• About the Institute

    Organizing Knowledge to Challenge Inequality


The UCLA Luskin Institute on Inequality and Democracy advances radical democracy in an unequal world through research, critical thought, and alliances with social movements and racial justice activism. We analyze and transform the divides and dispossessions of our times, in the university and in our cities, across global South and global North.


In 1903, W.E.B. Du Bois wrote that “the function of the university is not simply to teach breadwinning, or to furnish teachers for the public schools, or to be a centre of polite society; it is, above all, to be the organ of that adjustment between real life and the growing knowledge of life, an adjustment which forms the secret of civilization.”  For Du Bois, the problem of the 20th century was “the problem of the color-line.” It is knowledge of the color-line, and action against it, that formed his life’s work, both in the university and in the world.

Drawing inspiration from Du Bois and other Black radical and postcolonial thinkers, the UCLA Luskin Institute on Inequality and Democracy aims to understand and transform the divides and dispossessions, the color-lines, of the 21st century. At a time of unprecedented income inequality in the United States, we join the growing effort for rigorous analysis of the processes through which such inequality has been produced, that recognizes the corrosive effects of the warehousing of wealth and power on civic life, and that seeks to undo such inequality through new frameworks of redistribution and democratic politics.

In such work, we think across North and South. Instead of the United States as the intellectual pivot of our work, we forge lines of inquiry that take serious notice of the postcolonial world, notably democracies shaped by the claims and demands of poor majorities. Drawing on ideas and practices produced in the unequal cities of India, Brazil, and South Africa, we return to the North Atlantic to examine and dismantle economic austerity and entrenched segregation.

Our research, theory, and pedagogy are produced in the context of resurgent right-wing nationalism, both in the United States and in many other parts of the world. In the age of Trumpism, we have renewed our commitment to challenge white racial domination and build Black and Brown power.

The University of California is an especially propitious home for our institute. Like liberal democracy itself, the public university at once bears the promise of inclusion and manifests the persistence of exclusion.  The public university has an intimate relationship with the “real life” of which Du Bois wrote, and we believe that this intimacy generates a responsibility for public affairs and an impulse to educate a next generation for whom citizenry is not an enclave of privilege but rather shared and collective existence amidst difference.


Ananya Roy

Founding Faculty Director

Email: ananya@luskin.ucla.edu
Twitter: @ananyaUCLA

Hannah Appel

Associate Faculty Director

Email: happel@ucla.edu

Kian Goh

Associate Faculty Director

Email: kiangoh@ucla.edu
Twitter: @kiangoh

Ashley Bennett


Email: ashley@groundgamela.org
Twitter: @AshleyNicholeB

Ashley Bennett is a UCLA alumna and co-founder of Ground Game LA (GGLA). Currently, she is outreach director for GGLA and POWER, where she supports unhoused individuals in their journey to find community and permanent housing and achieve their personal goals. Heavily involved with organizing efforts at Echo Park Lake beginning in 2019, Ashley continues to work daily with residents who were displaced.

Alex Ferrer

Graduate Student Researcher

Email: asferrer19@gmail.com
Dept: Geography

Alexander Ferrer is a planner and researcher at Strategic Actions for a Just Economy, a tenant-advocacy organization in Los Angeles. He holds a Master’s degree in Urban and Regional Planning from UCLA and is currently a doctoral student in the Department of Geography at UCLA.

Chris Giamarino

Graduate Student Researcher

Email: cgiamarino@ucla.edu
Dept: Urban Planning

Chris Giamarino is a doctoral candidate in urban planning. His dissertation catalogs and critiques hostile designs, explores how do-it-yourself (DIY) planning and design tactics by unhoused communities resist spatial exclusion, and advocates for just public space design guidelines. He is a California Policy Lab Graduate Fellow and a Haynes Lindley Doctoral Dissertation Fellow. His recent collaborative research explores the spatial impacts of anti-vehicular dwelling ordinances on locations of vehicular homelessness and the characteristics and trends of unhoused people living in vehicles. It has been featured in the Housing Policy Debate and the Journal of the American Planning Association. Chris has two forthcoming publications. The first is research on activist resistance to quality-of-life ordinances and police sweeps in Urban Affairs Review. The second is a co-authored chapter entitled “Just Urban Design Scholarship?” that critiques the lack of design justice considerations in traditional urban design texts. It will be published in November 2022 in the book Just Urban Design: The Struggle for a Public City (MIT Press).

