THE JOHN W. ALTMAN PROGRAM IN THE HUMANITIES
Cathy Wagner and Luis I. Prádanos, Altman Fellows
For the first time in human history, urban areas are home to more than half the world's population. Most of the urgent problems of our age—economic and racial tension, terrorism, environmental degradation, food and energy insecurity, and unequal education—are related to and mediated by the urban. Cities have faced such challenges for millennia. Among the oldest and most important human creations, they are both monuments to the human desire for peaceful coexistence and flashpoints of social conflict. For all their steel and concrete, cities are also products of human imagination—not only the visions of architects and engineers but the ideas of their dwellers and visitors.
This is a crucial time to rethink urban paradigms. If humanity is to survive its urban futures, the metabolism of the city—its infrastructure, its flows of services and people, its relations and borders—must change to nurture, rather than deplete, the systems it inhabits. The 2017–18 Altman Program invites faculty, students, alumni, and community members to join distinguished visiting scholars for a transdisciplinary examination of the ideas and practices that scaffold our cities. How do philosophical, cultural, and historical narratives shape the material realities of urbanity? And what urban models and cultures can enable a socially just and ecologically viable future?