In light of the evolving Covid-19 pandemic, the Media & Democracy program has been forced to postpone two upcoming workshops…
In November 1970, the SSRC’s Joint Committee on African Studies convened its second conference on the study of urbanization in African countries. This conference focused primarily on the relationship between marketplaces and other economic centers with urban settlements, both large and small. Here, committee member Walter W. Deshler reports on the papers presented, which looked at a range of approaches to understanding urbanization in multiple settings, including Sierra Leone, Kenya, and southern Africa. After assessing the extant research on this topic, Deshler explains the committee saw a need for more attention to urban questions in eastern and western Africa, as well as research that focused on the social processes and social structures that produce urbanization.
In the late 1950s the SSRC convened the Committee on Urbanization to assess the state of urban studies, gathering social scientists from a wide range of disciplines. In reviewing literature of that time, the committee focused on four broad topics that required further scholarly attention: the relationship between metropolis and region; urban morphology and functions; the process of urbanization; and the consequences of urbanism. Among the committee’s conclusions were encouraging more comparative historical work on urbanization and the expansion of urbanization studies in the Global South.
While congressional conflict is most visible when the institution is debating a bill or nomination, the roots of conflict arise earlier in the legislative process. When the House and Senate debate legislation, two of the institution’s most important decisions—whether to make policy and how—already have been made at the committee level. In this essay, Jonathan Lewallen explores agreement and dissent in congressional committees. Drawing on committee reports, he finds that, although overall rates of disagreement on committee reports have not changed much since the mid-1990s, there is variation in the likelihood of report disagreements by committee. This project is poised to better understand where and why agreement in Congress has become harder.
In late February 2020 anti-Muslim riots broke out in New Delhi, India, the most recent instance of violence against Muslims in the country. To provide some historical context for this incident, as well as the recent passing of a controversial amendment to India’s citizenship law, Ashutosh Varshney’s 2002 essay on the Gujarat riots provides insight into Hindu-Muslim violence. Written soon after the March–April 2002 violence, Varshney recounts the known facts at the time, arguing that the events should be considered a pogrom. However, Varshney goes on to complicate the narrative surrounding interreligious violence, highlighting research showing that, in communities where Hindus and Muslims live more interconnected lives, violence is less likely to occur.
The spatial history of São Paulo’s Brasilândia neighborhood reveals broader truths about the city. From its origins in the early twentieth century through the 1985 Black Women’s Collective celebration of the renaming of a public plaza to the city’s plan for its newest metro stop, Andrew Britt’s work shows how African descendants in São Paulo were persistently displaced and persistently present. The racialized space of Brasilandia tells a layered story of Black enslavement, forced migration, urban redevelopment, and Black self-determination, with echoes far beyond São Paulo.
Works of sexual expression are often considered taboo, in common parlance. In academia, pornography remains a topic of research that while nominally acceptable, can still prompt questions about the personal qualities of the person pursuing the research. In her essay for our “Sexuality & Gender Studies Now” series, Celine Parreñas Shimizu details the history of her experiences as a research expert in boundary-breaking pornographic cinema. She brings our focus onto crucial social science questions, not only analyzing the gaze and production of these works, but also revealing the social biases that may challenge sexuality researchers when their subject itself breaks from the norm.
The creation of, and responses to, Bogotá’s Center of Memory, Peace, and Reconciliation is one example that makes clear the fraught relationship of Colombia’s violent past to its urban future. Federico Pérez shows how city governments, developers, and ordinary people continue to assert their interests—symbolic, historical, and financial—over space in the Colombian capital, whether its demolishing a cemetery or fighting to preserve a working-class neighborhood. These conflicts put in sharp relief the connection between unresolved legacies of civil war and violence and urban space and renewal.
As cities are gentrified by developers and new residents, their work is often cast as saving the city and repopulating an empty city in crisis, despite the fact that those spaces are occupied by longtime residents and workers. This is not a race-neutral discourse. Jessi Quizar’s research on Detroit shows the connection between the discourse around “urban pioneers” to Detroit and settler colonialism. And while Quizar’s work makes this connection eminently clear about white gentrifiers in a majority–African American Detroit, her work forces us to consider the language around gentrification more broadly: who is made visible and who is erased in policies about and discussions of urban development?