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Fall 2023

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September 20th

Audrey Petty presents "We the landmarks": reflections on High Rise Stories, an oral history of high rise public housing in Chicago

In this presentation, Audrey Petty will explore her work compiling and editing High Rise Stories, an oral history in which narrators describe their lives in Chicago’s now-demolished high rises. These particular high rises were among the largest public housing complexes in the United States and home to predominantly Black communities. Defunded by city, state, and federal governments over the course of the 1970s forward, high rise public housing was chronically neglected and mismanaged and many were ultimately torn down as part of redevelopment projects. High Rise Stories’ narratives of community, displacement, and survival amplify the experiences of many who have long been ignored, but whose hopes and struggles exist firmly at the heart of our national identity.

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Audrey Petty is a writer and educator from Chicago. Her writing has appeared in Saveur, Oxford American, Poetry, Callaloo, Southern Review, The Chicago Neighborhood Guidebook (Belt) and the Best Food Writing anthology. She has also served as guest editor of a recent Great Migration issue of Gravy magazine and as the nonfiction editor at Ninth Letter magazine.


Formally educated at Knox College and University of Massachusetts at Amherst, Petty has taught extensively in the fields of African American literature and Creative Writing on the faculty at Knox and University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She has served as the Simon Blattner Visiting Assistant Professor of Fiction at Northwestern University and the Tin House Writer-in-Residence at Portland State University. She is currently on staff at the Invisible Institute, a nonprofit journalism company on the South Side of Chicago. And she is a member of the Prison + Neighborhood Arts/Education Project, a visual arts and humanities project that connects teaching artists and scholars to incarcerated students at Stateville Maximum Security Prison through classes, workshops, a policy think tank, and guest lectures.


Petty’s oral history work, High Rise Stories: Voices from Chicago Public Housing (Voice of Witness/Haymarket Press), features firsthand accounts of twelve former residents of now-demolished Chicago Housing Authority high-rises. In a review for The Chicago Reader, Janet Potter writes, “High Rise Stories is informative and moving, empathetic and educational. While most of the CHA developments are gone, their influence on the demographics of Chicago life is not. As Paula Hawkins, who grew up in Cabrini-Green in the 60s and 70s, says, ‘The thing is: we the landmarks. Forget a building! People are the landmarks.’”

October 4th

Kristin Reynolds presents Urban Agriculture, Racial and Economic Equity: Action Research for Food and Social Justice

Urban agriculture has a long and diverse history throughout the world. Its health, social, and economic benefits for communities have been the subject of many studies and advocacy efforts seeking recognition of urban food production as a legitimate use of city space and as “real” agriculture. In the US, the past decade has seen policy support for urban food production expand at multiple scales of governance. At the same time, new forms of high tech, commercial urban agriculture have emerged, often funded through private investment and venture capital. Understanding the implications of these shifts for racial and economic inequity, within the broader US context of social inequality, is important in designing and implementing more socially just urban agriculture policies. In this talk, Kristin Reynolds discusses recent evolutions in urban agriculture practices and policy, their implications for racial and economic equity, and her current work to inform more socially just urban agriculture policy through her Food and Social Justice Action Research Lab.

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Dr. Kristin Reynolds is Chair and Assistant Professor of Food Studies at The New School in New York City. As a geographer with expertise in international agricultural development, she is interested in understanding how uneven power dynamics in the food system originate and articulate at different community and geopolitical scales. Using critical and participatory action research, her work focuses on informing the creation of more socially just food systems through scholarship, policy, and activism.

Her current research areas include: urban agriculture policy in the US and, France; small-scale heritage grain production and food sovereignty in Eastern France; and inequities experienced by immigrant and racialized farm workers in Southern France. As a part of her scholarship and food systems work, Dr. Reynolds collaborates regularly with community-based food and environmental organizations and supporters.


Dr. Reynolds’ first book Beyond the Kale: Urban Agriculture and Social Justice Activism in New York City (University of Georgia Press, 2016, co-authored with Nevin Cohen) examined the work of community-based activists to advance social justice through urban agriculture, and roles that research and scholarship can play in such initiatives. She has additionally published her work in numerous academic and public venues, including Antipode; the Annals of the American Association of Geographers; and the Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development. Her forthcoming, book Radical Food Geographies: Power, Knowledge, and Resistance (co-edited with colleagues Colleen Hammelman and Charles Levkoe) will be published with Bristol University Press in 2024.


Dr. Reynolds is an Affiliated Faculty with the Yale Center for Environmental Justice at Yale School of the Environment; a Research Associate at the European School of Political and Social Sciences in Lille, France; and a Specialist with the US Fulbright Program. She holds a Ph.D. in Geography and M.S. in International Agricultural Development from the University of California, Davis.


Instagram: drkristinreynolds

POSTPONED | Check back for an update!

Maya Singhal presents How to Fight a Mega-Jail

In 2017, New York City committed to a plan to close Rikers Island Jail Complex and build four smaller jails around the city in Manhattan’s Chinatown, Downtown Brooklyn, Mott Haven in the Bronx, and Kew Gardens in Queens. The Chinatown jail is planned to be built on the site of the current jail in the neighborhood, but rather than repurposing or remodeling the building, the city plans to demolish it and build a 300-foot mega-jail, which would be the tallest jail in the world. The fight against the new Chinatown jail has drawn together a diverse coalition concerned about the effects of the jail on the Chinatown population and the predominantly Black and Latine populations incarcerated inside it. This talk explores how concerned groups are working to bridge their differences and develop strategies to fight the new jail construction.

