• About the Institute

    Organizing Knowledge to Challenge Inequality

MISSION

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.

SCOPE & PURPOSE

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.

CORE TEAM

Ananya Roy

Founding Director

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

Ananya Roy is Professor of Urban Planning, Social Welfare and Geography and inaugural Director of the UCLA Luskin Institute on Inequality and Democracy. She holds The Meyer and Renee Luskin Chair in Inequality and Democracy. Previously she was on the faculty at the University of California, Berkeley, where she founded and played a leadership role in several academic programs including those concerned with poverty research and poverty action.

Ananya’s research and scholarship has a determined focus on poverty and inequality and lies in four domains: how the urban poor in cities from Kolkata to Chicago face and fight eviction, foreclosure, and displacement; how global financialization, working in varied realms from microfinance to real-estate speculation, creates new markets in debt and risk; how the efforts to manage and govern the problem of poverty reveal the contradictions and limits of liberal democracy; how economic prosperity and aspiration in the global South is creating new potentialities for programs of human development and social welfare.

Ananya is the recipient of several awards including the Paul Davidoff book award, which recognizes scholarship that advances social justice, for Poverty Capital: Microfinance and the Making of Development (Routledge, 2010); the Distinguished Teaching Award, the highest teaching recognition that the University of California, Berkeley bestows on its faculty; and the Excellence in Achievement award of the Cal Alumni Association, a lifetime achievement award which celebrates her contributions to the University of California and public sphere.

Learn more about Ananya Roy’s work.

Hannah Appel

Associate Faculty Director

Email: happel@ucla.edu
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Hannah Appel is Assistant Professor of Anthropology and Global Studies and Associate Faculty Director of the UCLA Luskin Institute on Inequality and Democracy.

Hannah’s research and teaching focus on the daily life of capitalism, from the private sector in Africa to the relationship between financialization and household debt in the United States. Rather than assuming the scale or effects of transnational capitalist practices, Hannah takes global capitalism itself as an ethnographic object—what is it, and how could it be otherwise? In addition to publications on the global oil industry, infrastructure as an object of critical theory, and Occupy Wall Street, Hannah’s first book – The Licit Life of Capitalism: US Oil in Equatorial Guinea – explores the offshore, contracts, infrastructures, “the” economy as forms that facilitate diverse capitalist projects around the world. These forms and processes constitute the licit life of capitalism, and they take shape within the raced and gendered histories of colonialism, empire, and white supremacy out of which capitalism emerged. Hannah is at work on a second long-term project on African owned and capitalized banks and financial institutions on the continent.

With a deep commitment to the economic imagination, the future of finance, and the power of social movements, Hannah is also a founding member and organizer of the Debt Collective. The Debt Collective works to build debtors unions through an emancipatory activation of household debt under finance capitalism: What if mass indebtedness is not simply a liability, but also a potential collective asset or leverage point in the fight to enact the new and radical economic forms we need? The Debt Collective’s first debtors’ unions has won over $1 billion dollars in debt discharge for for-profit college student debtors, and Hannah is excited to continue this line of research and action under the auspices of The Future of Finance at the UCLA Luskin Institute on Inequality and Democracy.

Learn more about Hannah Appel’s work.

Marisa Lemorande

Deputy Director

Email: mlemorande@luskin.ucla.edu
Phone: (310) 267-5403

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.

Hilary Malson

Graduate Student Researcher

Email: hmalson@ucla.edu
Dept: Urban Planning

Hilary Malson is an urban planning and geography scholar studying racial geographies, housing justice, and exurban development. For her dissertation, she is researching the ongoing displacement and dispersal of Black Angelenos to the Inland Empire, the Antelope Valley, and the High Desert. Her research is rooted in diaspora studies, suburban studies, Black studies, critical urban theory, and participatory planning literature, and she seeks to reconceptualize placemaking and community development through a regional-scale, diasporic lens.

As a community-engaged researcher, Hilary is committed to producing and supporting public scholarship. This has entailed: conducting research for museums and libraries, including the Smithsonian Institution’s Anacostia Community Museum and the Southern California Library; writing for public audiences through Deem Journal and Monument Lab; contributing to social movements in Los Angeles and Washington, D.C.; and strengthening institutional support for open access publishing through the UCLA Luskin Institute on Inequality and Democracy.

At present, Hilary is a PhD student in Urban Planning at UCLA, a Graduate Student Researcher with the UCLA Luskin Institute on Inequality and Democracy, and a Ford Foundation Predoctoral Fellow. She earned her BA in the Growth and Structure of Cities from Haverford College and her MSc in Urbanization and Development from the London School of Economics and Political Science. Hilary proudly hails from Washington, D.C.

Justin McBride

Research Coordinator

Email: jgmcbride1@ucla.edu
Dept: Urban Planning

Justin McBride is a doctoral student in Urban Planning at UCLA. He works as a Graduate Student Researcher with the UCLA Luskin Institute on Inequality and Democracy, and with the UCLA Downtown Labor Center. Justin’s research focuses on municipal debt as an extractive process, and its effects on communities, residents, and workers of cities in urban regions. Justin also researches for and partners with worker movements, including unions and worker centers, in the Los Angeles area.

