Research Projects


1. New Formations of Violence, the City, and Democracy: Reconfiguring Inequality in Metropolises of the Global South

PI: Teresa Caldeira Professor, Department of City and Regional Planning

This research project plans to identify and analyze the ways in which new formations of violence, of the city, and of democratic practices intersect in different metropolises of the global south at the present moment, generating new formations of inequality. We are especially interested in studying the following four processes: (1) urban practices by youth groups that recreate public spaces through cultural production, performances, and street art; (2) new ways in which violence frames the everyday of these metropolitan areas (especially imbrications with organized crime and a sharp difference in the ways in which men and women are victimized by violence); (3) the constitution of new regimes of labor and how they recreate the image of the worker and its insertion in urban economies; and (4) a refashioning of gender hierarchies associated with the three previous dimensions. Finally, our research will take place in the largest democracies of the global south. We will investigate the ways in which the dimensions that structure our research coalesce to complicate democratic practices at the same time that they may expand them (as in the case of youth cultures). The research will be designed as four independent ethnographic cases and will rely mostly on qualitative research. The researchers developing this project are Teresa Caldeira (GMS and City and Regional Planning at UCB), Gautam Bhan (Indian Institute for Human Settlements, New Delhi), Kelly Gillespie (University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg), and AbdouMaliq Simone (Rujak Center for Urban Studies, Jakarta). The project also involves the Center for the Study of Violence at the University of São Paulo.

2. Urban Informal Settlements: From Local Practice to National Policy

PI: Jason Corburn Associate Professor, Department of City and Regional Planning and School of Public Health

Featured on NPR July 17, 2013
In Kenya, Using Tech To Put An 'Invisible' Slum On The Map

This project will bring together academic researchers, graduate students, NGO, government and UN representatives to analyze and generate policy recommendations for the draft Kenyan National Slum Upgrading and Prevention Policy. More generally, this project will explore how to scale-up insights and lessons from informal settlement planning and upgrading into policy, including but not limited to integrated strategies for land tenure, housing finance, infrastructure service delivery, and economic, environmental and human health improvements. The project will include joint workshops in Kenya and a workshop in Berkeley in April 2013. The project continues a 5-year partnership between Professor Jason Corburn and UC Berkeley, the University of Nairobi, Slum Dwellers International (SDI) and a host of civil society organizations in Kenya and East Africa. In addition to at least the two co-sponsored workshops in Kenya and Berkeley, a policy paper and an interactive website are expected outcomes of this project.

3. Global Immigration and American Cities: Municipal ID Cards as an Initiative in Urban Citizenship

PI: James Holston Professor, Department of Anthropology

This project will engage in ethnographic, historical, and legal research on the adoption of municipal identification cards in the United States, interrogating the impact of global immigration on U.S. cities and investigating the emergence of new urban citizenships. These ID cards arose in response to the needs of immigrant community members – in particular, undocumented immigrants – and of cities to protect these residents in light of their lack of government-issued IDs. The municipal ID card was adopted first in New Haven, CT, in 2007 and later proposed and/or implemented in other localities across the United States, including San Francisco, CA; Oakland, CA; Richmond, CA; Los Angeles, CA; Mercer County, NJ, and Ashbury Park, NJ. These cards serve as a form of identification and often also function as debit cards (for everyday transactions, including paying parking meters), and library cards. The lack of state or federal ID for undocumented immigrants has produced a confluence of community movements, local governance structures, and democratic processes. Investigating this intersection, the project will analyze how cities are countering the nationally-defined political exclusion of many of their residents, the backlash against the ID programs, and the ways in which both kinds of responses to urban immigration alter the lived spaces and imaginaries of cities. The funded project anticipates four results: (a) the assembly of a working group of graduate and undergraduate students, under the direction of the PI, to study selected cases of the card, comparing them with examples of urban citizenship initiatives globally; (b) the coauthoring of a book on the urban ID card programs by the PI and primary graduate student; (c) the development of a major grant application to fund research on urban citizenship initiatives; and (d) a workshop at UC Berkeley to bring together researchers and city officials, including a public lecture by one of the participants.

4. Culture, Nature and Borderlands

PI: You-tien Hsing Professor, Department of Geography

This proposal has three components: first, an eight-speaker, one-and-a-half day workshop in Fall 2013, focusing on the cultural and environmental history and politics of borderlands in northwestern China’s border with Mongolia and Russia, southwestern China’s border with Burma, and the US/Mexican Border; second, a GMS lecture on the natural and cultural heritage, and borders within borders in South Africa, by Professor Lynn Meskell of Stanford University in Fall 2013; and third, my research trip to Inner Mongolia in the summer of 2013, on the politics of Inner Mongolia borderlands’ heritage and ecological conservation. I plan to use the trip to prepare for a research proposal for the NSF multi-year research grant.

5. A Global Comparison of the Drivers of Auto Ownership

PI: Joan Walker Associate Professor, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering

This research project focuses on understanding the drivers of growth in auto ownership and use across the world, including the traditional factors of socio-demographics (e.g., income) but also bringing in effects such as social influences and social norms. Social norms in the sense of what the majority does – also known as mass effects – may have a strong influence in a wide range of an individual’s mobility decisions, such as choice of residential location, transportation mode choice, jaywalking, etc. Similarly, for auto ownership decisions, an individual’s intention to buy a car and the choice of car type may be influenced to a large extent by the opinions and choices of an individual’s peers. This peer effect is not typically analyzed in transportation behavior models, so our intention is to measure it and its influence on auto ownership decisions across different cultures including the US, Lebanon, Japan, China, Korea, and Indonesia. We will focus specifically on the auto ownership intentions of university students and will conduct surveys with them from which auto ownership choice models that include social norms will be developed. While the survey will bring new insights into auto ownership as well as cross-cultural comparisons, the ultimate objective is to use this information to develop behavior change strategies – especially those focusing on weakening auto ownership norms – to slow the adoption and use of cars. This research project is a recently launched collaboration among UC Berkeley, the American University of Beirut, and Kyoto University. The survey will be launched early in 2013. A workshop bringing together the research team will be held in the fall of 2013 in Berkeley.

