Presidential Symposium Will Draw Urban Crowd

October 15, 2002

Mary Ann Travis

Hip hop lives, civil rights dies. See the urban in suburban. Learn from Los Angeles. These phrases could be lines from a rap song. Instead, they are nuggets of issues that will be raised at the Presidential Symposium on Oct. 23. Entitled Space and Place: Urban Frontiers of the 21st century, the symposium will feature four of the hottest thinkers in the field of urban studies, according to Ana Lopez, associate provost and associate professor of communication.

Lopez says the speakers Todd Boyd, Michael Dear, Sen. Myron Orfield and Daphne Spainwill bring an edge to their topics that should spark lively debate and appeal to anyone interested in the diffuse field of urban studies. We want to get a provocative discussion going, she says. In their work, the speakers approach urban issues from a variety of disciplinary perspectives.

Boyd is a media scholar and associate professor in the School of Cinema-Television at the University of Southern California. He writes about black popular culture, focusing on inner-city ghetto culture and how its represented in movies and music. His book Am I Black Enough explores the issue of how black does black have to be before it can be considered legitimate black popular culture, says Lopez.

Boyd raises questions such as whether any movie with Denzel Washington starring in it is black and what it takes for a movie to be considered black. Dear is a University of Southern California professor of geography. Often cited as an authority in geography, Dear has a forthcoming book Postmodern Urbanism. He also edited Rethinking Los Angeles.

Because Los Angeles is the quintessential urban space in which to study urban issues, Dear insists that all urban scholars can learn from Los Angeles. Orfield brings the viewpoint of suburbia to the symposium. He is a Minnesota state senator; president of Ameregis, a research and geographic information system firm; and adjunct professor at the University of Minnesota Law School.

Orfield is the author of Metropolitics, an influential book on the expansion of cities into suburbs. He contends that suburbs are becoming like inner cities with similar problems, but in a different place. Spain, professor of urban and environmental planning at the University of Virginias School of Architecture, wrote Back to the City, Balancing Act and the forthcoming How Women Saved the City.

Spain looks at issues of space and urbanity through a gender focus, says Lopez. Her scholarship combines a demographers social science perspective with a planners analysis of spatial issues. The speakers will spend all day on campus. In the morning at the Diboll Conference Center, theyll make scholarly presentations. Anyone who wants to attend this session should contact Lopez at 865-5261.

The public symposium, where there will be ample time for questions and answers, is at 4 p.m. in the Kendall Cram Room of the University Center. Everyone is encouraged to attend this session, says Lopez. Larry Powell, director of the Tulane-Xavier National Center for the Urban Community and professor of history, will moderate the symposium. For further information, check

Mary Ann Travis may be reached at

Tulane University, New Orleans, LA 70118 504-865-5000