Jennifer C. Lutton

Adjunct Lecturer

NAC 4/150


Nicole Zeftel, Instructional Technology Fellow


MHC 10201

Seminar2: The People of New York City

 Overview: This course examines the role of immigration in the historical, cultural, political, and economic development of New York City. We will focus on the experiences and contributions of Caribbean migrants, with particular emphasis on those from the Anglophone Caribbean (West Indians) and Haiti. The Caribbean has been marked by centuries of regional and global migration, which has had lasting and complex effects on the region and . Caribbean migrants create and sustain transnational networks and identities, which have cultural, political and economic implications in the Caribbean and in other places they live, like New York City. We will be concerned with how race, ethnicity, gender, and class and their intersections inform everyday experiences of Caribbean people in New York. Course readings give students a multidisciplinary perspective on Caribbean migration experiences, drawing from research and writing in history, anthropology, sociology, geography and literature.

Objectives: “The People of New York City” is the second of four seminars on New York City required by the Macaulay Honors College. In this seminar, students investigate the development of the city through the various groups of people that give it form. One way to do this is to understand the role of immigration and migration in shaping New York City’s identity—past, present, and future.

Students will learn theoretical perspectives of migration through a multidisciplinary lens in order to carry out research on topics of relevance and interest. The culminating project of this seminar is a web-based multimedia exhibition where students synthesize and present research. This provides an opportunity for students to present their research findings in ways that other students and faculty can learn from them.

Nicole Zeftel is this class’s Instructional Technology Fellow and will be available throughout the semester to help with technology-based projects and writing. Nicole is a PhD Candidate in Comparative Literature, and her work focuses on nineteenth-century American popular culture and women’s literature. She also teaches literature and research methods at NYU.

Requirements and Expectations: This is a reading and writing intensive course with an instructional technology component in which students create a multimedia exhibition for the purposes of learning and examining course-related concepts and issues, and for presenting research. Students are expected to keep up with reading and writing assignments, adhere to deadlines, and contribute class discussions.

No more than three absences are allowed.

Academic Integrity: Students should be knowledgeable about City College’s policies on academic integrity. Plagiarism and cheating will not be tolerated. If you have any questions about when and how to cite sources, consult me or visit the Writing Center.

The CCNY Academic Integrity Policy can be accessed here:

 In addition, students are expected to conduct themselves in and out of class according to the standards outlined in the Macaulay Honors College Integrity Pledge. Details can be reviewed here:

 Required Texts:

Danticat, Edwidge. 2004. Dew Breaker. Vintage Books: New York.

Marshall, Paule. 1981 (1959). Brown Girl, Brownstones. New York: Feminist Press.

Watkins-Owens, Irma. 1996. Blood Relations: Caribbean Immigrants and the Harlem Community, 1900-1930. University of Indiana Press: Bloomington.

Other readings will be made available as PDFs on the course website. Substitutions may be made to the reading list during the course of the semester as the need/interest arises.


Reading and class schedule Week 1

January 31: Introduction to course.

February 2: Vecoli, Rudolph. 1996. “The Significance of Immigration in the Formation of an American Identity”. The History Teacher. Vol. 30, no. 1: 9-27. (PDF)

Week 2

Feb. 7: Readings : Lobo, Arun Peter and Salvo, Joseph. 2013. “A Portrait of New York City’s Immigrant Melange” in Foner, N. ed., One Out of Three: Immigrant New York in the 21st Century. 35-63. (PDF)

Kasinitz, Philip, et. al. 2013.“The Next Generation Emerges” in Foner, N. ed., One Out of   Three: Immigrant New York in the 21st Century. 267-282. (PDF)

Feb. 9: Foner, Nancy, ed. 2001. Islands in the City: West Indian Migration to New York. New York: Columbia University Press (Introduction). (PDF)

Week 3

Feb. 14: Readings: Watkins-Owens, Irma. 1996. Blood Relations: Caribbean Immigrants and the Harlem Community, 1900-1930

Feb. 16: Readings: Blood Relations

***Identity post due on course website

 Week 4

Feb. 21: Readings: Blood Relations

 Feb. 23 : Readings: Parker, J. 2004. “Capital of The Caribbean”: The African American-West Indian “Harlem Nexus” And The Transitional Drive For Black Freedom, 1940-1948. Journal of African American History, 89(2), 98-117. (PDF)

 Week 5

Feb. 28&March 1

Marshall, Paule. Brown Girl, Brownstones.