Chris holds a Master of Science degree in urban planning from Coumbia GSAPP and a Bachelor of Science degree in urban sustainability from New York University. Before UCLA, he presented his work on do-it-yourself urbanism, spatial politics, and skateboarding. Also, he hosted a skateboarding-friendly city workshop at the Pushing Boarders conference in Malmo, Sweden (August 2019). Chris is a skateboarder, DIY placemaker, and public space activist in his free time.

Kristina Grange

Visiting Scholar

Email: kristina.grange@chalmers.se
Affiliation: Chalmers University of Technology

Kristina Grange is Professor of Urban Planning and Design Theory in the Department of Architecture and Civil Engineering at Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden. She has an interest in social science and political theory and their implications for urban planning. Her own research has a discursive and critical approach, by which she seeks to unfold taken-for-granted perceptions in social practices and discuss their spatial, political, and democratic consequences. Currently, her research focuses on migration, homelessness, other spatial inequalities, and imaginaries of ‘the other.’ She has also studied effects of ongoing political and ideological changes on the planning profession and emphasized the need of fearless speech among planners.

Terra Graziani


Email: terragraziani@gmail.com
Twitter: @_holleration

Terra Graziani is a researcher and tenant organizer based in Brooklyn, New York whose work focuses on property and personhood. She helps run the Anti-Eviction Mapping Project (AEMP), a digital storytelling collective documenting dispossession and resistance in solidarity with gentrifying communities through research, oral history, and data work, and she founded the Los Angeles chapter. She is currently a doctoral student at CUNY Geography and teaches in Parsons Urban Ecologies Master’s program. Terra earned her Master’s in Urban and Regional Planning at UCLA and her Bachelor’s degree in Social and Cultural Geography at UC Berkeley.

Liya Kunnathuparambil

Administrative Coordinator

Email: liya@luskin.ucla.edu

Liya Kunnathuparambil is the Administrative Coordinator of the UCLA Luskin Institute on Inequality and Democracy. Having worked at UCLA since 2015, Liya has supported a vast array of programs and initiatives, while building and strengthening working relationships across campus. She has assisted in the development and coordination of national and international colloquia, while also facilitating the production of special events such as a weeklong public lecture series featuring Noam Chomsky.

Before joining the Institute, she was the Chair’s Executive Assistant at the UCLA Royce Humanities Group where she worked closely with French and Francophone Studies, Italian, Germanic Languages and Scandinavian Section, and the Digital Humanities program. In addition to providing direct support to the Chair, she administered all aspects of faculty recruitment, from managing applications through UC Recruit, to arranging travel and itineraries for prospective candidates’ campus visits. She also maintained departmental websites and listservs and managed the onboarding and visa process for visiting scholars and faculty. When serving as the Department Coordinator at UCLA’s Department of Linguistics, Liya managed day-to-day office operations and provided support to both Graduate and Undergraduate Student Affairs Officers by organizing the annual course schedule and being part of the team that coordinated large-scale departmental events such as the Open House for Prospective Students and Undergraduate Commencement Reception.

Liya earned her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology at UCLA and has spent time volunteering with the YWCA’s Domestic Violence Program.

Marisa Lemorande

Deputy Director

Email: mlemorande@luskin.ucla.edu

Marisa Lemorande is Deputy Director of the UCLA Luskin Institute on Inequality and Democracy. Marisa brings to the Institute many years of experience working with nonprofit, community, and cultural organizations concerned with social justice. By building robust alliances and developing effective communications and fundraising strategies, Marisa has shown leadership and creativity in supporting activists, artists, and scholars, both in Los Angeles and elsewhere in California. A graduate of UCLA, Marisa has served as Program Manager of the UCLA Center for Culture and Health. In this capacity, she managed large federally funded projects, including one of the most diverse and successful programs the NIH has supported over a 25-year grant cycle. Most recently, Marisa held the position of Director of Alumni Relations and Social Media for the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs. In this role, she implemented a dramatic expansion of the school’s alumni networks and led the most successful crowdfunding campaign in UCLA’s history. Marisa joins the Institute with a sharp analysis of socio-spatial inequality and a passion for community outreach, public scholarship, and policy advocacy.

