Collaborations and Engaged Scholarship

Photo Credit: Sam J Miller/Picture the Homeless, 2015

I do my academic work in an ethos of what Richa Nagar and Susain Geiger (2007) name as “situated solidarity,” an approach that Kate Derickson and Paul Routledge argue “works to create spaces of encounter, resource productive dialogues, and, in so doing, challenge assumptions and norms” (Routledge and Derickson 2015: 401). In practice, this means that I work closely with Picture the Homeless (pictured above), a homeless-led activist group in New York City that fights for housing justice and civil rights for homeless New Yorkers. Members, leaders, and staff at Picture the Homeless understand that the politics of the visual are of immense importance to understanding the seeming intractability of homelessness, even as they also know that housing, not shelters or the warehousing of vacant property, holds the solution to homelessness. Their beliefs and practices inspire my own research in both the questions that I ask and how I go about answering them.

Scholars and activists often work together, but rarely do those collaborations extend beyond individual projects or campaigns. This division often creates epistemic divides between the knowledge of activists, especially those directly impacted by injustice, and the work of academics working in close solidarity. To remedy this, I co-founded Power at the Margins, a research collaborative that brings together activists, practicioners, and scholars working toward housing justice. As the lead project manager, I organized a series of gatherings, culminating in a major conference at the University of Minnesota in March of 2018 that brought over 70 scholars and activists together to share their work from around the globe. Many said it was the best gathering of their careers. Power at the Margins 2.0., scheduled to take place this March at UC-Berkeley but postponed due to COVID-19, drew over 150 leading collaborators from all over the globe.

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