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Spring 2017

Thursday, April 6 I 4:00-5:30pm

ISSI Graduate Fellows Seminar Series: 

"How It Slips Away/We Still Here: A Blues Geography of Black Portland"

Lisa K. Bates, Associate Professor, Director, Center for Urban Studies, Toulan School of Urban Studies and Planning, Portland State University

with Carolina Reid, Assistant Professor of City and Regional Planning, UC Berkeley, as respondent

Black Portland is often portrayed through metrics of disparity and deficiency, without reference to particular regional structures of opportunity and disenfranchisement, and without hearing the voices of Black Portlanders themselves. Professor Bates uses Clyde Woods’ framework of blues epistemology as Black ways of knowing geography in order to elucidate the place history and justice claims of Black Portland. Black Portlanders’ experience is at once highly particular and universal in its blues narrative of enclosure, displacement, and the desecration of sacred spaces, expressed through stories of what artist Sharita Towne calls “joyful hardships.” Professor Bates considers how an emancipatory planning process, the Portland People’s Plan, can shift from recognition--the blues story of what might have been but for racial oppression-- to reclamation. By asking Black Portlanders to imagine what it would look like if their city loved Black people, the planning creates a space for both a counter-narrative of community history and a collectively developed pathway towards a more just future.  

170 Wurster Hall

Co-sponsored by Center for Research on Social Change, Center for Race and Gender, Institute of Urban and Regional Development, Department of City and Regional Planning, and Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society, UC Berkeley

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Tuesday, March 7 |  4:00-5:30pm

Center for Research on Social Change presents: 

"Is ‘Decarceration’ Even a Word? The Legal Reform of Mass Incarceration in California"

Anjuli Verma, Chancellor's Postdoctoral Fellow, Jurisprudence and Social Policy, UC Berkeley

Scholarship on mass incarceration in the U.S. has surged over recent decades, for good reason. However, this talk pivots attention to prison downsizing and decarceration as emergent social facts in the 21st century. Prisoner rights litigation (Brown v. Plata 2011) in combination with state law and policy innovations in the form of Public Safety Realignment (Assembly Bill 109 2011) and the voter-initiated Proposition 47 (2014) have made California the current epicenter of prison downsizing. Realignment legislation devolved criminal justice supervision from the state to the county level, making counties responsible for the penalties they impose for a sizeable class of offenses. The present research investigates how California’s 58 counties responded to this challenge. Findings from the first in-depth analysis of the state’s prison Realignment will be presented with respect to a key question: will Realignment result in system-wide decarceration, or merely the relocation of incarceration to alternative institutional sites, such as local jails? Multiple methods are used to describe and explain different responses and identify the local conditions that appear to have made decarceration possible in some places but not others. Discussion of the theoretical and policy implications will confront foundational questions about the social organization of governmental power and conditions of institutional change and resistance, as well as urge the field to revisit deinstitutionalization as a distinct social process with consequences for stratification and inequality, community health and wellbeing, and human dignity.

Wildavsky Conference Room, ISSI, 2538 Channing Way

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Monday, February 6 | 4:30-6:00 pm

Center for Research on Social Change Colloquia Series:

"Third World Studies: Theorizing Liberation"

Gary Okihiro, Professor, International and Public Affairs, Columbia University

A conversation with author about his book, Third World Studies: Theorizing Liberation.  In 1968 the Third World Liberation Front at San Francisco State College demanded the creation of a Third World studies program to counter the existing curricula that ignored issues of power—notably, imperialism and oppression. The administration responded by institutionalizing an ethnic studies program; Third World studies was over before it began. Detailing the field's genesis and premature death, Gary Y. Okihiro presents an intellectual history of ethnic studies and Third World studies and shows where they converged and departed by identifying some of their core ideas, concepts, methods, and theories. In so doing, he establishes the contours of a unified field of study—Third World studies—that pursues a decolonial politics by examining the human condition broadly, especially in regard to oppression, and critically analyzing the locations and articulations of power as manifested in the social formation. Okihiro's framing of Third World studies moves away from ethnic studies' liberalism and its U.S.-centrism to emphasize the need for complex thinking and political action in the drive for self-determination. 

