The Berkeley Lab for Speculative Urbanisms (BLSU) is dedicated to the study of urban geography, encompassing inquiry on the web of relations among cities, regions, and metropolitan areas. The urban laboratory has a long history in the social sciences, yet this tradition is marked by a colonial sensibility. With an emphasis on urban ecology, urban labs have historically focused on individual behavior and failed to recognize issues rooted in social, political, and economic structures. This approach renders marginalized communities, primarily Black and Latinx, as problems that need to be fixed. The resulting analysis of urban problems and proposed solutions frequently privileges the perspective of dominant social groups and objectifies communities, practices, and space in terms of racial difference, rather than the structures and power relations that produce urban problems. Rather than experimenting with and on urban sites and their inhabitants, we take the lab itself as a representational/conceptual and material experiment in feminist mentoring and incubating the work of graduate students and community partners. The notion of “speculative urbanisms” guiding the BLSU thus refers to multiple and contested projects of urban future-making: those authored by capital and white supremacy, by urbanites, and by the academy.
The BLSU is grounded in (Black and woman of color) feminist, collaborative, and interdisciplinary approaches to change the conditions of knowledge production and create a home to challenge mainstream thinking about the urban. The BLSU examines the cultural, economic, political, environmental, and technological processes that are transforming urban space and society. Our research and scholarship will emphasize the movements for justice and politics of reclamation that emerge in response to urban restructuring.