• Research & Activism


The Institute is home to the Housing Justice in #UnequalCities Network, a research coordination network funded by the National Science Foundation (BCS 1758774). It brings together research communities whose work analyzes key geographies of housing precarity (evictions, homelessness, displacement, segregation, informal settlements) and examines established and emergent practices of housing justice (eviction blockades, community land trusts, housing cooperatives and commons, tenant organizing, homeless unions, social rent, land value tax). In doing so, it consolidates housing justice as a field of inquiry and sets the stage for future research in geography and urban studies.


The After Echo Park Lake Research Collective brings together university and movement-based scholars with unhoused comrades to study displacement in Los Angeles. We analyze and challenge systems of housing insecurity and scrutinize the investment of public resources in the criminalization of poverty and in carceral housing. Our research is a counterpoint to racial banishment and seeks to advance housing justice in Los Angeles and worldwide.


What is the relationship between racialized policing and urban transformation? This Institute research project, and related storymap produced in partnership with the Anti-Eviction Mapping Project, uncovers the role of nuisance abatement in Black and Brown neighborhoods in Los Angeles. Drawing attention to surveillance, displacement, and real estate speculation, the research serves as a counterpoint to racial banishment, foregrounding past and current tenant organizing that have challenged such state violence. Watch the program that highlights this project and features researchers from both the Institute and Root Cause Research Center: Property, Personhood, and Police: Counter-Mapping Nuisance from Louisville to Los Angeles.


Exploitative financial relationships and endless growth subtend trans/national inequities including racial capitalism, imperialism, settler colonialism, and climate catastrophe. Other worlds are possible, and they will require other financial systems, institutions, and relationships. With scholars from social movements and academia, we bring together knowledge producers committed to theorizing and enacting these worlds. Future of Finance convenes public programs, sustains scholar-practitioner-activist collaborations, and produces multimedia output including academic publications, films, OpEds, materials for political education, and more.


Situated at the present moment of resurgent white nationalism and xenophobia, Sanctuary Spaces: Reworlding Humanism, a Mellon Foundation Sawyer Seminar, is concerned with the place of racial others – the border-crosser, the asylum-seeker, the refugee – in liberal democracy. With a critical lens around histories of colonial dispossession and racial capitalism, this project thinks across Europe and the United States to interrogate Western humanism and foreground alternative frameworks of freedom and justice.


As part of the public university, we seek to create a space of collective inquiry committed to reparation, redress, and to abolish the racialized policing of Black, Brown, and Indigenous communities. In coalition with student and community organizations, the Institute on Inequality and Democracy created a repository to organize resources and work together toward implementing the goal of divestment from the police state and investing in reparative public goods towards the horizon of abolition.


With a shared commitment to advance democracy through research and alliances with civil rights organizations and progressive social movements, the UCLA Luskin Institute on Inequality and Democracy and the UCLA Asian American Studies Center partner annually to offer the UCLA Activist-in-Residence program. Our objective is to help sustain the activists, artists, and public intellectuals involved in the work of social change.

Theo Henderson

2022 UCLA Activist-in-Residence

Manuel Criollo

2018 UCLA Activist-in-Residence

Funmilola Fagbamila

2017 UCLA Activist-in-Residence


The UCLA Luskin Institute on Inequality and Democracy invites proposals from UCLA faculty for grants to support research and pedagogy related to the Institute’s key research themes. We are especially interested in research, scholarship, and/or teaching that demonstrates how “organizing knowledge” can challenge established academic wisdom, contribute to public debate, and/or build power for communities and movements.

A More Public Resilience? On Housing Justice and Climate Justice

Kian Goh, Urban Planning, UCLA

UC Extreme Sentencing Project

Grace K. Hong, Gender Studies & Asian American Studies, UCLA

Discourse and Dispossession: Culture, Language, and Black and Indigenous Freedom Dreams in Detroit

Kyle T. Mays, African American Studies & American Indian Studies, UCLA


With support from the Institute, graduate students from disciplines across UCLA’s campus contribute to developing, discussing, and applying methodologies that refuse extractive and exploitative research and seek to create a space of collective inquiry.

Graduate Student Capstone Projects

Inequality and Democracy Research Fellowship

Graduate Student Working Groups


The UCLA Luskin Institute on Inequality and Democracy supports UCLA scholars who undertake collective work related to at least one of the Institute’s research themes. Products should demonstrate an explicit public orientation, i.e. an intent of speaking to public issues and/or addressing audiences that lie beyond the university. The Institute is especially interested in projects that organize knowledge to challenge inequality, be it by questioning established academic wisdom, contributing to public debate, or impacting policy decisions.

