Miami Studies: Unpacking and Curating Stories from the Past


INSTRUCTOR: Julio Capo and Rebecca Friedman


SCHEDULE: Monday, 2:00PM – 5:00PM

Course Description

This interdisciplinary and skill-oriented honors seminar focuses on what we call “Miami Studies,” an emergent field of study that centers Miami and its many surrounding communities, cultures, and histories. Miami is one of the most important cities in the United States and the Americas. Yet its history, culture, politics, and overall meaning are still largely caricatured through myth, stigma, and hyperbole, all of which are deeply rooted in the region’s layered past and relationship to colonial processes and empire. Although the region and the millions of people who reside in and traverse it every year remain woefully understudied and misunderstood, community and grassroots efforts have long created, fostered, and studied local knowledges that serve as a corrective to this broader national narrative that has marginalized and underscored Miami as a site of significant cultural and intellectual inquiry and impact.  This course will ask our students to dig deeper into Miami’s past by not only unpacking its histories, but also learning through immersive experiences, particularly visiting local museums, historic sites, archives, and cultural institutions. Visits may include the Historic Hampton House, the Museum of Graffiti, the Black Archives, HistoryMiami Museum, and Vizcaya Museum & Gardens. Students will also benefit from lectures and workshops with local-based site and cultural interpreters, practitioners, and curators. In addition to visits and weekly topic readings in “Miami Studies,” students enrolled in this course will produce one major capstone project: a curated exhibition that utilizes and draws inspiration from a now-defunct newspaper that has been recently uncovered titled Miami Life, which the Wolfsonian Public Humanities Lab is currently working to digitize as part of a grant-funded project. As part of their enrollment in this course, students will be given a budget, generously funded by the Florida Humanities, to build a strong exhibition for the general public. Miami Life often covered the experiences of the area’s marginalized groups, including people of color, immigrants, women, lesbians and gays, sex workers, and bootleggers. In curating their own original exhibitions, students will contextualize these histories and work to create new narratives of our community.