Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Kandice Chuh

Committee Members

Eric Lott

Peter Hitchcock

Claire Bishop

May Joseph

Subject Categories

American Art and Architecture | American Studies | Architectural History and Criticism | Theory and Criticism | Visual Studies


American Studies, Cities, Aesthetics, New York, Space and Place, Visual Culture


This dissertation seeks to refine critical methods for interpreting global cities and their cultures, charting an aesthetic history of neoliberal New York — from the 1929 regional plan to the present. Surveying a range of literature, art criticism, and planning discourse, I argue that the global has served as the dominant motif of spatial production and political power during this watershed era. I trace this argument through analyses of midcentury planning’s global spatial imaginings, gentrification and imperial metaphor, transnational encounter in World literature, and the city’s contemporary waste and recourse imaginaries. While I follow the Marxist account of the New York’s neoliberalization, I depart at the point of methodology by taking difference as a critical prism for interpreting urban space and conceiving political options. I make this case in light of writings by the urban ecologist Jane Jacobs, for whom differentiated experience served to problematize the certitudes of consensual planning, and follow it through analyses of objects and the publics they generate. I address the production and reception of works by Kara Walker, Jean-Michel Basquiat, and Al Diaz; filmmakers Véréna Paravel and J.P. Sniadecki; and writers Teju Cole, Edwidge Danticat, and Joseph O’Neill.