Prior to joining the Urban Planning program, Justin was as a union organizer for fifteen years, working primarily with low-wage immigrant workers in a variety of sectors, including laundries, apparel manufacturing, warehousing, janitorial services, and residential construction. His last campaign was with the Clean Carwash Campaign in the Los Angeles area, an innovative organizing effort to assist carwash workers form a union in a decentralized industry built on predation and wage theft. Clean helped workers form unions in over 40 carwashes in the LA area and beyond, and assisted workers to claim millions of dollars that employers had stolen from them.

Justin holds a Master’s degree in Urban & Regional Planning from UCLA, and Bachelor’s degree in Comparative Literature from Duke University. He currently serves on the boards of the Los Angeles Garment Worker Center and the Koreatown Immigrant Workers’ Alliance. He lectures in the Labor Studies program at California State University Dominguez Hills.

AnMarie R. Mendoza

Sawyer Seminar Graduate Fellow

Email: annie520@ucla.edu
Dept: Urban Planning

AnMarie R. Mendoza was born and raised in the San Gabriel Valley and identifies with both the original people (Gabrieleno-Tongva) and the distinctive working-class communities of the area. AnMarie has a Bachelors degree in Political Science and a Masters in American Indian Studies from UCLA. Generations of her family have witnessed, endured and contributed to the molding of Los Angeles (Occupied Tongva territory) and it is for this reason she continues her academic study in Urban Planning. She is creator and director of the “Aqueduct Between Us,” a docuseries about water in Los Angeles from an indigenous perspective.

Joel Montano

Graduate Student Researcher

Email: jxmontano@gmail.com
Dept: Urban Planning

Joel Montano is a UCLA Masters in Urban and Regional Planning (MURP) candidate whose research focuses 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.

Vania Sciolini

Events and Programs Manager

Email: vsciolini@luskin.ucla.edu

Vania Sciolini is the Events and Programs Manager of the UCLA Luskin Institute on Inequality and Democracy. As an experienced multi-sector program manager, she has successfully run programming, events, and communications to engage diverse audiences in support of public and academic research initiatives. Prior to joining the Institute, Vania designed and managed the branding and communications strategy for the Department of English at UCLA, the largest department of its kind in the nation.

Before coming to UCLA, she supported the development of public research initiatives that centered on ethical governance while at the Berggruen Institute. Vania managed several projects that convened thought leaders, including Nobel prize winners and former heads of state, for comparative inquiry of issues facing humanity in the 21st century. Areas of focus included the ideological and biological transformation of the human and the ethical responsibilities of our unequal systems of governance. Additionally, Vania was responsible for the institute’s annual $1 million prize and accompanying 350-person gala event. She was also part of the team that expanded the Hume Center for Writing and Speaking at Stanford University.

Rosanna Simons

Sawyer Seminar Graduate Fellow

Email: rosannasimons@ucla.edu
Dept: Chicana/o Studies

Rosanna Simons in a queer femme performer, translator, and scholar from the warm waters of Miami, Florida. She resides in Yanga AKA Los Angeles, the ancestral & unceded territory of the Tongva peoples. Rosanna’s intention is to cultivate queer & decolonial research, pedagogy, and creative practice. As a doctoral candidate in UCLA’s Department of Chicana/o & Central American Studies, her interests include settler colonialism & decolonization, migration & choreographed movement, surveillance & documentation, queer temporalities & performance.

Rosanna’s current research examines state surveillance against undocumented racialized migrants in the United States. Invoking frameworks of queer of color performance, settler colonialism, and governmentality, she develops a theory called the documentation regimes and argues that it has evolved as a settler colonial technology of control to surveil racialized migrants in past, present, and future temporalities. Engaging queer migrant artists, Rosanna interprets how their performance, sculpture, and video artworks conjure pathways to protection, freedom of movement, and joy – beyond the state’s view.

Rosanna is a 2019-20 Sawyer Seminar Graduate Fellow. She is co-founder of the bozalta collective and co-editor of the online journal bozalta: arts, activism, scholarship. Rosanna has performed in Los Angeles, CA at Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions (LACE), the Hammer Museum, Highways Performance Space, Plaza de la Raza, Art Share LA, and Visitor Welcome Center; in Brooklyn, NY at Wild Embeddings Gallery; in Miami FL at The Club; in Tulsa, OK at Living Arts of Tulsa; and in New Orleans, LA at Art Klub and Ashé Cultural Arts Center. She holds an MA from New York University.

Pamela Stephens

Graduate Student Researcher

Email: pamstphns@gmail.com
Dept: Urban Planning

Pamela Stephens is a doctoral student in Urban Planning at UCLA and a Graduate Student Researcher with the UCLA Luskin Institute on Inequality and Democracy. She also works with the Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies. Her doctoral studies and research center on the ways in which urban planning practices have contributed to the construction of racialized spaces and the concomitant practices amongst Black communities to build and maintain power within them. She is particularly interested in how this plays out in the multicultural context of Los Angeles, where the Black population is declining in number and becoming more dispersed throughout the region.

