Foreword by the Editors
From 2018 to 2023, the PublicsLab at the CUNY Graduate Center supported doctoral students in the humanities and humanistic social sciences as they explored possibilities of public scholarship and of transforming doctoral education.
For PublicsLab fellows, faculty mentors, and grant recipients, the PublicsLab served as a hub for radical and creative pursuits that extended far beyond our institution. In an effort to advance the university’s mission of “knowledge for the public good,” it became a space to imagine different modes and methods of scholarship, for and by communities that are often excluded from the traditional ivory tower. PublicsLab scholars transformed dense theory into accessible concepts; re-configured and melded disciplinary fields; founded and nurtured nonprofit organizations; produced and translated knowledge into a vast array of media; and generated polydisciplinary research methods.
If we had to venture an answer as to what has made the PublicsLab a singular site of convergence at our institution, we’d identify the tiny and mighty concept of the ‘Lab.’ Labs offer opportunities for experimentation. They are places of sustained investigation and for modeling daring action. Whether connected to hard science, social science, humanities, or the arts, these labs serve as play-spaces in which we, as social beings, practice our questions in the quest for new and useful knowledge. Perhaps most importantly of all, this lab was a genuine home for scholars of every kind, so long as they were willing to engage generously and curiously.
Director Stacy Hartman, Faculty Lead Bianca Williams, and Interim Faculty Lead Kandice Chuh challenged us to identify assumptions about how our research is performed, and how that performance connects with our values and with our communities beyond the university setting. Their lab gave us a space to think about what we can do with the knowledge we carry, as well as the space to recognize and celebrate the skills that traditional academic training doesn’t. We learned that honesty, care, and accountability are central to these practices. By reframing knowledge as a collective pursuit, by critically engaging with curricula, and by welcoming “outside” collaborators into our spaces, the PublicsLab challenged us to be specific about the communities we are serving.
Now, as the PublicsLab comes to an end, we are taking this moment to return to and reflect upon the stunning array of projects produced under its banner, as they join our PublicsLab Archive. We have chosen to embrace mushrooms as our site’s visual theme, because they represent the growth that is possible during moments that we usually consider “endings,” as energy is not lost, but rather converted. (More on this in Stacy’s final post about endings.)
For our guests, we hope the archive will be not only a resource but a productive thought-partner in the transformational work of graduate education, and of public scholarship. We invite you to explore audio interviews with fellows, with faculty mentors, and with curriculum grant recipients. You can also see collection of resources and inspiration, and hear directly from the PublicsLab’s leaders.
For those of us intimately connected to the project, the archive provides us with the opportunity to reflect on our experiences and the ways in which it shaped us as scholars, activists, teachers, artists, researchers, and mentors.
And for current students, rest assured that the PublicsLab’s spirit, and even some of its initiatives, continue to live on at the Graduate Center.
Even though the project has ended, the work continues. We hope that you find solidarity, support, and inspiration in these pages.
Jess Applebaum and Nicolas Benacerraf
Co-editors, PublicsLab Archive
Jess Applebaum (PublicsLab Fellow, 2020-2023) is a dramaturg-scholar whose practice is rooted in contemporary performance and social action. As a dramaturg she works collaboratively with performance makers, academics, and activists to develop and facilitate creative processes. Her work pays particular attention to lifting up the cultural and political context of each project: identifying how the content developed serves both its creators and its audience in a shared, live moment. As a PhD candidate in CUNY’s Theater and Performance program, Jess’ scholarship focuses on the labor of dramaturgy: pushing the perceived boundaries of how research is performed and applied in both creative and academic work. She believes that bodies perform knowledge, process activates power, and that, together, they can inspire new pedagogical and civic practices.
Nicolas Benacerraf (PublicsLab Fellow, 2019-2023) is a scholar and political artist who creates and studies live performance. As a doctoral student in GC’s Theatre & Performance program, Nic’s dissertation exposes the industry of Public Relations as a form of anti-political theatre which uses theatrical techniques of mass persuasion to alter our sense of social reality, for the purpose of widening existing power inequities. As a creative director and scenographer, Nic engineers consent-based systems and environments for genuine human encounters in theaters, galleries, concert halls, and streets. He is founding partner of Edge Effect Media Group, following 15 years as founding co-artistic director of The Assembly. He holds a BA from Wesleyan and an MA/MFA from CalArts. www.nicbenacerraf.com/
Table of Contents
Click here to expand From the Project Leaders Listen to Student Fellows Listen to Faculty Mentors Listen to Grant Recipients Resources and Inspiration
From the Project Leaders
Listen to Student Fellows
Listen to Faculty Mentors
Listen to Grant Recipients
Resources and Inspiration