yorkers operate from a higher, better 111th floor.
  • [WC 07] This is the progress narrative generated by the growth machine. A CEO Billionaire Mayor will run the City as a multinational corporation and become the savior to all of NYC troubles.
  • [WC 08] Our retrospective aura of Manhattan today and using a mythical past of baubles traded for Manhattan Island still stunts our reckoning with this colonized place so many of us call home.
  • [WC 09] Slurp, slurp.
  • [WC 10]

    Walking Exercise #2: The Discernable Below

  • [WC 11] "There are eight million stories in the Naked City."
  • [WC 12] It's the street-level, neighborhood view, mythologized every day in relation to the view from on high.
  • [WC 13] It's the story within the story, of the everyman and everywoman, struggling with their bosses and their bosses' bosses to find a place in this big place.
  • [WC 14] This is the life navigating within the grid. Digging the canals.
  • [WC 15] "If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere" goes the Muzak soundtrack.
  • [WC 16] Horatio Alger pulled himself up from his bootstraps. And so can you!
  • [WC 17] These are the "Mean Streets" of Martin Scorcese. Where gangs of Irish men fight Protestant natives down in the Five Points, impressing Cameron Diaz so all become Americans.
  • [WC 18] You have Little Italy, Chinatown down.
  • [WC 19] You have Spanish Harlem and Sylvia's Fried Chicken, the world-famous Apollo Theater, up.
  • [WC 20] You've got Jackie Gleason driving that bus topside. His sidekick Ed Norton fixing the sewers below.
  • [WC 21] The butcher, the tailor, the candlestick maker.
  • [WC 22] Immigrant New York, a land of mediated memory—through the airwaves, through family stories, through adventures regaled to friends from the safety of middle America.
  • [WC 23] This story is one of arrival and going back in time to prove why that arrival was good and wise… . It is a narrow heritage politics, yet one of the few public tracks available in the public sphere….
  • [WC 24] Digestible West Side stories, the romantic Shakespearean tragedies of city life.
  • [WC 25] This is the nostalgia for tastes, smells, a pungency to everyday life. I am told, the visitors to the Tenement Museum, the children and grandchildren of immigrants now searching for some connections to their heritage
  • [WC 26] draw a sharp line between their ancestors, the good, hardworking immigrants, and their imagined forty-seven percents, the bad immigrants. This past/present disjunction is part of our collective pelagic affliction.
  • [WC 27] Yet, just like those who take the subways understand when they are generally safe and crowded, like at 1 a.m., deal with the realities. Those who are not here, disassociate themselves from making connections.

  • [WC 28]

    Walking Exercise #3: The Elusive Below

  • A. Movements:
    Against the steady orchestration from on high…
    Against the pop songs of the Tower of Babel…
  • [WC 29] plays the folk anthem, the outrage against the machine,
  • [WC 30] the DIY cool of: Woody and Pete,
  • [WC 31] the Ramones and Patti, and Erykah, DiFranco, Toshi Reagon … all sang "downtown," underground.
  • [WC 32] Tourists are wandering around at this moment looking for what once was, aspiring musicians wanting to live out the glory …
  • [WC 33] If the WASP story is the high-def master Panorama vision … The Ken Burns effect—scanning from top to bottom…
  • [WC 34] If the naked city is the tastes, the smells, the exotic, the funky, the down home …
  • [WC 35] … Then surely movement NYC is the slogans and the "truth to power" of Union Square rallies and Zuccoti Park's 99%.
  • [WC 36] This is the fluid city, constantly strategizing where the most symbolic protest opportunity avails.
  • [WC 37]

    B. Subaltern: Those without formal power

  • [WC 38] Fragments, shadows, fringes, edges, their omnipresent absence … points to a systemic invisibility. Your gleaning skills have to be especially acute here.
  • [WC 39] The production of history expresses political and cultural power while also actively silencing other versions. In this sense, the "winner" is a certain noisy version of history and emerges as a master narrative and a master history.
  • [WC 40] History, writes Trouillot, can be silencing when facts, archives, narratives, and histories are absented at the very moment in which a history is being produced. He identifies "four crucial moments," and each registering space in NYC (Trouillot 26).
  • [WC 41] the moment of fact creation (the making of sources); the moment of fact assembly (the making of archives);
  • [WC 42] the moment of fact retrieval (the making of narratives); and the moment of retrospective significance (the making of history in the final instance)(Trouillot 26).
  • [WC 43] Visuality, according to philosopher Immanuel Kant, is a master aesthetic sense. Rationality and visuality have been tightly linked.
  • [WC 44] As visual culture theorist Nicholas Mirzoeff has demonstrated, "Visuality and its visualizing of history are part of how the 'West' historicizes and distinguished itself from its others" (Mirzoeff, xiv). The subaltern cannot speak!
  • [WC 45] In contrast, the proximate senses—those of touch, taste, smell—were deemed the lower "animal senses." The visual became the sense of civilization.
  • [WC 46] What can be seen on the surface of power/knowledge justified notions of class, gender, and racial superiority. Such is the "visual ideology" of what philosopher Charles Mills calls the "racial contract" (Mills, xx).
  • [WC 47] In effect, speaking and storytelling is a borderland between the so-called superior sense of sight and the lower senses.
  • [WC 48] Trouillot's framing offers an analysis of this key sensate dimension, that of sound and silence. As you move through the in-between, not generally noticed spaces—can you begin to discern a subaltern presence?
  • [WC 49]

    Walking Exercise #4

  • [WC 50] These images are uncanny—a place we vaguely recognize but not. Where is this green oasis? This Eden just to the east, and farther still heaven?
    This "Land of Many Hills," in Lenape Mannahatta.