Sam Lutzker

Graduate Student Researcher

Email: sal2176@ucla.edu
Dept: Sociology

Sam Lutzker is a doctoral student in the department of sociology at UCLA and an organizer with Street Watch LA. His research uses ethnographic and interview methods to examine the effects of homelessness policy in California. He is particularly interested in how informal roles emerge, become established and shift within unhoused communities. His research also follows participants through a variety of housing forms, from living in vehicles to hotel rooms like those contracted through state programs such as Project Roomkey.

In a slightly different vein, his MA project analyzes oral history data from Facing Whiteness to describe how white Americans develop racial awareness and engage in antiracist brokering with white peers. More broadly, his research interests include urban sociology, race & ethnicity, ethnography, mixed methods and public policy.

Prior to graduate school, Sam was a project coordinator at INCITE in New York City, and a teacher in China. He loves hiking, biking and eating. You can find his rants (and sometimes helpful threads) on twitter.

Joel Montano

Data Analyst

Email: jxmontano@gmail.com
Twitter: @jxmontano

Joel Montano graduated from UCLA’s MURP program in 2020, whose capstone project focused on predatory landlord behavior and evictions in Los Angeles. As a recipient of UCLA’s Luskin Leadership Internship Awards Program, he worked with Liberty Hill Foundation in the summer of 2019 to support the passage of a permanent rent control ordinance for Unincorporated Los Angeles County. Prior to UCLA, Joel worked as the Affordable Housing Tenant Outreach Organizer for eight and a half years with the Coalition for Economic Survival—a non-profit tenant’s rights organization based in Los Angeles. He organized with tenants residing in HUD Project-based Section-8 and rent control housing to empower and develop their leadership skills to fight back against poor habitability conditions, inadequate management services, and displacement.

Carla Orendorff


Email: metamujer@gmail.com

Carla Orendorff is a community-based researcher and organizer from the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles. She believes in the power of neighborhoods.

Annie Powers

Graduate Student Researcher

Email: anniepowers@ucla.edu
Dept: History

Annie Powers is a tenant organizer and historian whose work focuses on political movements of poor and unhoused communities. Annie organizes with housed and especially unhoused tenants as a member Union de Vecinos, the Eastside Local of the LA Tenants Union. They are a Research Coordinator at the Luskin Institute on Inequality and Democracy and a doctoral student in the History Department. Their study of unhoused tenants’ struggles emerges from and acts in solidarity with those same movements today.

Renato Abramowicz Santos

Visiting Graduate Scholar

Email: renato.abramo@hotmail.com
Affiliation: University of São Paulo

Renato is a Brazilian researcher at the University of São Paulo (USP), a member of the research group ‘City and Work’ at the Department of Sociology (FFLCH), and works at the ‘Public Space and Right to the City’s Laboratory’ (LabCidade) and at the ‘Evictions Observatory’. Renato has been accepted as a UCLA Visiting Graduate Researcher, and hosted by Professor Ananya Roy and the UCLA Luskin Institute on Inequality and Democracy.

Renato’s master’s research was about squat buildings and housing social movements in the central region of São Paulo, the largest and one of the most unequal cities in Brazil. The focus of the research was the production of space, political articulations and efforts of emplacement/settlement in the midst of the constant threat of those buildings’ existence in a city in permanent dispute. 

Renato’s doctoral research is about threats and evictions of populations who create spaces and livelihood in conditions of indetermination and urban conflict in São Paulo’s downtown area. The research seeks to understand these elements in relation to state violence, but also how this same political violence produces networks of protection and resistance against these politics of dispossession and displacement.

