Seminar 2: The Peopling of New York

HNRS 126W (1T3RA), Spring 2011

Tues/Thurs., 1:40-2:55pm, Honors Hall 12

Professor Omri Elisha

Office: Powdermaker Hall 315H
Office Hours: Tues. 3:30-5pm; or by appointment
Phone: (718) 997-5525

Instructional Technology Fellow:  Tsai-Shiou Hsieh

Office: Honors Hall Room 20
Office Hours: Wednesdays 12-6 pm

Course Description

This course explores social, historical, and cultural dimensions of immigration and population change in New York City, with a focus on the intersections of religion, ethnicity, and immigration, and emphasizing the points of view of residents themselves. Using historical and ethnographic studies, we will look at how religious and cultural traditions shape the lives and experiences of urban dwellers in one of the most diverse cities in the world. Class preparation involves a substantial amount of reading and writing, and you are expected to participate actively in every session. The course also includes a collaborative fieldwork element, which will involve class members doing research on demographic patterns and religious institutions in Flushing, Queens. The group project will require written and visual documentation and will culminate in a final paper and a website that you will design collectively as a class. 

Required Books :

From Ellis Island to JFK : New York’s Two Great Waves of Immigration, by Nancy Foner.

The Madonna of 115th Street: Faith and Community in Italian Harlem, 1880-1950, by Robert Orsi.

Guadalupe in New York: Devotion and the Struggle for Citizenship Rights among Mexican Immigrants, by Alyshia Galvez.

Race and Religion among the Chosen Peoples of Crown Heights, by Henry Goldschmidt.

God in Chinatown: Religion and Survival in New York’s Evolving Immigrant Community, by Kenneth Guest

We will also read several articles and essays that I have posted on Blackboard. To access Blackboard readings, go to, click on “Portal Log-in,” log on to your account, and follow the links to this course. You will find the PDF files under “Course Documents.”

Course Requirements and Grading:

Participation: 20%

–       You must attend class consistently and be prepared to discuss the assigned readings. Occasionally there will also be in-class writing exercises and/or short assignments.

Student Discussion Leading: 15%

–       You will each be assigned one day to give a 12-15 minute oral presentation on the assigned reading for that day. You can be creative in your approach, including visual aids if you want (not required), but make sure to address the main point or argument in the assigned reading, discuss your response to the material, and stimulate further analysis by raising at least three questions for class discussion.

Online Discussion Board Responses: 20%

–       We will have an online site for this class where you can post responses to the assigned readings. You are required to post at least SEVEN responses before the end of term. Each response must be approximately 300 words in length, and should reflect an informed and thoughtful reading of the assignment. Each response must be posted before noon (12pm) on day the relevant reading assignment is due.

Book Review Essay: 20% (Due March 22)

–       Write a five-page essay in which you compare and contrast the two case studies discussed by Orsi and Galvez.  The purpose of this essay is NOT for you to decide which books is “better,” but to think about what kind of conclusions you can draw from having read these two books side by side.

Group Project (neighborhood study/website): 25%

–       The class will be divided into four groups, and each group will conduct an ethnographic study of a particular religious organization in Flushing, Queens. Your research will ideally focus on a specific ritual or community event, treated as a basis for a larger social analysis. As the term progresses, the entire class will design a website presenting your findings, and you will each write final papers summarizing your research. The project will also involve a mandatory class trip/walking tour of Flushing, and periodic research assignments.

Course Schedule: (readings that are not from a book are on Blackboard)

T    2/1

Th  2/3
From Ellis Island to JFK
, Chapter 1 (“Who They Are and Why They Have Come”)

T    2/8
-Michael Walzer, “What does it mean to be an ‘American’?”

-Stephen Steinberg, “The Melting Pot and the Color Line”

Th  2/10
*Hand in your two-page “cultural autobiography.”

From Ellis Island to JFK, Chapter 2 (“Where They Live”)

T   2/15
The Madonna of 115th Street
, p. 1-49

Th  2/17             
The Madonna of 115th Street
, p. 75-96, 107-129

T   2/22          
The Madonna of 115th Street
, p. 129-149, 163-178

Th  2/24
The Madonna of 115th Street
, p. 178-218

T    3/1
Elizabeth McAlister, “The Madonna of 115th Street Revisited: Vodou and Haitian Catholicism in the Age of Transnationalism”

Th  3/3
From Ellis Island to JFK,
Chapter 3 (“The Work They Do”)

T    3/8                       
Guadalupe in New York
, Pp.1-40

Th  3/10
Guadalupe in New York
, Chapter 4

T    3/15
Guadalupe in New York
, Chapters 5-6

Th  3/17
Guadalupe in New York
, Chapter 7

T    3/22
Book Review Essay Due

Th  3/24
Weishan Huang, “The Making of a Promised Land: Religious Responses to Gentrification and Neighborhood Ethnic Diversity”

T    3/29
From Ellis Island to JFK,
Chapter 5 (“The Sting of Prejudice”)

Th  3/31
Susan Slymovics, “New York City’s World Muslim Day Parade”

T    4/5
Race and Religion among the Chosen Peoples of Crown Heights
Introduction and Chapter 1

Th  4/7
Race and Religion…,
Chapter 2

T    4/12
Race and Religion…
, Chapter 3

Th  4/14
Race and Religion…
, Chapter 4 and Conclusion

[chapter 5 is optional]

April 19, 21, 26                        SPRING BREAK, NO CLASS

Th  4/28
From Ellis Island to JFK,
Chapter 6 (“Transnational Ties”)

T    5/3
God in Chinatown
, Kenneth Guest, Chapter 1 and pp.55-70

Th  5/5
God in Chinatown
, Chapter 4

T    5/10
God in Chinatown
, Chapter 5

Th  5/12
God in Chinatown
, Chapter 6

T   5/17
God in Chinatown
, Chapter 7

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