  • Application deadline: Friday, May 20, 2022
  • Funding decision: Early June. Funds available for use beginning July 1, 2022.
  • Award amount: Up to $500

The UCLA Luskin Institute on Inequality and Democracy invites applications from UCLA graduate students for grants to support research related to the Institute’s key priorities as well as in support of mutual aid efforts and other community-based responses to food, housing, and livelihood insecurity exacerbated by the COVID-19 crisis.

Institute Priorities:

ELIGIBILITY: Registered UCLA graduate students. Each working group must be comprised of at least three (3) graduate students, with one student identified as the key contact for the group.

CRITERIA: Applications must address one or more of the following criteria:

  1. Graduate student working groups to undertake a year-long plan of collective work related to one of the research priorities of the Institute. Given the scope and purpose of the Institute, we are especially interested in projects that organize knowledge to challenge inequality, be it by questioning established academic wisdom, or contributing to public debate, or having an impact on a policy decision.
  2. Organization of mutual aid and volunteer efforts to support communities in the Los Angeles metropolitan region, such as informal sector workers, undocumented immigrants, unhoused neighbors, rent-burdened tenants, system-impacted people, and UCLA students experiencing precarity and insecurity.
  3. Development of formats of public scholarship that allow distribution or dissemination of work to relevant audiences. We welcome a variety of formats, including the development of curriculum and pedagogy, artistic performance, creative writing, opinion pieces, and social science peer-reviewed publications.

AWARDS: Successful proposals may be funded in full or in part at the discretion of the review committee. Funding will be for one year with the possibility of renewal through a new proposal competition next year. Projects that are selected must acknowledge the UCLA Luskin Institute on Inequality and Democracy on all collateral, public information materials, social media, and publications resulting from the award

  • Application deadline: Applications are closed. Applications will be open for the next cycle in Fall 2022.
  • Funding decision: Mid-January 2022
  • Award amount: Up to $1,000

The Institute is offering the Graduate Research Grant application for UCLA Luskin students’ research and capstone projects. This application is jointly offered by the Luskin Institute on Inequality and Democracy, Institute of Transportation Studies (ITS), Lewis Center for Regional Policy Studies, and the Luskin Center for Innovation. The Institute will be looking to support research that aligns with at least one of its key research themes:

  • Housing Justice – Acutely aware of the dispossession and displacement wrought by structures of global racial capitalism, our research insists upon housing justice. Thinking from Los Angeles, as well as other key global nodes of struggle, we expose the modes of capitalist ownership and state-owned violence that produce housing insecurity. Taking our cue from movements led by those excluded from regimes of property ownership, we seek to enact a radical rethinking of housing from financialized commodity to reparative public good.
  • Future of Finance – In the United States, working-class and middle-class households are burdened with pervasive debt to pay for basic needs, from health to education.  Our research situates debt in the global context of predatory financialization and shows how debt works as a form of economic extraction. Our intent is to build platforms of knowledge and action that expose and dismantle debt peonage.
  • Policing, Incarceration, Abolition – The criminalization of poverty is a persistent feature of liberal democracies. We are concerned with public investment in carcerality, be it the juvenile justice system or municipal ordinances targeting the poor. Through research, performance art, and radical pedagogy, we examine structures of incarceration in Los Angeles and seek to abolish the racialized policing of black and brown communities.
  • Climate Justice – As the climate crisis intensifies, cities around the world are making ambitious plans to mitigate its causes and adapt to its impacts. Too often, these plans neglect marginalized urban residents, or threaten to displace those in vulnerable places. We look to how climate justice organizers have built a global movement from community-based struggles, and conduct research to envision transformative and just ways to plan for climate change.
  • Application deadline: Applications are closed. Applications will be open for the next cycle in Fall 2022.

The Institute invites graduate students from the Luskin School of Public Affairs to participate in its Student Advisory Board. The Board serves a body of collective governance and the term is one year beginning in Fall 2021. Students should have interest and/or expertise in issues related to this year’s research themes and should be invested in collaborating with faculty and students across disciplines, including the social sciences, arts & media, and the humanities. The 2021-22 research themes are:

  • Housing Justice
  • Future of Finance
  • Policing, Incarceration, Abolition
  • Sanctuary Spaces
  • Climate Justice


  • Attend quarterly Student Advisory Board meetings*
  • Provide guidance for Institute programs
  • Volunteer to support Institute events and programs
  • Initiate projects that connect students across different departments

*all meetings will be virtual

  • Application deadline: Applications are closed. Applications will be open for the next cycle in Fall 2022.

