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Anthony King tribute conference

Writing the Global City: A tribute conference
   to Anthony King

by Leah Ferentinos

Distinguished professors, artists, scholars and researchers gathered from around the globe to participate in an interdisciplinary art history conference held at Binghamton University in October.

"Writing the Global City" was a tribute conference to Professor Emeritus Anthony D. King, who taught for two decades in the art history and sociology departments (from 1987 through 2006). The conference, organized by the Binghamton University Art History Department, celebrated King's legacy of scholarship, research, publications and mentorship of architectural and urban scholars.

"I prefer to see today's conference not as a tribute to my own achievements," said King, "but rather to the faculty, facilities and friendships I've made here (at Binghamton University) which have provided the opportunity for me to do what I've been able to do."

Those successes span decades and include a myriad of publications — books, essays and articles at the forefront of research on globalization, architecture and urban development. King studied "the global city" years before terms like "globalization" became widespread in academia.

Harpur College Dean Anne McCall, who provided opening remarks at the conference, cited King's breadth and depth of scholarship and understanding as ahead of its time.

"Many fields have changed because of Tony's influence on them," said McCall. "When we think of what constitutes academic success, we think of contributions of new knowledge, impacting the field and changing the discussion — of living legacies. There is no better example among us than Tony King."

King credited Harpur College's strong tradition of interdisciplinary education for creating an environment of openness and exploration that has acted as the catalyst for many of his accomplishments.

"The time I spent here has certainly been quite critical in terms of my own development," said King. "(Harpur College) provided unique opportunities for me in teaching and research."

King's former PhD students echoed his sentiment on Harpur's interdisciplinary focus.

"When I attended Binghamton, the art history program was focused on interdisciplinary education, which is everywhere now — but back then, it was revolutionary," said Abidin Kusno MA 93, PhD '98, an associate professor at the Institute of Asian Research and Tier II Canada Research Chair in Asian Urbanism and Culture at the University of British Columbia.

"Tony, in particular, was interested in bringing in international students to broaden the focus," said Kusno. "He introduced and appreciated different perspectives, and encouraged us to build our own."

It's that very interdisciplinary and international focus that drew in scholars like Bulent Batuman, '06, and Kivanc Kilinc, '10, from Turkey in order to study art history with King at Harpur College.

"Diversity is one of the strongest aspects of Binghamton University," said Kilinc, who works at Yasar University in Turkey as an assistant professor of architectural history. "I made good use of that kind of an international environment."

King glowed with pride throughout the conference witnessing his former students demonstrate just how much such an environment helped them develop into the scholars and art historians they are today.

"These are no longer my graduate students," said King. "They're all full-blooded academics and professors now. That's what Binghamton University does for its graduates."

Bianca Freire-Medeiros, '02, a senior lecturer in sociology at the Getulio Vargas Foundation in Brazil, can attest to that. She fondly recalled her time obtaining her PhD at Binghamton University as a "life changing experience."

"The interdisciplinary nature to the (Binghamton University art history) program gave me the foundation for what I do now," said Freire-Medeiros.

Throughout the conference, speakers often returned to this concept of interdisciplinary learning and teaching — that it takes an intersection of academic disciplines to better explain the world in which we live.

In fact, the event itself was also interdisciplinary, co-sponsored by the Harpur College Dean's Office, the Fernand Braudel Center, the Binghamton University Alumni Association, Convocations Committee, and Departments of History, Philosophy and Sociology, and representing an array of disciplines and scholarship. Topics spanned from those like Freire-Medeiros' "Globalizing Urban Poverty Through Tourism" to Kilinc's "Borrowed (Post)-Colonialism? The Spatial Construction of the Public Health Discourse in Early Republican Turkey, The Central Institute of Hygiene."

"The speakers (King's former students) exemplified the global reach of Tony's intellectual engagements, teaching and mentorship," said Binghamton University's John Tagg, who was recently promoted to the rank of distinguished professor, the highest academic rank in the SUNY system.

Conference organizer and associate professor of art history Nancy Um summed up the conference as an "amazing convergence of people who have each been shaped by Binghamton University," while Dean McCall commended the "rich panoply of contributions" made by those whom King mentored.

"It really shows how far Binghamton's reputation and legacy has spread," said Um. "It affirms the unique nature of research and scholarship that the department of art history at Binghamton University has carried out for several decades, as well as the intellectual impact of the program around the world today."
Many of King's former students can also see that impact in their everyday lives.

Nihal Perera '95, a professor of Urban Planning at Ball State University in Indiana, notes King's mentorship and the diversity of coursework as highlights of his time studying in the art history department.

"The time I was at Binghamton was clearly a special time," said Perera. "It gave new dimensions and perspectives to (my areas of interest) and exposed me to different ways of looking at the world."

"Tony was a good mentor, teacher, friend, adviser and role model," said Perera.

Greig Crysler '98, an associate professor in the Department of Architecture and Arcus Chair at the College of Environmental Design at the University of California at Berkeley, recalls his time with King as "enriching and rewarding."

"Tony was a striking example of the diverse intellectual interests among the faculty here," said Crysler, "and he always managed to be supportive and understanding along the way."

Jill Delaney '97, an archivist in Photography Acquisition and Research at the Library and Archives of Canada, appreciates King's willingness to share his scope of knowledge with her while she studied here.

King is grateful for the praise, but insists that it was, in fact, a privilege for him to do so.

"I came here to teach," said King, "but I've never been to a place where I learned so much."

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Last Updated: 12/10/14