BLSU examines the cultural, economic, political, environmental, and technological processes that are transforming urban space and society. Our research and scholarship emphasize the movements for justice and politics of reclamation that emerge in response to urban restructuring. We are currently pursuing four intersecting strands of work as the core of our agenda.

Care and the politics of reclamation

How does Black feminist praxis seek to oppose capitalist disposession and the disruption of Black spaces and geographic experiences? This work examines Black women’s efforts to reclaim space in response to the finance-led transformation of a historically Black geography in Oakland, CA. We seek to understand how the logics of disposability--of space and populations--at the heart of racial capitalism are countered by a politics of care that centers interdependence, accountability, and collective repair.

Action research for housing justice

How can we leverage research toward efforts to undo real estate speculation, eviction, and displacement? This strand of work addresses the forces that are materially unmaking urban geographies of home for Black, Latinx, and poor urbanites. We work with organizers and community groups to identify research goals and produce strategic knowledge in support of reclaiming urban space for more just housing futures.

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Technologies of speculative urbanism

What kinds of urban futures do platforms, algorithms, and big data call into being? This strand of work explores the interface of digital technologies and urban space, with an emphasis on how housing and neighborhoods are being remade, and how they could be remade. We are therefore interested both in how digital platforms may underwrite or exacerbate processes of gentrification and dispossession, and in counter-platforms that build power from the bottom up and assert claims to space by the communities facing banishment from the city.

Speculative urban interventions

Theorizing the Black experience as a way to account for historical and contemporary relationships to policy, design, and public space. This work draws on the speculative to highlight a long history of restrictive and devastating policy passed and promoted by local governments and developers. We use this work as a space to imagine various possibilities that take into account the emergent precarity brought about by the global pandemic -- exacerbating the effects of uneven development and racial restructuring in cities. Ultimately, this research examines critical histories, conflicts, and struggles over how to use the city, who belongs to the city, and who makes the city.

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Berkeley Lab for Speculative Urbanisms
University of California, Berkeley