Week 6

March 7: Brown, Tammy. 2015. City of Islands: Caribbean Intellectuals in New York.

Ch. 6 “Paule Marshall and the Voice of Black Immigrant Women” 159-187 (PDF)

In class exercise: Caribbean diasporic news media

March 9: Readings: Glick Schiller, Nina; Linda Basch; Cristina Szanton Blanc. 1995. “From Immigrant to Transmigrant: Theorizing Transnational Migration”. Anthropological Quarterly, Vol. 68, No. 1: 48-63. (PDF)

Week 7

March 14&16: Fog Olwig, Karen.“New York as a Locality in a Global Family Network”. (Ch.5 in Islands in the City). (PDF)

 Tanikella, Leela. 2009. “Voices From Home and Abroad: NYC’s Indo-Caribbean Media”. International Journal of Cultural Studies. V. 12(2) 167-185. (PDF)

In class: Develop research topics and create groups in class

Week 8

March 21: Readings: Rogers, Ruel. “‘Black Like Who?’ Afro Caribbean Immigrants, African Americans and the Politics of Group Identity. (Ch. 6 in Islands in the City) (PDF)

 Waters, Mary. “Growing Up West Indian and African American”. (Ch. 7 in Islands in the City).(PDF)

 ***Diasporic media assignment due on course website

March 23: Min, Pyong Gap. 2013. “The Attachments of New York City Caribbean Indian Immigrants to Indian Culture, Indian Immigrants, and India

Saturday, March 25 Walking tour, Flatbush, Brooklyn

Week 9

March 28&30: Danticat, Edwidge. 2010. Create Dangerously: The Immigrant Artist at Work. (Ch. 1).

 Week 10

April 4&6

  1. Dew Breaker. Vintage Books: New York.

***Annotated bibliographies due

Weeks 11&12

Spring Breakno classes 4/10-4/18

No class Thursday, April 20 (classes follow Monday schedule).

 Week 13

April 25&27


Marshall, Wayne. 2006. “Bling-Bling for Rastafari: How Jamaicans Deal with Hip-Hop”. Social and Economic Studies, Vol. 55, No. 1&2: 49-74. (PDF)

***Individual exhibition scripts due

Allen, Ray. 1999. “J’ouvert in Brooklyn Carnival: Revitalizing Steel Pan and Ole Mas Traditions”. Western Folklore, Vol. 58, No. 3/4:. 255-277. (PDF)

 Week 14

May 2&4

Wilcken, Lois. 2005. “The Sacred Music and Dance of Haitian Vodou from Temple to Stage and the Ethics of Representation”. Latin American Perspectives. Issue 40, Vol. 32, #1. (PDF)

Film: The Other Side of the Water

Week 15

May 9&11

Johnson, Paul Christopher. 2007. “On Leaving and Joining Africaness Through Religion: The     ‘Black Caribs’ Across Multiple Diasporic Horizons”. Journal of Religion in Africa. Vol. 37, Issue 2: pp. 174-211. (PDF)

Sutton, Constance R. “Celebrating Ourselves: The Family Reunion Rituals of African-Caribbean Transnational Families”. Global Networks; Jul2004, Vol. 4 Issue 3: 243-257. (PDF)

 Week 15

May 16&18

Potter, et al. 2009. “Transnationalism Personified: Young Returning Trinidadians ‘in their own words’. Tijdschrift voor Economische en Sociale Geografie –, Vol. 100(1), 101–113. (PDF)

Last class—Group Exhibitions due




Identity assignment: 15% Media Assignment: 20%

Exhibition (individual) research project

  • Annotated bibliography 20%
  • Exhibition Script 15%
  • Group exhibition contribution:15%

Class discussion group: 15%


All assignment details and guidelines will be posted on the course website.


