Beloved associate professor and New York City native Eric Tang will be teaching a new course on his hometown to UT Austin students in the fall. The Global City will be offered exclusively during the fall 2022 session of the UTNY program, where UT students spend a semester living in New York City while continuing their studies and gaining work experience with a local internship. The application deadline for the fall ’22 session is March 1.
Tang is an associate professor of African and African Diaspora Studies and the director of the Center for Asian American Studies at The University of Texas at Austin. He is also director of the Race, Indigeneity and Migration major in the College of Liberal Arts. His first book, Unsettled: Cambodian Refugees in the NYC Hyperghetto (Temple University Press, 2015), is an ethnographic account of refugee life in some of New York City’s most impoverished and socially marginalized neighborhoods. Read more about his course, what he loves about the city and why being a part of UTNY is the opportunity of a lifetime.
Why should students apply to UTNY?
Everyone needs to do New York City at least once in their lives. You’re never going to have another opportunity to do New York City like this: as a nearly full-grown adult, earning college credit, interning at an organization or a business, and being free of most adult responsibilities, other than completing your degree. I implore students to think about that.
What will your course, The Global City, focus on?
It’s a people’s history of New York City. It tells a story of how New York became a global city from perspective of Indigenous populations, enslaved populations and immigrant workers, as well as those who came over as elites. It looks at the history of the city from a global people’s perspective.
The global city—cities that function as hubs of international finance, culture and media—is said to be contemporary phenomena. People think of globality as a new thing. But New York City has been global since its inception. This course makes that point, and it does so from the perspective of everyday people.
How will being present in the city help your students learn?
The course gives students the opportunity to go into neighborhoods, museums, collections, cultural events and exhibits that bring to life the course material. I don’t think a course like this would be as effective if it were not in New York City and didn’t allow students to visit the very sites that they are studying.
What is your favorite part about New York City?
I was born and raised in New York City and spent my entire life there before moving to Austin. It’s hard for me to pinpoint my favorite thing about it, but if I was forced to say, it’s just being able to walk the city without a destination, to and have the city accompany me for a day or longer. The city itself becomes this companion, because you can engage so many different things and so many different things occur to you, even when you’re alone. I love that — just being able to walk and allow the city to surprise me at every turn.
What do you think students will get out of participating in UTNY?
They will get a PhD in how to ride the New York City subways. In addition to that, they will be part of conversations that large cities can provide. Not just literal discussions, but the ideas, engagements and possibilities that take shape in places that are dense, diverse, socially and politically-contested. I think large cities provide more opportunities for democratic engagement.
Democratic engagement Isn’t necessarily civil, everyone-getting-along conversation. It’s contested conversation and competing ideas and fragmentation. When you can engage in ways that don’t give dominance to one particular viewpoint or group or voice—that’s democratic.
What are you looking forward to most about UTNY?
I really enjoy introducing New York City to those who have never been there. It is a joy to show students the changes in a certain neighborhood, then and now. I like being able to help them distinguish between a Bronx, Brooklyn and Queens accent. I also like to give them my top 10 lists when it comes to pizza, bagels, sandwiches—you name it.
Students interested in the UTNY program can sign up for an information session. The College of Liberal Arts will be hosting one exclusively for COLA students on Feb. 16 at 12 p.m. in RLP 1.302B.