    Part of a vast estuary. And intertidal zone between land and sea. What the Dutch called the marge—the border zone.

    Full of life. Giant lobsters. 18-inch oysters. Birds, nuts, berries. A breeze sweet and tender. One observer, in 1630 wrote: "Birds fill the woods so that men can scarcely go through them for the whistling, the noise and the chattering."
  • [WC 51] 70 kinds of trees.
    627 species of plants.
    85 species of fish.
    32 of reptiles and amphibians, 233 of birds, 24 of mammals.
    50 different ecological niches w/573 hills.

    Mannahatta, the land between the hills.

    On the marge, the Lenni Lenape made centuries worth of shell middens and cultivated the three sisters: corn, squash, beans.
  • [WC 52] "Now I see what there is in a name, a word, liquid, sane, unruly, musical, self-sufficient,
    I see that the word of my city is that word from of old,
    Because I see that word nested in nests of water-bays, superb…." (Whitman [ca.1855] 2007, 419)
  • [WC 53] Mannahatta is also the name of a project of devotion by Eric Sanderson, conservation ecologist, with the Wildlife Conservation Society.
  • [WC 54] Sanderson explains: "The goal of the Mannahatta Project has never been to return Manhattan to its primeval state. The goal of the project is to discover something new about a place we all know so well, whether we live in New York or see it on television, and, through that discovery, to alter our way of life. New York does not lack for dystopian visions of the future… . But what is the vision of the future that works?" (Mannahatta: A Natural History of New York City)
  • [WC 55] This is a worthy example of holding two moments in time and place in reflexive thinking—the present and past are in dialogic tension. We are invited to explore and ask questions.
  • [WC 56] New York Times cultural critic at large, Edward Rothstein (trained at the University of Chicago, mentored by Allan Bloom), is moved yet quite uneasy. For him, the take-home is all human interactions shape the environment: the Lenape, the British soldiers transmuting the island's timber into an armed fortress, the 1811 grid, the skyscrapers of modernity—all equivalent in Rothstein's view ("Manhattan: An Island Always Diverse," New York Times, July 4, 2009).
  • [WC 57] In Rothstein's reinterpretation of Sanderson, we skip over the details of a foundational historical non sequitur. John Locke did not consider native peoples as self-possessed owners of property—they, he claimed, did not cultivate the land. They lived off the land. They were part of natural history… . This is pure rationalist obliviousness. The obliviousness caused a constantly replay of the first injustice. We can see the "manifest destiny" stories of Western civilizational advance and superiority expressed by Daniel Chester French's sculptures at the NYC Customs House.
  • [WC 58] These blind spots also flourish at a place like NYU where we do not have a program, let alone a department, in native peoples' studies, nor a core curriculum that examines an interdynamic understanding of NYC—a fair, informed, and rigorous understanding of dispossession and violation.
  • So here is the dilemma.

    Academic subject position severely limited.

    This is often a blind faith that content-focused, correct analysis will free us.

    …critically important, not enough.

    As you walk out into the city, visiting communities and community-based organizations, try to sense how nonacademics express their relations with academia.
    Do they register a disconnect?
    Do they assert an independent, less academic way of knowing?
    Do they translate their working theories for you as you imagine doing so for them?

    Who knows what?
    Is there trust built?
    What relationships are developed?
    Is the discourse mainly book learning or more?
    What are the principles of community/university collaboration?
    Is it sustained over more than a year?

    What can we, based in universities, do more honestly, reciprocally, and better?

    Eric Sanderson has created an uploadable app for his mapping of Mannahatta, called "Welikia"; Lenape for "my good home." You can clicked on a parcel of land and watch it go from its present streets and buildings back to the 1609 moment before Hudson arrived. This time/space juxtaposition opens up the imagination and invites discussion.

    I am envisioning an app with a pair of Google glasses infused with insights and populated by historical ghosts. This is the type of collaborative project students and community people can work on together.

    This is not simply technology, but a vision crammed full of historical and creative tidbits that can inspire engaged, critical public dialogues…
    I close with the question:
    Can we develop an IA-style walking practice that engages all our senses, linking the best of academic and community-based knowledge in a shared, trustworthy understanding of NYC, in its daily contestations, land use, and meaning-making?

    Can we create engaged, intelligent, fully soulful, sensate connections…??

    This is the challenge of democracy's public-engaged work.
    This is the challenge of democracy's university.

    Enjoy the beautiful weather. It's a perfect day for site visits. Have fun out there, and I hope you have many adventures. And, remember, I take no responsibility for any mishaps!

Works Cited

Mills, Charles W. 1999. The Racial Contract. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.

Mirzoeff, Nicholas. 2011. The Right to Look: A Counterhistory of Visuality. Durham: Duke University Press.

Rothstein, Edward. 2009. "Manhatta: An island Always Diverse." New York Times. July 4: C1.

Sanderson, Eric and Markley Boyer. 2009. Mannahatta: A Natural History of New York City. New York: Harry N. Abrams; "Welikia Project." http://welikia.org/explore/mannahatta-map/. Accessed October 1, 2013.

Trouillot, Michel-Rolf. 1997. Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History. Boston: Beacon Press.

Whitman, Walt. 2007. Leaves of Grass, A Textual Variorum of the Printed Poems, 1855-1856. V. 1. Fay Wilson Allen & Sculley Bradley, eds. New York: NYU Press.

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