Fluid New York

Cosmopolitan Urbanism and the Green Imagination

Fluid New York

Book Pages: 264 Illustrations: 3 illustrations, 5 maps Published: July 2013

Author: May Joseph

Cultural Studies, Geography, Sociology > Urban Studies

Hurricane Sandy was a fierce demonstration of the ecological vulnerability of New York, a city of islands. Yet the storm also revealed the resilience of a metropolis that has started during the past decade to reckon with its aqueous topography. In Fluid New York, May Joseph describes the many ways that New York, and New Yorkers, have begun to incorporate the city's archipelago ecology into plans for a livable and sustainable future. For instance, by cleaning its tidal marshes, the municipality has turned a previously dilapidated waterfront into a space for public leisure and rejuvenation.

Joseph considers New York's relation to the water that surrounds and defines it. Her reflections reach back to the city's heyday as a world-class port—a past embodied in a Dutch East India Company cannon recently unearthed from the rubble at the World Trade Center site—and they encompass the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy in 2012. They suggest that New York's future lies in the reclamation of its great water resources—for artistic creativity, civic engagement, and ecological sustainability.


“Joseph addresses vital topics like city planning for ecological sustainability and how the city must meet the needs of a heterogeneous population. . . . Joseph expresses both affection and concern for her city, highlighting both its creative potential and provincial hubris it must outgrow.” — Publishers Weekly

“I relished Joseph’s vivid accounts of New Yorkers’ communal campaigns against the wanton destruction of urban green spaces that had been a source of pleasure, solace and inspiration to citizens for many decades. She demonstrates that environmental challenges bring people together, no matter how disparate and apparently divided the population of a large city may seem to be. . . . [I]t speaks powerfully to a critical moment in urban ecology." — Laurence Coupe, Times Higher Education

“A tour-de-force, Fluid New York should be read and absorbed by anyone interested in how urbanism has recently developed along with ecology and how it continues to evolve within an ecological context.” — Jim Elledge, Mom Egg Review

"Gorgeously written and keenly observed, Joseph’s book evokes both the global and the local in her consideration of New York City’s evolving relationship to its waterfront. . . . This vast book and its singular story reveal the pleasures of cosmopolitan belonging, as well as the difficult measures that must be taken to preserve urban settings and citizens on a warming planet." — Jennie Lightweis-Goff, Journal of American Culture

“…[Fluid New York]  provides a well-grounded contemporary history of what the author calls 'small gestures' toward making peace and exploring the potential for further engagement with an aqueous geography.” — Eric Pawson, AAG Review of Books

“Joseph’s work is highly creative and beautifully written. The book will be welcomed by scholars of urban studies especially those interested in cultural studies, citizenship studies and urban environmental history.” — Anthony Levenda, Urban Studies

“The book . . . reflects recent arguments about geographic scale as practice. Scale is not explicitly discussed, but the concept informs the interplay of metropolitanism and cosmopolitanism throughout. Second, the theoretical combination of metropolitan infrastructure and cosmopolitan culture Joseph develops may be useful to approaching cities less central to the cultural and urban geography literatures. This book focuses on New York, but Joseph’s fluid urbanism would be a powerful way to understand Singapore or Mumbai or Hong Kong.” — Craig M. Dalton, Cultural Geographies

“[Joseph’s] evident delight in New York, where she has lived since 1992, imbues the book with a surprising freshness. . . . Joseph demonstrates (in her attention to different ways of inhabiting the streets and rivers, and the competing and complimentary flows that New Yorkers from all backgrounds bring to the city) a distinct commitment to urban life: the joys that it can bring and the difficulties it inevitability involves. Indeed, her optimistic tone suggests that even a shared ecological vulnerability might lead to new forms of urban cooperation and citizenship in the future.” — Richard Martin, Journal of American Studies

Fluid New York would be useful in any course about the history of New York City. For scholars interested in how the environment shapes and is shaped by urban life and culture, Joseph’s book deepens our understanding.” — Sean Singer, American Studies

Fluid New York is an admirable study and I recommend it to readers who are interested in the green future of coastal cities.” — William Kornblum, Contemporary Sociology

"Fluid New York is a beautifully written and conceived book. Based on rich ethnographic material, May Joseph develops a persuasive vision of New York as a city with an emerging culture of 'fluid urbanism.' Her compelling arguments offer a way to rethink space and performative cultures in cities such as Bangalore, Beijing, and Dar es Salaam, and to put New York in dialogue with those cities and their urbanisms. This is wonderful, vivid, and insightful work." — Smriti Srinivas, author of Landscapes of Urban Memory and In the Presence of Sai Baba

"This important book illuminates new ideas that took hold of the bodies and minds of New Yorkers in the decade after September 11. May Joseph's New York is characterized by the radical implosion and intensification of global difference. Her narrative consistently gives voice to people who have always been present in New York but not often heard from." — Brian McGrath, Research Chair in Urban Design, Parsons The New School for Design


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Price: $26.95

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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

May Joseph is Professor of Social Science at the Pratt Institute, where she teaches urbanism, global studies, and visual culture. She is the founder of Harmattan Theater, which produces site-specific outdoor productions exploring the history of New York City through its architecture, design, and natural environment. Joseph is the author of Nomadic Identities: The Performance of Citizenship and a coeditor (with Jennifer Natalya Fink) of Performing Hybridity.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Illustrations vii

Acknowledgments ix

Preface xi

Prologue 1

Introduction 7

Part I. Fluid Urbanism 19

1. Water Ecology, Island City 23

2. Transoceanic New York, City of Rivers 35

3. The Maritime Sky of Manhattan 55

4. Thinking Metropolitanism 70

Part II. Cosmopolitan Frugality 93

5. Nomadic Urbanism and Frugality 95

6. Nyerere, the Dalai Lama, Gandhi: Cultures of Frugality 110

Part III. Ecological Expressivity 131

7. Greening Hardscape 133

8. Marathon City, Biking Boroughs 151

Part IV. Maritime Mentalities 167

9. Brooklyn Carnival and the Sale of Dreamland 169

10. Spirits of Necropolis, Planes on the Hudson 179

11. Governors Island: Maritime Pasts, Ecological Futures 189

12. After Hurricane Sandy 204

Conclusion: Toward a Praxis of Cosmopolitan Citizenship 211

Notes 213

Bibliography 231

Index 239
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-5472-7 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-5460-4
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