Matthew Miller: Black Belongingness – Lessons on Culture, Commerce, and Creativity from South Los Angeles
Monday, March 11th
Location: 305 Wurster Hall
Lecture: 11 AM - 12:30 PM
Few works in urban planning and design explore the geography of Black entrepreneurs with attention to how they claim, make, and keep spaces; even fewer make meaningful connections between those Black geographies with arts and culture. Dr. Miller’s mixed methods research – from photography to spatially-weighted regressions – maps the spatial practices of the Black creative class (BCC), particularly within local scenes for music, visual art, food, and fashion in Los Angeles. By answering research questions around 1) where Black-owned businesses cluster in California comparatively, 2) what their social relationships are to those locations in clusters like South Los Angeles, and 3) how they engage with political processes to reshape them according to innovative community visions, Miller’s work makes explicit how Black culture combines with the economy to create different forms of belongingness at various scales of geography. Namely, Miller’s 34-month case study of Leimert Park Village in South Los Angeles reveals the ongoing challenges (i.e. aversion to commercialization, intergenerational lack of access to debt financing) and opportunities (i.e. refuge from leisure restraints, countering depreciation) in Black placemaking.
At the core, Miller is redefining an under-developed theoretical framework to expand our understanding of Black belongingness in the city called Black urbanism, which he assert as a transdisciplinary, assets-oriented approach to studying the civics, stories, and spaces of Black life. As such, his various employed methods correspond to different forms of belongingness: spatial belonging explored through econometrics (i.e. clustering, spatial correlations), cultural belonging explored through visual ethnography (i.e. participant-observation, oral history, visioning), and civic belonging (i.e. photography, archival work). By reframing Blackness as a dynamic resource that communities draw upon to foster value rather than a fixed liability, Black urbanism provides a counterweight to balance deficit-driven narratives in Black geographies, economic development theory, equity planning, and urban humanities to inspire what he calls the “Afrofuturist turn” in urban planning.
Matthew Jordan Miller is a Postdoctoral Fellow in the School of Design’s Department of City and Regional Planning. His intellectual interests are cultural economic development, placemaking and place-keeping, and visual/spatial analysis, particularly on and for Black/African diasporic communities. He is a photographer, storyteller, and geographer who approaches these topics using mixed methods for producing insights that he weaves into his essays, presentations, teachings, and research. Dr. Miller has worked through fellowships and consultancies at governmental agencies such as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the City of Stockton, the City of Los Angeles' Economic and Workforce Development Department, and most recently the National Endowment for the Arts as a Panelist. He is working on his first book, based on his doctoral dissertation, exploring and theorizing around the geography of Black commerce, culture, and creativity in the United States. His intellectual work has been honored by the National Academy of the Sciences and the Association for Collegiate Schools in Planning and published in the journals like Planning Theory and Practice. His civic work has been recognized by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the California State Legislature. His artistic and cultural work has been featured in the New York Times, the Boston Globe, and the Philadelphia Tribune and exhibited in galleries in Seattle and Philadelphia. He is first-generation college graduate who has earned degrees in African-American and Urban Studies from Stanford University, City Planning from MIT, and Urban Planning and Development from USC
Devanne Brookins: The Role of Informal Institutions in Change: Urban Land and Transportation in Ghana
Thursday, April 4th
Location: 106 Wurster Hall
Lecture: 5:30 - 7 PM
The two part lecture focuses on the land reform, urban transport, and governance in Ghana. Beyond engaging the land and transport sectors, these projects interrogate different forms of urbanization in the so-called “late urbanizers.” Much of this is due to the complex institutional environments in which rapid urbanization occurs and the developmental imperatives of economic growth and poverty reduction. Each of these themes has implications for urban development and urban form, not least of which include questions of access and inequality.
Land Reform in Urban and Peri-Urban Ghana: Demographic shifts in Ghana, including rapid urbanization and urban expansion have led to rising pressures on land, including scarcity and land-related conflict. At the same time, land scarcity and new infrastructure investments yield rising land values, which could be leveraged to support much needed urban development and service provision. Land pressures and land potential both necessitate institutional change in Ghana’s land sector. To address these challenges and to achieve its developmental potential, Ghana, in conjunction with the World Bank, developed the National Land Policy in 1999, followed by a land administration project (LAP) in 2003, with a core element focused on institutional reform. Recognizing the complexity of land governance in Ghana, the LAP project takes an integrative approach to institutional reform, attempting to join the customary and statutory sectors to improve land management. In examining this approach and institutional innovations that support it, the presentation will address the following questions: How do informal institutions and organizations influence institutional change? How do interests, characteristics and capabilities of informal organizations matter for the implementation and outcomes of reform?
