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Peter Thomas L'Official
Bard College (Annandale-on-Hudson, NY 12504-9800)
Urban Legends: The South Bronx in Representation and Ruin

Research and writing leading to publication of a book on post-1960 photographic, literary, and cinematic representations of urban ruin in the South Bronx, New York.

Urban Legends examines how a single place—the New York borough of the Bronx—came to define the concept of urban ruin to Americans and to the global imagination from the 1960s until the present day. For years, the words “South Bronx” were synonymous with civic neglect, urban destruction, and crime, and images of the borough’s ruins were used to proclaim the failures of urbanism. Yet, the same South Bronx also produced one of the most powerful artistic innovations of the past 50 years: hip-hop. Urban Legends excavates the broader cultural history of the Bronx—at once more intertwined, and more outwardly influential, than these two narratives have allowed. My central argument is that cultural representations of urban ruin have shaped not only how modern ideas about race and American built space are constructed, but also how these ideas continue to proliferate. These representations reveal deeper anxieties about the realities of what it means to live—and share—in any urban space.

Project fields:
American Studies; Art History and Criticism; Urban Studies

Summer Stipends

Research Programs

$6,000 (approved)
$6,000 (awarded)

Grant period:
6/1/2018 – 7/31/2018