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Maya Singhal is a Postdoctoral Research Associate at the Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity in America and the Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs at Brown University. They completed their PhD in Anthropology at Harvard University, and they also hold MA degrees from the University of Chicago and New York University and a BA from NYU. Singhal’s research is interested broadly in how people navigate violence across generations. More specifically, their recent work deals with crime, capital, and mutual aid in African and Chinese diasporic populations. Singhal’s current book project is an ethnographic and historical study of African American and Chinese American self- and community defense in New York City and the histories of extralegal neighborhood protection (e.g. gangs, neighborhood patrols and associations, etc.) that inform these present-day efforts towards safety.

November 8th

Maya Carrasquillo presents Infrastructure Apartheid to Liberatory Infrastructures

 “Infrastructure Apartheid to Liberatory Infrastructures”- this phrase highlights a fundamental shift in our framing of both harms and solutions, respectively, from individual and direct, to systemic and distributed. My aim, as we continue to not only challenge our theoretical framings but also our engineering approaches, is to research and pilot field work that ultimately bring us closer to an envisioned future where liberation can be realized. This talk will highlight both theory and current research from my lab that demonstrate how we are examining, critiquing, and working towards this goal. 


Maya Elizabeth Carrasquillo (she/her/hers) is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and is the Principal Investigator of the Liberatory Infrastructures Lab (LiL) at the University of California, Berkeley. The mission of is to develop systems of critical infrastructure that support liberation and restorative justice for all, particularly of historically under-resourced and historically marginalized communities. LiL is committed to evaluating, designing, and implementing just and liberatory critical infrastructure for current and future generations. Dr. Carrasquillo holds a B.S. in Environmental Engineering, and a minor in History from the Georgia Institute of Technology and a Ph.D. in Environmental Engineering from the University of South Florida. Her research has primarily studied the intersections of stormwater management, environmental justice, and complex hydrosocial systems, particularly focusing on historically underserved communities to develop a conceptual framework for equitable decision-making. More recently, her group’s research can broadly be described as infrastructural justice spanning food, energy, water and technology applications for the design, implementation, and maintenance of infrastructure systems for the most vulnerable communities. More specifically, our group is motivated to conduct research with communities on the margins, and those often excluded and disconnected from what are often grid-dependent infrastructure systems. Her work employs mixed methods approaches including geographic information systems (GIS) and remote sensing, and qualitative methods which emphasize community engagement, ethnography, and co-creation of design and implementation for critical infrastructure. Dr. Carrasquillo is a Huelskamp Faculty Fellow which recognizes a promising new assistant professor in UC Berkeley’s College of Engineering for their innovative research. She is also the Inaugural Faculty Director of UC Berkeley’s new initiative for Community Engaged Education in Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE2). Dr. Carrasquillo is a certified Envision Sustainability Professional (ENV SP) and EcoDistricts Accredited Professional.

December 6th

Dana Thomson presents Co-Design in Global Development Data Initiatives

What is co-design, and what does it look like in global initiatives that produce data about development indicators? Projects that strive for inclusivity might hold well-designed multi-stakeholder engagement workshops throughout a project, but still see limited local uptake of their data in the end. Why are multi-stakeholder workshops usually not enough? How might global data initiatives find grounding in the multitude of realities that exist across, and even within, communities? This presentation reflects on how global data initiatives might unintentionally exclude the voices they care about most, and introduces a framework for (more) equitable and inclusive data co-design processes.


Dr. Thomson has worked at the intersection of demography, public health, and geography for two decades, and strives for open data, user-centered design, equitable partnerships that address historical inequities, and co-design of meaningful information.


Dana helped to establish, and now coordinates, the Integrated Deprived Area Mapping System (IDEAMAPS) Network which brings together experts from traditionally-siloed “slum” mapping traditions including community members, government officials, humanitarians, and data scientists. Several projects within the IDEAMAPS Network are building the infrastructure and processes necessary for “slum” residents and local experts to not only access the data they need in appropriate formats, but also to validate modelled outputs (maps), and for modelers to access continually generated validation data to improve models. The idea is (a) generate routine accurate data about city deprivations and assets by (b) facilitating bidirectional flows of knowledge and trust among stakeholder who might not normally interact, or who have fraught relationships (c) without putting people who live in “slums” and other deprived areas at risk of harassment, fines, or eviction. Co-design with communities and city governments is core at all stages of projects including inception and design of models, data outputs, platforms, and learning materials.


Dana holds a BA in Geography from the George Washington University, an MSc in Global Public Health from Harvard School of Public Health, and an MSc and PhD in Social Statistics from the University of Southampton (UK). Her research has evaluated the accuracy of gridded population estimates and their feasibility for household survey fieldwork in lower- and middle-income countries, as well as several large-scale evaluations of health systems using geospatial and household survey data.

All colloquia are held via Zoom webinar from 12:00-1:00 pm ET

Recordings will be made available after the presentation

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