Other Research Projects

Nezar Alsayyad

Nezar AlSayyad is an architect, planner, urban designer and urban historian. He is the chair of the Center for Middle Eastern Studies; the president of the International Association for the Study of Traditional Environments (IASTE); and the editor of Traditional Dwellings and Settlements Review (TDSR). As a scholar, he has authored and edited several books on housing, identity, tradition, urbanism, urban design, urban history, urban informality, tourism and virtuality. He has also produced and directed two public television video documentaries: “Virtual Cairo” and “At Home with Mother Earth.” AlSayyad is the author, co-author, editor, or co-editor of many books, including Streets of Islamic Cairo (1981); The Design and Planning of Housing (1984); Dwellings, Settlements and Tradition (1989); Cities and Caliphs (1991); Forms and Dominance (1992); Consuming Tradition, Manufacturing Heritage (2001); Hybrid Urbanism (2001); Muslim Europe or Euro-Islam (2002); The End of Tradition (2004); Making Cairo Medieval ( 2005); Cinematic Urbanism (2006) and The Fundamentalist City? (2010).

Jason Corburn

Jason Corburn is working with the City of Richmond, California, the Contra Costa County Public Health Department, and a number of non-profit organizations to help implement a set of “healthy city planning” projects and develop a set of healthy city indicators, all aimed at reducing health inequities. He is also working in the South Bronx with a number of local organizations to stop the siting of a jail in the community and to generate development alternatives that promote human health, job creation and environmental quality.

PCorburn is also part of a participatory planning team working to improve the lives of residents in the Mathare slum of Nairobi, Kenya. The project team, which includes the University of Nairobi and Pamoja Trust, a local non-governmental organization, is drafting integrated land use plans and policies aimed at preventing displacement of informal settlement residents, securing land tenure, and improving economic opportunities, infrastructure and environmental health. He is also researching how city climate change action plans are altering urban governance, particularly as global science is “localized” for metropolitan areas.

You-tien Hsing

You-tien Hsing has completed two books: a monograph, The Great Urban Transformation: Politics of Land and Property in China (Oxford University Press, 2010), and a co-edited volume (with Ching Kwan Lee)  Reclaiming Chinese Society: The New Social Activism (Routledge, 2009). She is now working on a new project that looks at the intertwined politics of historical and environmental preservation in metropolitan regions of Western China.

Allison Post

Allison Post is currently working on a book manuscript that examines the divergent trajectories of privatized water and sanitation systems in low and middle income countries.  This research centers on Latin America, but situates the regional experience within broader trends.  In a related project, she is also investigating how multinationals' access to international arbitration is changing the politics of infrastructure regulation in the developing world.  Another project analyzes the ways in which regulatory politics differ between different infrastructure sectors.

Ananya Roy

Ananya Roy's research focuses on postcolonial approaches to urban theory, the analysis of urban informality, and the study of urban politics and mobilizations.  She is the author of City Requiem, Calcutta: Gender and the Politics of Poverty (University of Minnesota Press, 2003), co-editor of Urban Informality: Transnational Perspectives from the Middle East, South Asia, and Latin America (Lexington Books, 2004) and co-editor of The Practice of International Health (Oxford University Press, 2008). She is the author of Poverty Capital: Microfinance and the Making of Development (Routledge, 2010) based on research funded by the Hellman Faculty Award, Prytanean Award, and the National Science Foundation. Royalso edited a book (with Aihwa Ong), Worlding Cities: Asian Experiments and the Art of Being Global (Blackwell, 2010).

Joan Walker

Joan Walker’s research focuses on behavioral modeling, emphasizing methods and their application to urban issues including health, congestion, air quality, equity, and quality of life. Many aspects of engineering, planning, and policy involve a human element, be it consumers, businesses, governments, or other organizations. Effective design and management requires understanding this human response. Within this domain, Walker does research in a number of different directions. One is to improve the statistical tools by making the models more behavioral. Her focus here is to incorporate factors such as attitudes, lifestyle, and social influences into the models. She also works on behavioral studies to uncover nontraditional but perhaps powerful influences on travel behavior, such as environmental and health impacts. She works in the area of new technologies, collaborating with Raja Sengupta of Civil Systems on the use of smart phones to nudge people towards more sustainable behavior. And she works on large-scale urban modeling systems, collaborating with Paul Waddell of City and Regional Planning to improve the sensitivity of these models to policies such as those driven by California’s SB375 (land use and greenhouse gas reductions). She also works on modeling of transport behavior in developing countries, focusing on behavior of auto adoption and statistical issues such as noisy data.

Richard Walker

Richard Walker’s current research explores California politics and economy, including a recent working paper titled “California, Pivot of the Great Recession” (co-authored with Ashok Bardhan), and a book project drawing together two decades of work on the history and contemporary successes and failures of California's development path (for UC Press). He is also working on the Living New Deal, a project to recover the lost landscape and memory of New Deal public works in California.  A third project is a book on the making of the San Francisco Bay Area, tentatively titled Picture of a Gone City (with UC Press), based on twenty years of teaching and writing about the region.