The BLSU Team

Brandi T. Summers, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor, Geography and Global Metropolitan Studies
co-founder and co-director, BLSU 

Her research examines the relationship between and function of race, space, urban infrastructure, and architecture; the spatial production of race as a strategy of capital accumulation and as an aesthetic in urban development; and the recalibration of urban space by looking to the ways urban inhabitants navigate and imagine politics beyond the rules of urbanization.

Desiree Fields, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor, Geography and Global Metropolitan Studies
co-founder and co-director, BLSU

Her work examines the role of housing in capitlaist urbanization; the growing importance of finance to capitalism, the turn to increasingly market-driven approaches to housing and urban development, and the digital revolution. Attending to the contestation and resistance rooted in experiences of these processes, this scholarship supports struggles for housing justice.

Xiaowei Wang is a PhD Candidate in Geography at UC Berkeley. Their research broadly examines tech as a social, economic and technical system and the way tech reshapes power relations in geographically uneven formations. Their dissertation, co-chaired by Professor Summers and Professor Fields is a regionally comparative look at emerging healthcare technologies across the U.S. They are passionate about data sovereignty, the politics of data and archives, and the power of speculation to fuel collective imagination.
Maya Sapienza is third-year undergraduate student pursuing a B.A. in Urban Studies with a minor in Geographic Information Software at the University of California, Berkeley. Her research is rooted in elevating those who have been silenced and her interests include how oppression and injustice manfests in architecuture and public spaces. Maya currently conducts research with Professor Summers on the ways that race and racialization contribute to the various cycles of development, destruction, and redevelopment in West Oakland. In her free time, Maya competes for the Cal Triathalon team!
Paris Viloria is a fourth-year student at UC Berkeley, majoring in Political Economy and minoring in Public Policy. Her interests include socio-economic and development inequality, particularly in housing and urbanization. Paris currently conducts research for Professor Fields in regards to her project on corporate landlords which examines corporate growth strategies in the single-family rental market and housing financialization. Outside of the lab, she is a program assistant for a minor program on campus and is a community and economic development intern for a city in the Bay Area.

Alexandra Morales is a first-generation college student in her third year at UC Berkeley, majoring in Urban Studies and minoring in Global Poverty and Practice and Creative Writing. Her passions for urban planning and environmental justice stem from the love she has for her comunidad, Barrio Logan, in San Diego, California. Alexandra currently works with  Professors Summers and Fields to develope the Archive of Urban Futures for Oakland. She aspires to make archives available and accessible to the Oakland community by exploring creative methods in research.

Katherine Chen graduated from UC Berkeley’s English Department in 2021. She wrote her senior thesis on Steinbeck’s literary evaluation of indigeneity –– what makes people belong to a land, and how land belongs to people. Katherine is greatly interested in bodily autonomy, an intersection of property rights and reproductive justice. Katherine is working with Henry DeMarco on a collaborative, multi-disciplinary mapping and oral history project that focuses on designating Berkeley’s unhoused encampments as neighborhoods. Their project is funded by the Judith Lee Stronach Baccalaureate Prize, and they are advised by Professor Summers.
Henry DeMarco graduated from UC Berkeley in 2021 with a double-major in geography and English literature. His dual focus in English and geography reflects his enduring interest in stories and places, and the ways in which they are inextricably intertwined. During his time at UC Berkeley, he studied topics including urban inequality, global environmental change, and mapping technologies. Henry is working with Katherine Chen on a collaborative, multi-disciplinary mapping and oral history project that focuses on designating Berkeley’s unhoused encampments as neighborhoods. Their project is funded by the Judith Lee Stronach Baccalaureate Prize, and they are advised by Professor Summers.
Pranav Kuttaiah is a writer, organiser and educator from Bangalore currently pursuing a PhD in City and Regional Planning at UC Berkeley. His work looks at the many complex and location-specific manifestations of inequality, with a focus on using the comparative gesture as a bridge between forms of resistance scholarship that "think from place". Previously, he has worked as a journalist and a researcher helping co-found the Missing Basti Collective, an anti-eviction mapping project in New Delhi. He has also written and engaged extensively with various forms of anti-caste scholarship and activism in India. He has a master's degree from Sciences Po in Paris, France -- where he focused on urban governance in Africa and East Asia. His current work explores the intersection of identity and technology in creating new socio-spatial publics in response to the precarity, flux and speed of current capitalist urbanisation and regimes of accumulation -- with separate but intertwined interests in Mumbai and Oakland.

Berkeley Lab for Speculative Urbanisms
University of California, Berkeley