The Institute invites applicants for the fifth annual cycle of the UCLA Activist-in-Residence Program.

The Institute recognizes that the work of social change is demanding. It is our objective to help sustain the activists, artists, and public intellectuals involved in this work through the UCLA Activist-in-Residence Program. This collaboration strengthens the infrastructure of social transformation by providing leaders/activists with the time and space to take a step back and reflect upon a complex challenge facing their communities, while also engaging with the UCLA community to develop and strengthen their capabilities and commitment towards social justice.

The 2022 residency is from January through May 2022. The selected activist will receive a part-time UCLA appointment, gross pay of $7,500, and may receive up to $2,500 in research support through expense reimbursement. In addition, the activist will have access to office space at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs. This residency does not include benefits.

This residency is funded by the James Irvine Foundation, established to bring scholar-activists to the UCLA Luskin Institute on Inequality and Democracy who will undertake social movement research and pedagogy directly concerned with equity at the urban scale. The residency should align with one or more of the Institute’s research themes: climate justice; housing justice; future of finance; policing, incarceration, abolition. This residency is required to have student engagement through workshops, class visits, and/or community meetings of field research. Institute staff will be available to assist.

The UCLA Activist-in-Residence Program is designed for individuals who are at least mid-career and who have demonstrated leadership in nonprofit and community-serving organizations.

Interested applicants must:

  • Be 18 years or older
  • Live and work in the Los Angeles region
  • Adhere to all UCLA COVID-19 guidelines, including vaccine mandates and mandatory mask usage
  • Be available part-time during the residency period (January – May 2022)
  • Currently work full-time or have recently held a leadership position at a community organization or government agency that works with underserved low-income, immigrant, and/or communities of color
  • Present a clearly articulated statement about what the applicant hopes to gain from the residency and what issues they plan to explore. Issues should align with one or more of the Institute’s research themes: climate justice; housing justice; future of finance; policing, incarceration, abolition. For example, how resources would be used for reflection and renewal, in addition to working on and addressing a complex challenge in their field
  • Be committed to working for social justice
  • Be committed to building a cross-disciplinary network of leaders and scholars
  • Be able to converse in English and/or provide a translator for all group meetings
  • Current university students and employees are not eligible to apply

Inequality and Democracy Research Fellowship

The UCLA Luskin Institute on Inequality and Democracy, in partnership with movement-based organizations, invite applications for paid research fellowships for UCLA graduate or doctoral students currently enrolled in graduate programs at the Luskin School of Public Affairs.

The Inequality and Democracy Research Fellowship will commence at the start of Summer Quarter 2021 and conclude during the Fall Quarter 2021. The research fellowship will take place over Summer Quarter 2021 (12 weeks), estimated at 200 hours total. Each fellow will receive a stipend of $5,000, with one payment made at the start of the 12 weeks and the second payment made with the submission of the drafted deliverable for the partner organization. Research fellows are expected to be in-residence in Los Angeles for the entire duration of the fellowship and “in-residence” (i.e. virtually, or in close contact via email, Zoom, etc.) at the partner organization. Applicants are welcome to apply to more than one organization. The research fellows will be supervised by Ananya Roy, Faculty Director of the UCLA Luskin Institute on Inequality and Democracy, and Justin McBride, Research Coordinator at the UCLA Luskin Institute on Inequality and Democracy.

Fellows are also expected to:

  • Participate in a mandatory orientation in Summer 2021
  • Participate in cohort meet-ups
  • Complete and submit required deliverables in Fall 2021 to both the partner organization, as well as the Institute
  • Present findings at a closing event or webinar organized by the Institute

In addition to the work that contributes directly to the research project, the research fellows will work closely with the faculty director, the research coordinator, and the research supervisor at the partner organization to ensure the success of the program.

Students are also encouraged to incorporate these research projects into their graduate student capstone and dissertation requirements. Depending on their interests and those of the partner organizations, there may be the opportunity to continue research to build out such capstone work. View projects from the previous cohort here.

Click on the titles below to learn more about each research project and direct any questions to challengeinequality@luskin.ucla.edu. Please refrain from directly contacting any partner organization.

NOTE: Research with partner organizations will be conducted remotely and/or shift in accordance with directives from the State of California and the CDC.