In this essay, Hanna Garth reflects on how her several years of fieldwork in eastern Cuba and Los Angeles, California, inform her critiques of the ways scholars and practitioners look at issues of food access and food security. She argues policymakers should focus more on food acquisition practices to better understand and address a community’s dietary needs and its food preferences. Based on her research, Garth questions the current focus on only dietary needs, and demonstrates the importance of tracing people’s actual pathways for acquiring food.
Samar Al-Bulushi marks the twentieth anniversary of the bombings of the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania with a reflection on their legacy for the securitization of much of the African continent. Based on extensive field research in Kenya (supported by SSRC’s Dissertation Proposal Development and International Dissertation Research Fellowships), she analyzes the extension of American and European military presences in the region, the Kenyan military’s role in Somalia, and the ways in which police forces target Muslim citizens under the banner of antiterrorism. Even aid agencies and civil society organizations, Al-Bulushi argues, contribute to the discourse and practice of “countering violent extremism” with serious consequences.
Kristen Lewis, Sarah Burd-Sharps, and Becky Ofrane dive into the demographic data in Measure of America’s latest report on youth disconnection, More than a Million Reasons for Hope. While the recent rebounding economy offers some good news in terms of the overall disconnection rates among young people, these remain disturbingly high for minority youth. The authors argue economic growth alone cannot erase the multiple structural barriers and institutional racism that produce significant gaps in the disconnection rates between different racial and ethnic groups, but solutions can be found through local organizations and by including youth in the conversation.
Responding to the reflections on A Portrait of Los Angeles County, Measure of America codirectors Kristen Lewis and Sarah Burd-Sharps first provide an overview of how they applied the Human Development Index to Los Angeles, including the categorizing of different neighborhoods from Glittering to Precarious. They then engage with key issues of ethnicity, incarceration, and the ways different parts of LA County are interrelated and affect each other—all issues that emerge from the reflections by Jennifer Lee, Pedro Noguera, and Kelly Lytle Hernandez and Terry Allen.
A collaboration between Duke University scholars and the Alabama Center for Rural Enterprise (ACRE) has focused on environmental justice questions in rural Alabama. In this essay, the partners describe their research on how sewage and related environmental problems intersect with broader social structural issues, and consider how to address these challenges. The authors also reflect on the process by which scholars and community-based organizations can work together, and what goes into a mutually rewarding partnership.
In this reflection on MOA’s A Portrait of LA County report, Kelly Lytle Hernandez and Terry Allen connect their research on incarceration and policing in LA to the report’s findings. The same neighborhoods coded as Struggling LA and Precarious LA by the report have the highest incarceration rates, as well as high “collateral damage” of the prison system such as the cost of bail. The authors refer to these parts of the city and county as Caged LA, and argue that an understanding of urban inequality needs to incorporate patterns of incarceration into measures of human development.
In a new response to the recently published Measure of America report A Portrait of LA County, Pedro Noguera unpacks a range of socioeconomic disparities revealed in the report. Noguera calls attention to how comparing inequalities across neighborhoods can miss the ways in which different parts of LA are interconnected—how what happens in one part of the city shapes social outcomes elsewhere. Showing how the lack of affordable housing, long commutes, and poor access to quality education are related, he proposes recommendations for addressing inequality based upon geographic interdependencies.
Jennifer Lee begins Items’ set of reflections on A Portrait of LA County—a new report from the SSRC’s Measure of America program—by building on its data for educational outcomes by ethnicity. In particular, she complicates the myth surrounding the educational success of Asian Americans, and the frequent reference to culture as its principal cause, by disaggregating the category of “Asian.” By exploring class and geographic differences in outcomes, Lee uncovers key socioeconomic dimensions to variations within the “Asian” category as well as between it and other ethnicities in Los Angeles.
Manuel Pastor’s contribution to the “Just Environments” series interrogates how social movement organizations, often led by communities of color, pushed for progressive reforms in California. Through a set of sophisticated tactics—including mobilizing new constituents, marshalling research, proposing new policies, and working with political figures—these organizations played critical roles in shaping more equitable and sustainable agendas. Pastor suggests the success and lessons associated with California’s story offer one path out of our current national state of racial, environmental, and economic anxiety.
In this “Just Environments” essay, Ebunoluwa Popoola examines the transfer of environmental lawsuits from Nigerian courts to European ones as a means of circumventing legal obstacles at the national level. Communities in the Niger Delta face multiple barriers when suing multinational oil companies in Nigerian courts, in part because of high costs, delays, and a restrictive interpretation of legal standing. Moving these cases to foreign jurisdictions, where the multinational companies are based, has been one avenue through which environmental justice has been achieved.