Identity post

Post an image of an object that signifies a something important to you about your and your family’s identity in relation to experiences of migration/movement/settlement/home and write one to two pages that details a story about the object and describing why it is meaningful to you and/or your family. The Tenement Museum is running a similar project on their website. Visit their site for some ideas:

Note that your written portion will be longer than what is on the museum’s site.


Class Discussion Groups

Small student groups will lead class discussions once a week. The purpose of student-led discussions is to help you become better readers and more skilled at presenting and discussion in class, but also to allow students to shape the direction and flow of ideas. The class will come with ideas and issues they want to talk about from the readings. Each student will write an idea, issue, problem on the board to generate discussion. We will break into groups to talk about some of the issues that stand out from the readings and how they connect with other issues going on. We will then reconvene and discussion leaders will facilitate the discussion for the class.


We will photograph the board and discussion leaders will post that image on the website and provide a synopsis of the discussion. Posts should be made by 5pm Sundays.


Media and the diaspora

Using online and/or radio sources, discuss an issue of importance to the Caribbean diaspora. You might follow an issue affecting a particular Caribbean nation or you might explore an issue or debate involving the broader diaspora. Consider whether these issues affect other migrant populations in the U.S. and elsewhere.


This assignment is an opportunity to learn about the role media plays in shaping Caribbean migrants’ relationships—political, economic, social, cultural, etc.—to and in New York City, the U.S. and their countries of origin. You can consider news articles, opinions, comment boards, call-in radio shows, music broadcasts, and/or advertising. Begin researching early in the semester, to develop greater understanding of the issues and to be able to examine them as they play out over a period of time.


This will be written as a post and should be equivalent to three (3) to four (4) written pages. Posts should incorporate image, sound, video from the source you use as a way to provide evidence in your discussion.


Sources for this assignment and a more detailed assignment sheet are here. If you are interested in examining online media from specific countries, I can provide sources. We will spend part of one class session exploring some sites together.


Exhibition Project


Exhibition Project (Due: April 25, May 2, May 18, May 26)

Students will explore major themes and concepts in group research projects centered on West Indian migrants in New York. These projects will be presented as an online exhibition that will be available on the Macaulay Honors College website. 

Groups will refine their topic into a group proposal and each student will submit an annotated bibliography. Each student will also post a draft of their portion of their group’s exhibition contribution. This will consist of text that presents, examines, and analyzes the research topic, as well as image, sound, video—curated objects in the exhibition emblematic of the issues being explored. Groups will synthesize their research and curatorial objects to connect with the larger class exhibition.

Specific Assignment Deadlines:

Annotated Bibliography–April 25

Individual script and Group research description —May 2

Group Exhibition (near finalized)—May 18

Final exhibitions—May 26


You must use scholarly sources for this project—books, journal articles, conference papers. For most topics about Caribbean life in New York City, there are numerous sources—on transnationalism, political economy, identity, culture. But for some, scholarly sources might be limited with respect to the issues you want to explore, or you might find discussions of issues that interest you that focus on Caribbean people in different city in the U.S. or elsewhere or on a different migrant group in NYC. These can be useful to developing a comparative analysis or discussion.


Another component of this project involves original research.  You will collect data through field site visits (the field site would be anywhere in NYC where West Indians and Haitians work, live, socialize, etc., including Caribbean student organization events on campus), interviews, attending events and discussions, and from online media—websites, video, social media pages. You should document data in video, audio, images, and in written notes for inclusion in the exhibition. Because this is a short-term project, you will have limited opportunity for fieldwork and gathering primary sources. Thus, analysis and conclusions from these will be general and preliminary, which is to be expected.



Identity Object Post— Due Tuesday, February 21

Guidelines for leading class discussions (ongoing)