Prior to pursuing her doctoral studies, she has contributed to community-based and social justice-oriented organizations in a research capacity. While she worked across a myriad of topics, she has focused broadly on the intersections between racial and economic equity – particularly while working at the USC Program for Environmental and Regional Equity’s partnership with PolicyLink on the National Equity Atlas. She also focused more specifically on the changing demographic landscape of South Los Angeles, contributing to the popular report Roots|Raices: Latino Engagement, Place Identities, and Shared Futures in South Los Angeles published through the Center for the Study of Immigrant Integration at USC and Push and Pull: A Fight for Race and Representation at the Polls produced with Strategic Concepts in Organizing and Policy Education (SCOPE).

Pamela 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.

Veronika Zablotsky

Sawyer Seminar Postdoctoral Fellow

Email: vzablotsky@ucla.edu
Twitter: @nka_sky

Veronika Zablotsky is a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Sawyer Seminar Sanctuary Spaces: Reworlding Humanism at the UCLA Luskin Institute on Inequality and Democracy. She completed her Ph.D. in Feminist Studies at the University of California, Santa Cruz in June 2019 with emphases in Politics, Critical Race & Ethnic Studies, and History of Consciousness. Her research is focused on the politics of nation-state borders, migration, and forced displacement in global perspective. She is currently working on a book project that retraces the circulation of racial logics of property and dispossession between South Asia, North America, and the Middle East through a study of transregional displacement and political imaginaries in the Armenian diaspora. Her forthcoming publication “Unsanctioned Agency: Risk Profiling, Racialized Masculinity, and the Making of Europe’s ‘Refugee Crisis’” analyzes how visual technologies of risk profiling on the basis of age, race, religion, and sexuality produced the figure of the “single male refugee” as a new limit-case of humanitarian discourse.

Veronika presented her scholarship at numerous conferences, most recently as a founding member of the Critical Armenian Studies Collective at the University of Pennsylvania, and has had visiting affiliations at Columbia University, CUNY, San Francisco State University, and the American University of Armenia (AUA). She also served as a Research Affiliate of the International Solidarity Action Research Network (ISARN), an autonomous network of activist scholars engaged in the study of cross-border solidarity in the Americas, Europe, and the Middle East. She is the recipient of several awards, including an Andrew W. Mellon Public Humanities Fellowship in 2018, a Calouste Gulbenkian Armenian Studies Scholarship in 2017, and an Excellence in Teaching Award for outstanding mentorship at the University of California, Santa Cruz in 2016. As a co-founder of the Berlin-based feminist of color collective Interstice, she co-edited the German-language anthology Decolonize the City! (2017) and co-authored a number of peer-reviewed articles on racial justice in Germany, where she grew up as a first-generation immigrant. For the past decade, she has organized with abolitionist, queer of color, and migrant justice movements across Europe and North America.

FACULTY COLLECTIVE

Laura S. Abrams

Social Welfare

Leisy J. Abrego

Chicana/o Studies

Randall Akee

Public Policy

Amada Armenta

Urban Planning

César J. Ayala

Sociology

Bryonn Bain

African American Studies & World Arts and Cultures/Dance

Gary L. Blasi

Law

Caroline Ford

History

Dan Froot

World Arts and Cultures/Dance

Kian Goh

Urban Planning

Akhil Gupta

Anthropology

Juan Herrera

Geography

Ian W. Holloway

Social Welfare

Grace Hong

Gender Studies & Asian American Studies

Gaye Theresa Johnson

African American Studies & Chicana/o Studies

Kelly Kay

Geography

Robin D.G. Kelley

History

Vinay Lal

History

Helga Leitner

Geography

Michael C. Lens

Urban Planning & Public Policy

Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris

Urban Planning

Kelly Lytle Hernández

African American Studies & History

Michael Manville

Urban Planning

Kyle T. Mays

African American Studies & American Indian Studies

Paavo Monkkonen

Urban Planning & Public Policy

Paul Ong

Center for Neighborhood Knowledge

Shana L. Redmond

Musicology

Amy Ritterbusch

Social Welfare

Eric Sheppard

Geography

Daniel G. Solórzano

Education

Marike Splint

Theater, Film and Television

Shalom Staub

UCLA Center for Community Learning

Zachary C. Steinert-Threlkeld

Public Policy

Chris Tilly

Urban Planning

Karen Umemoto

Asian American Studies & Urban Planning

Alicia Virani

Law

Tria Blu Wakpa

World Arts and Cultures/Dance

Edward T. Walker

Sociology

Lee Ann S. Wong

Social Welfare & Asian American Studies

Wesley Yin

Public Policy

David K. Yoo

Asian American Studies & History

Noah D. Zatz

Law

Maite Zubiaurre

Germanic Languages & Spanish and Portuguese

LAND ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

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.