Wildavsky Conference Room, ISSI, 2538 Channing Way

Co-sponsored by Center for Race & GenderDepartments of African American Studies and Ethnic Studies, UC Berkeley


Fall 2016

Thursday, October 6 I 4:00-5:30pm

"When States ‘Come Out’: The Politics of Visibility and the Diffusion of Sexual Minority Rights in Europe"

Phillip M. Ayoub, PhD, Assistant Professor, Politics, Drexel University

In the last two decades, the LGBT movement has gained momentum that is arguably unprecedented in speed and suddenness when compared to other human rights movements. This talk investigates the recent history of transnational movement in Europe, focusing on the diffusion of the norms it champions and the overarching question of why, despite similar international pressures, the trajectories of socio-legal recognition for LGBT minorities are so different across states. In this talk, I suggest new domestic preconditions and international pathways for socio-legal change. I make the case that a politics of visibility is central to norm diffusion. The exchange of ideas with other countries—which activists can broker and enable—and the extent of a state’s openness to international organizations have demonstrable effects on diffusion and social change. They have engendered the interactions between movements and states that empower marginalized people - mobilizing actors to demand change, influencing the spread of new legal standards, and weaving new ideas into the fabrics of societies. 

Wildavsky Conference Room, ISSI, 2538 Channing Way

Co-sponsored by Center for Race & Gender Social Movements Working Group and the Institute of European Studies

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Thursday, October 13 I 12:00-1:30pm

"Career Choices, Return Paths, and Social Contributions: Findings from the African Alumni Project"

Robin Marsh Ph.D., Resident Researcher, Institute for the Study of Societal Issues, UC Berkeley

This talk reports on a two and half year (2014-2016) collaborative multi-university tracer study of African alumni of partner universities (UC Berkeley, University of Michigan, McGill University, University of Toronto, Simon Fraser and EARTH in Costa Rica), supported by the MasterCard Foundation.  The abridged and full reports are just out: http://africanalumni.berkeley.edu.  This pioneering study, led by Robin Marsh, is the first of its kind to investigate the career trajectories and social contributions of African alumni of international universities.  In addition to a comprehensive survey, the in-depth interviews with sixty UC Berkeley African alumni on the continent and in the diaspora reveal fascinating life stories of return dilemmas, career choices and transformational leadership.  The findings have important policy implications for international scholarship programs and for universities interested in expanding their global impact particularly through stronger alumni networks. This talk will present the main research questions and findings of the study.

Wildavsky Conference Room, ISSI, 2538 Channing Way

Co-sponsored by Center for African Studies, UC Berkeley

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Wednesday, October 26 | 12:00-1:30 pm

"Birth Matters: Black Women and Research Justice as Transformative Praxis"

Julia Chinyere Oparah, Associate Provost and Professor and Co-Chair of Ethnic Studies, Mills College

Research justice is a strategic framework within which those directly affected by structural violence and discrimination use research tools in order to achieve self determination and lasting social change. Based on a term coined by DataCenter, an Oakland-based research collective, this movement toward community-driven research demands that academic researchers interrogate questions of power, privilege and accountability in our research praxis. Using a research justice approach, Oparah worked alongside members of Black Women Birthing Justice to document black women's experiences of childbirth, and to publish an anthology of critical essays and testimonies on black bodies and birth justice. Their research uncovered birthing as a site of disabling, trauma or even death for black women and gender non-conforming people. In this talk, Oparah explores her experience as an activist scholar in the movement to #LiberateBlackBirth and shares both the transformative power and the dilemmas of research justice.

Wildavsky Conference Room, ISSI, 2538 Channing Way

Co-sponsored by Center for Race & Gender Social Movements Working Group and Berkeley Center for Social Medicine

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Thursday, November 3 I 4:00-5:30pm

"23/7: Pelican Bay Prison and the Rise of Long-Term Solitary​ Confinement"

Keramet Reiter, Assistant Professor, Criminology, Law & Society and Law, UC Irvine 

With an introduction by Jonathan Simon, Adrian A. Kragen Professor of Law, UC Berkeley 

Commentators: 
Francisco Casique, Lecturer, Ethnic Studies, UC Berkeley 

Rebecca McLennan, Associate Professor, History, UC Berkeley  

Franklin E. Zimring, William G. Simon Professor, Law, UC Berkeley 

Originally meant to be brief and exceptional, solitary confinement in U.S. prisons has become long term and common. Prisoners in solitary spend twenty three hours a day in featureless cells, with no visitors or human contact for years on end. They are held entirely at administrators’ discretion, with no judges or juries involved. In 23/7,legal scholar Keramet Reiter tells the history of an original “supermax,” California’s Pelican Bay State Prison, where extreme conditions sparked statewide hunger strikes in 2011 and 2013—the latter involving nearly 30,000 prisoners. Reiter describes how the Pelican Bay prison was created—with literally no legislative oversight—as a panicked response to the perceived rise of black radicalism in California prisons in the 1970s. Through stories of gang bosses, small-time parolees, and others, she portrays the arbitrary manner in which prisoners are chosen for solitary confinement, held for years, and routinely released directly onto the streets. Here we see the social costs and mental havoc of years in isolation. The product of fifteen years of research in and about prisons, this book is instant required reading on a topic that increasingly commands national attention.

