Rats: The Poetics and Politics of Interspecies Migration

Eugene Lang College Lib Arts: Political Science

Liberal Arts

Undergraduate Course

Degree Students

Rats:Poetics&Pol of Migration

Fall 2021

Taught By: Radhika Subramaniam and Rafi Youatt

Section: AX

CRN: 11960

Credits: 4

This course is co-taught by Radhika Subramaniam and Rafi Youatt. We will trace the circulatory ways that discourses and visual cultures of migration and environment fuse in the racio-species politics of rats, migrants, and ecological being in New York City to create ongoing forms of injustice that unevenly affect both. We will follow tendrils of image, thought and practice in NYC around the actual brown rats as well as the figure of ‘the rat,’ and migrant politics. We will examine a subset of sites in NYC: subway; zoo; tenement; exterminators involved in ‘rodent control,’ and representations of both rats and migrants in art, politics, media. In the same summer that NYC declared itself a sanctuary city, it put $32 million towards fighting rats. The year before, WildlifeNYC launched the campaign “City Dwellers take many forms” encouraging New Yorkers to learn to live with raccoons, deer and coyotes—but not the far more ubiquitous rat. As Robert Sullivan says in his book about New York’s “most unwanted inhabitants,” the brown rat that has now come to co-inhabit NYC (Rattus norvegicus) is itself a migrant species, coming from southeast Asia (not Norway), and stowing away on boats crossing the Atlantic in the 1700s. Historically and today, rats have been central to the visual imagination of dehumanization—witness the ongoing portrayal of migrants as rats or vermin by far-right parties in the US and Europe. Yet, rats and humans have also existed as ‘reverse twins’—their commonalities recognized, including ecological mutuality, and surprising overlaps in intelligence, sociality, resilience, and bodies.

College: Eugene Lang College Lib Arts (LC)

Department: Political Science (LPOL)

Campus: New York City (GV)

Course Format: Seminar (R)

Max Enrollment: 18

Add/Drop Deadline: September 13, 2021 (Monday)

Online Withdrawal Deadline: November 21, 2021 (Sunday)

Seats Available: Yes

Status: Closed*

* Status information is updated every five minutes. The status of this course may have changed since the last update. Open seats may have restrictions that will prevent some students from registering. Updated: 12:19am 1/21/2022 EST

Meeting Info:

Days: Thursday

Times: 12:10pm - 2:50pm

Building: 6 East 16th Street

Room: 705

Date Range: 9/2/2021 - 12/16/2021