Urban Transport and Governance in Accra: Demographic pressures have also prompted changes in the urban transport sector in Ghana, along with rising motorization, congestion and consequent environmental concerns. To address the highly congested city center and improve accessibility and mobility in Accra, the government of Ghana, again in collaboration with the World Bank, initiated the National Transport Policy in 2008 followed by the Ghana Urban Transport Program (GUTP). In the ensuing years, the project moved to implement institutional reforms and develop a bus-rapid transit system. The result was a shift in institutional arrangements and the development of the Aayalolo bus service, which was launched in September of 2016. The grounding of this service in October 2018 provides an interesting empirical case of how informal organizations are enmeshed in governance and politics that ultimately influence the outcomes of these interventions.
Devanne Brookins is a Research Coordinator at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design, supporting the Transforming Urban Transport - The Role of Political Leadership (TUT-POL) Sub-Saharan Africa project. Her research interests are centered on the intersection of urban development, governance and land in developing countries, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa. Her research is driven by overarching questions how urban governance and development – inclusive of service provision, infrastructure and land management - contribute to distributional outcomes that perpetuate inequality. Her dissertation research explored land reform in urban and peri-urban areas in Ghana, the process of institutional change and the role of informal actors. Prior to her doctoral studies, Devanne worked in international development research and program management with organizations such as The Urban Institute and Oxfam America. She has also consulted for the African Development Bank, UN Habitat in the Urban Land, Legislation and Governance Branch and the African Center for Economic Transformation. Devanne holds a PhD in International Development Planning from the Department of Urban Studies and Planning (DUSP) at MIT; dual Masters’ degrees from Columbia University in Urban Planning (GSAPP) and International Affairs (SIPA); and a BA in Political Science and French from Wellesley College.
Michael Rios: Just Urban Design? Ethics, Politics, and Practice
Monday, April 15th
Location: 102 Wurster Hall
Lecture: 11 AM - 12:30 PM
Michael Rios was appointed Director of the Office of Public Scholarship and Engagement in October 2018. As Director, Michael is leading university-wide efforts to reward and recognize public scholarship in research, teaching, and creative practice.
With over 20 years of community-based research, teaching, and practice, he has collaborated with numerous public agencies, municipalities, and community groups. Michael has been recognized for these efforts, including the Association for Community Design Service Award (2005), the Prize for Creative Integration of Practice and Education from the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (2003), and the University of California Chancellor's Award for Community Partnerships (2000).
A faculty member since 2007, Michael is Professor in the Department of Human Ecology and served as Chair of the Community Development Graduate Group (2011-2015). Prior to coming to Davis, Michael was Director of the Hamer Center for Community Design at The Pennsylvania State University (1999-2007), which focused on faculty and student involvement in community-based research and learning. As Director, he oversaw the creation of a dozen partnerships with public, private, and non-profit organizations.
Michael’s research has focused on institutional capacity-building, community engagement, and cross-cultural planning and design. He has authored or co-authored over twenty journal articles and book chapters, and has co-edited several books including Diálogos: Placemaking in Latino Communities (2013) and Community Development and Democratic Practice (2017). Michael has also served as a PI and Co-PI on numerous grants and contracts including a USDA Higher Education Challenge Grant to assess the current state of community development education in the U.S. (2018-Present), leading the development and implementation of a curriculum on fair housing and social inclusion for the CA Dept. of Housing and Community Development (2016-17), and a USDE Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education Grant to facilitate an international community-based student learning exchange program between several US and Brazilian universities (2002-2005).
Jared Enriquez: Returning to Nature: Flood Buyouts as a Climate Adaptation Strategy
Monday, April 22nd
Location: 305 Wurster Hall
Lecture: 11 AM - 12:30 PM
Many scientists and policymakers believe that large-scale residential relocation is necessary to adapt to the complex challenges of flooding and climate change. In New York State, local governments rely on federal buyout policies to fund and implement flooding-based relocations. This lecture discusses how cities utilize federal flood buyout policies to territorialize climate adaptation in an era of widening economic marginalization and local autonomy for disaster recovery. Drawing from field work completed for my dissertation, including interviews with planners, spatial data, and a review of policy documents, I argue that hazard mitigation and fiscal divestment drive decisions for retreat. The small-scale of pilot communities for which retreat has already began suggests that the scale in which buyouts are pursued would be insufficient to provide a substantive buffer from severe weather events for urbanized regions. I conclude with recommendations on ways that local planners can expand the reach of property acquisitions as a method of climate resilience for neighborhoods seeking retreat.
Jared Enriquez is fourth-year PhD candidate in City & Regional Planning at Cornell University. Jared’s research centers on water policy, environmental management, and community development. His dissertation examines how flood buyout programs in New York State have emerged and function as a municipal tool for post-disaster recovery and ecological restoration. This project aims to assist practitioners in managing environmental change and finding housing solutions for those impacted or displaced by flood events. After Cornell, Jared hopes to become an assistant professor whose research will continue to assess the equity implications of environmental policies and the diversification of climate adaptation actors.