 2240 Piedmont Avenue, Berkeley, CA

Sponsored by Center for the Study of Law and Society

Co-sponsored by Center for Research on Social Change and Human Rights Center


Spring 2016

Thursday, March 31, 2016

"The Self-Help Myth: How Philanthropy Fails to Alleviate Poverty"

Erica Kohl-Arenas, Assistant Professor of Nonprofit Management, The New School

Can philanthropy alleviate inequality? Do antipoverty programs work on the ground? In this eye-opening analysis, Erica Kohl-Arenas bores deeply into how these issues play out in California’s Central Valley, which is one of the wealthiest agricultural production regions in the world and also home to the poorest people in the United States.  Through the lens of a provocative set of case studies, The Self-Help Myth reveals how philanthropy maintains systems of inequality by attracting attention to the behavior of poor people while shifting the focus away from structural inequities and relationships of power that produce poverty.  In Fresno County, for example, which has a $5.6 billion-plus agricultural industry, migrant farm workers depend heavily on food banks, religious organizations, and family networks to feed and clothe their families.  Foundation professionals espouse well-intentioned, hopeful strategies to improve the lives of the poor.  These strategies contain specific ideas—in philanthropy terminology, “theories of change”— that rely on traditional American ideals of individualism and hard work, such as self-help, civic participation, and mutual prosperity.  But when used in partnership with well-defined limits around what foundations will and will not fund, these ideals become fuzzy concepts promoting professional and institutional behaviors that leave relationships of poverty and inequality untouched.

Wildavsky Conference Room, ISSI, 2538 Channing Way, UC Berkeley


Fall 2015

Thursday, September 24, 2015

"Moments of Refusal: Thinking through Antiblackness and Black Futurity in Research on Urban Communities and Schooling"

Michael Dumas, Assistant Professor, Graduate School of Education and African American Studies, UC Berkeley

Hegemonic notions of race, multiculturalism and diversity proffer an understanding of social progress that is generally linear, gradual, steady and earnest. The story we tell ourselves is that we are becoming ever more democratic and tolerant, that we are more sophisticated in our ability to synthesize and analyze information about race and racism, and that we are more committed to racial equity, justice and opportunity than ever before. However, in this historical moment, we also witness increasing economic inequality along racial lines, nearly weekly stories of anti-Black violence and death, massive urban deterritorialization and dispersal, erasing Black homeplaces and priming these spaces for white accumulation. Through it all, the discourse in the public sphere suggests an increasing sense of justification of economic and social inequality, a sense of corporate and white entitlement to (dis)possession of land, and a seething disgust and disregard for the lives of Black people. In this talk, Professor Dumas wants to briefly explore what it means to research and document contradictory historical moment(s) of official anti-racist progress and white innocence, on the one hand, and on the other hand, enduring white defensiveness and racial fragility in the face of material and psychic Black suffering. Most importantly, how do we refuse hegemonic constructions of historical racial memory in our own work, and how do we acknowledge and honor attempts by insurgent Black subjects to refuse antiblackness and put forward alternative notions of Black historicity and futurity?

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Thursday, October 20, 2015

"Biotechnologies and Immigration: Biological Citizenship and the Use of DNA Testing for Family Reunification"

Torsten Heinemann, Professor of Sociology, Institute of Sociology, Universität Hamburg

Since the 1990s, many countries around the world have begun to use DNA analysis to establish biological relatedness in family reunification cases. To be reunited, family members have to prove their family status by official documents. Even if applicants possess the required documents, immigration authorities often reject the information as they question the authenticity of the documents. In this context, many countries resort to DNA tests to resolve cases in which they consider the information presented on family relations to be incomplete or unsatisfactory. In this talk, I present the results of an international research project on the use of DNA testing for family reunification in Europe and will compare them with the situation in the USA. I outline general trends of DNA analysis for family reunification and analyze the societal and political implications of parental testing in this context. I argue that DNA analyses for family reunification establish and strengthen a biological family model which is in contrast to the more pluralistic and social concepts of family in many societies in Europe and North America. I will then relate my findings to the ongoing debate on biological citizenship and show that biological criteria play an important role in decision-making on citizenship rights in nation-states. I argue that the use of parental testing for immigration endorses a biological concept of the family that is mobilized to diminish citizenship rights.The argument is based on an extensive document analysis as well as interviews with representatives of international governmental organizations, international and national NGOs and immigration authorities, lawyers specializing in immigration law, geneticists and those applying for family reunification.