Pamela Stephens

Graduate Student Researcher

Email: pstephens@ucla.edu
Dept: Urban Planning

Pamela Stephens is a doctoral candidate in the department of Urban Planning at UCLA and a Graduate Student Researcher with the UCLA Luskin Institute on Inequality and Democracy. Along with supporting the Housing Justice in Unequal Cities network, her research with the Institute focuses on different mechanisms of housing precarity and their roles in advancing processes of racial banishment.

Pamela’s scholarship explores the entanglements of urban planning practice and the production and elimination of black space. Specifically, her dissertation project tracks the ways that redevelopment projects in post-rebellion Watts were instrumental in reshaping Black Los Angeles, both materially and politically.

She holds a Master’s degree in Urban and Regional Planning from UCLA and a Bachelor’s degree in Urban Studies from the University of California, Berkeley.


Laura S. Abrams

Social Welfare

Leisy J. Abrego

Chicana/o and Central American Studies

Randall Akee

Public Policy

Amada Armenta

Urban Planning

César J. Ayala


Bryonn Bain

African American Studies & World Arts and Cultures/Dance

Gary L. Blasi


Dana Cuff

Architecture/Urban Design & Urban Planning

Sharon Dolovich


Caroline Ford


Dan Froot

World Arts and Cultures/Dance

Fanna Gamal


Leah Zeidler-Ordaz


Martin Gilens

Public Policy & Political Science & Social Welfare

Felipe Gonçalves


Akhil Gupta


Sarah Haley

Gender Studies

Cheryl I. Harris

Law & African American Studies

Juan Herrera


Chris Herring


Jasmine D. Hill

Public Policy & Sociology

Ian W. Holloway

Social Welfare

Grace Kyungwon Hong

Gender Studies & Asian American Studies

Gaye Theresa Johnson

Chicana/o and Central American Studies

Kelly Kay


Robin D.G. Kelley


Vinay Lal


Helga Leitner


Michael C. Lens

Urban Planning & Public Policy

Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris

Urban Planning

Michael Manville

Urban Planning

Kyle T. Mays

African American Studies & American Indian Studies & History

Cecilia Menjívar


Paavo Monkkonen

Urban Planning & Public Policy

Victor Narro

UCLA Labor Center & Law

Paul Ong

Center for Neighborhood Knowledge

Tejas Parasher

Political Science

Sunita Patel


Shana L. Redmond


Amy Ritterbusch

Social Welfare

Peter Sellars

World Arts and Culture/Dance

Eric Sheppard


Daniel G. Solórzano


Marike Splint

Theater, Film and Television

Shalom Staub

UCLA Center for Community Learning

Zachary C. Steinert-Threlkeld

Public Policy

Renee Tajima-Peña

Asian American Studies

Chris Tilly

Urban Planning

Karen Umemoto

Asian American Studies & Urban Planning

Marques Vestal

Urban Planning

Alicia Virani


Tria Blu Wakpa

World Arts and Cultures/Dance

Edward T. Walker


Lee Ann S. Wang

Asian American Studies & Social Welfare

Emily Weisburst

Public Policy

Laura Wray-Lake

Social Welfare

Wesley Yin

Public Policy

David K. Yoo

Asian American Studies & History

Noah D. Zatz


Maite Zubiaurre

European Languages and Transcultural Studies & Spanish and Portuguese


Images featured on this website have been generously provided by: Brittany Bravo, Steven Chun, City of Vancouver Archives, Debt Collective, Filomena Cruz, Les Dunseith, Justin Gaar, Angela Garcia, Roberto Gudiño, La Hidra Cooperativa, Aaron Julian, Stan Paul, Right to Remain Collective, UCLA Library Special Collections, Taymaz Valley, Talesha Wilson


The UCLA Luskin Institute on Inequality and Democracy acknowledges the Gabrielino/Tongva peoples as the traditional land caretakers of Tovaangar (the Los Angeles basin and So. Channel Islands). As a land grant institution, we pay our respects to the Honuukvetam (Ancestors), ‘Ahiihirom (Elders) and ‘eyoohiinkem (our relatives/relations) past, present and emerging.

Click on the linked words to hear the pronunciation for the Tongva-language words.