Co-sponsored by the Berkeley Center for Social Medicine


Spring 2015

Monday, May 4, 2015

"Racialized Punitive Social Control: The Criminalization of Black and Latino Boys"

Victor Rios, Associate Professor of Sociology, UC Santa Barbara 

Professor Rios will discuss his findings from 10 years of ethnography in Northern and Southern California with "juvenile delinquent" and gang associated boys.  He will also discuss findings from his latest research project on social movements in Ferguson, Missouri. Rios' work analyzes the role of social control in determining the well-being of young people living in urban marginality, tracks the social consequences of the punitive state and punitive social control-across institutional settings, and examines young people’s resilience and responses to social marginalization.

Sponsored by the Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society. Co-sponsored by the School of Social Welfare and Center for Research on Social Change

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Friday, May 2, 2014

"Breaking Barriers, Building Community: 35 Years of Training Social Change Scholars"

2014 marks the 35th anniversary of graduate training at the Institute for the Study of Social Change (now the Institute for the Study of Societal Issues). For more than three decades, ISSC/I has provided mentorship, training and support to numerous doctoral students, who have gone on to produce social change scholarship that transforms the world and the academy. In recognition of this anniversary, this conference features presentations by alumni of the graduate training program, now distinguished academics, whose groundbreaking work on stratification and social change in US cities challenges the presumptions of power and the powerful. Panelists draw on research that 1) examines the erasure of history and memory that occurs around race and gender; 2) explores the processes and contexts in which the definitions and enforcement of (il)legality are undergoing change in schools and community settings, on the streets and in workplaces, and around the use and design of the built environment; and 3) engages with the efforts of community organizations and activists to challenge the policies and control of dominant interests.

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Thursday, March 20, 2014

"Not Imprisonment in a Legal Sense": The Invention of Immigration Detention, 1892-1896"

Kelly Lytle Hernandez, Associate Professor of History, UCLA 

with Leti Volpp, Robert D. and Leslie Kay Raven Professor of Law in Access to Justice, Berkeley Law School, as respondent

Immigrant detention is, today, the single-largest dimension of human confinement operated by the U.S. Federal government. Yet immigrant detention is often forgotten as a pillar of the nation's carceral regime. This strange omission is rooted in a decision made one century ago by the United States Supreme Court, which determined that human confinement in the pursuit of deportation is "not imprisonment in a legal sense." This paper excavates the origins of immigrant detention as a practice of human confinement that operates, in a legal sense, separate and apart from imprisonment but everyday fills the nation's jails, prisons, and detention facilities.


Fall 2013

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

"Net Time Negotiations Within the Family"

Laura Robinson, Assistant Professor of Sociology, Santa Clara University

Based on interviews with high school students living in agricultural California, this research examines how American families negotiate access to digital information resources or "net time." Attention is paid to how socioeconomically disadvantaged families attempt to cope with resource scarcities-especially internet access necessary for schoolwork and college applications. The analysis reveals how intra-familial bargaining is guided by implicit social contracts between family members. These social contracts imply particular rights and responsibilities, depending on the families' level of material resources. Different social contracts are evident across the economic spectrum. Some social contracts frame net time as an individualized good while others frame it as a communal good. The findings illuminate the logics underpinning familial negotiations over each kind of net time. Ultimately, familial social contracts over net time have the power to encourage or hinder use of net time for capital-enhancing activities.

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Thursday, October 17, 2013

"My People, My People: How Competing Ideas about 'Black People' Shape African-American Republicans' Political Behavior"

Corey Fields, Assistant Professor of Sociology, Stanford University

with Laura Stoker, Associate Professor of Political Science, University of California at Berkeley, as respondent

This research explores how race animates the politics of African-American Republicans. I depart from existing approaches that treat race as an axis of identity. Instead, I argue for the necessity of treating race as a set of ideas about black people. Interviews and ethnographic observations reveal that strong expressions of racial identity are common among African-American Republicans. However, there are very different ideas about who constitutes the group being identified with. Divergent ideas about black people divide African-American Republicans. These ideas impact 3 aspects of their political behavior: (1) interpretation of conservative social policy, (2) their ability to organize themselves, and (3) their capacity to build alliances with white Republicans. To fully understand black political behavior, analysts must move from only considering race as a marker of identity for black people, to also thinking about race as a set of ideas black people have about black people.

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