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Open Access Publications from the University of California

The Institute for the Study of Societal Issues (ISSI) at the University of California, Berkeley is a research center dedicated to understanding the processes of social change and contributing to the transformation of conditions of inequality. ISSI researchers use a combination of qualitative and quantitative approaches to undertake empirical investigations into critical social issues facing the nation, with a particular focus on California communities. ISSI also provides training and professional development to graduate and undergraduate students.

The Institute for the Study of Societal Issues (ISSI) is an Organized Research Unit of the University of California at Berkeley. The views expressed in ISSI working papers are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent those of the ISSI or the Regents of the University of California.

Cover page of Pediatric Cancer, Racial Formation, and the Existential Weight of Anti-Blackness

Pediatric Cancer, Racial Formation, and the Existential Weight of Anti-Blackness

(2018)

This paper is based on an ethnographic case study drawn from 16 months of fieldwork with families and young people going through cancer diagnosis and treatment in Oakland, California. The paper explores the intersection of cancer patienthood and racial formation, emphasizing the entanglement of biogenetic and sociogenetic processes. The paper shows how, as cancer-inflicted bodies move through the world, they are subjected to sociohistorically produced racial classifications that can be deployed in destructive, humiliating, and stress-inducing ways. Yet racialization can also occur in a more affirming, supportive, and resistant register—for example, through participation in community-based cancer advocacy efforts. The paper emphasizes three points of intersection between cancer patienthood and racial formation: 1) the racialization of oncologically transformed bodies; 2) the racialization of attempts to raise cancer awareness; and 3) the racialization of the expression of negative emotions in healthcare interactions. In doing so, the paper shows that racialization is a fundamental sociogenetic process that is entangled with the biogenetic processes that cancer scientists describe as “oncogenesis.” Entangled biogenetic and sociogenetic processes constitute the existential trajectories that cancer patients and their families inhabit.

Cover page of The Neoliberalization of Latino Men and Boys: Power and Resistance in a School-based Mentorship Program

The Neoliberalization of Latino Men and Boys: Power and Resistance in a School-based Mentorship Program

(2018)

A growing number of school district and community programs are seeking to remedy the achievement gap experienced by Latino boys through Latino male mentorship programs. Indicative of neoliberal shifts in Latinx education, these programs often involve public-private partnerships and assume a damaged Latino boy in need of technocratic and innovative solutions, rather than structural changes. Through an ethnographic case study of one Latino male mentorship program in an urban school district in California, this study explores the ways the administrative power of Latino male programming constructs the ideal Latino male subject through neoliberal values of individualism, excellence and earning potential, and pushes boys to be the future hetero-patriarchs of their community. Furthermore, based on in-depth interviews with the mentors and boys of the program, as well as one year of participant observations, this paper uncovers the ways these discourses are lived, embodied, and/or resisted in the classroom among boys and mentors.

Cover page of Surveying the Reservoir: Public Records and the Archival Logics of the Oroville Dam

Surveying the Reservoir: Public Records and the Archival Logics of the Oroville Dam

(2018)

Heavy flooding and forced emergency evacuations of over 180,000 local residents in February 2017 drew national attention to California’s aging and structurally damaged Oroville Dam. As a centerpiece of California’s six-hundred-mile State Water Project, the Oroville Dam plays a significant role in water allocation throughout the state. While recent media coverage highlights how infrastructural damage and bureaucratic delays to the dam’s federal relicensing process have cast a shadow of uncertainty over the dam’s future, considerably less has been said about the controversies surrounding the Oroville Dam’s planning and construction, and how that history continues to shape and impact the present. A particularly neglected aspect is the dam’s continued role in disrupting the lifeways of California’s indigenous Konkow Maidu communities and displacing Konkow Maidu people from a significant portion of their ancestral territory. By engaging in a historical analysis of the Oroville Dam’s construction and present-day operation through the heuristic use of the concept “archival logics,” this paper explores how the modified hydrology enacted by the Oroville Dam not only reconfigures indigenous material and political space, but also consolidates, reorders, and displaces local forms of knowledge. Through close readings of ethnological and archeological surveys produced in compliance with state and federal laws during the construction and relicensing of the Oroville Dam in the mid-2000’s, this paper demonstrates how the continued operation of the Oroville Dam both necessitates and mediates public archival practices that enroll, reroute, and intervene in Maidu acts of political and epistemological sovereignty.

Cover page of Race and Class in the News: How the Media Portrays Gentrification

Race and Class in the News: How the Media Portrays Gentrification

(2018)

Whether it is affordable housing, health insurance, or crime, how a social problem is associated with race and class contributes to how the general public and policymakers respond to it.  The media both informs and reinforces readers’ perceptions about what happens when social processes like gentrification take place, who is affected, and whether this type of change is positive or negative.  Media representations can thus influence public perception, policy framing, and local policies around urban development.  This paper uses articles published between 1990 and 2014 in two San Francisco newspapers to document how the process of gentrification is described.  Using text analysis and qualitative coding, I find that race and class pervade reporting on gentrification in San Francisco.  Gentrification was presented as a process by which the middle-class and whites move into predominantly black and low-income neighborhoods, even though the process of gentrification in San Francisco is significantly more complex. Although the news coverage raised more concerns about gentrification than benefits overall, some neighborhoods (working-class and Latino) receive greater attention and concern than others (poor and black). The result is an oversimplified and skewed portrait of who benefits and who loses as a result of gentrification in San Francisco. This skewed portrait will likely reinforce a common perception of gentrification as a solution to social ills associated with black and poor neighborhoods such as urban disinvestment and crime, rather than a process that reduces affordable housing and displaces low-income, long-term residents. 

Cover page of Scaling a “Bite-Sized Implementation Strategy”: Promoting Educational Equity and Social Justice through a Farm to School Food Program

Scaling a “Bite-Sized Implementation Strategy”: Promoting Educational Equity and Social Justice through a Farm to School Food Program

(2017)

While the farm to school movement has been growing since the 1990s, it was officially incorporated into federal child nutrition programs through the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act (HHFKA) of 2010. In 2013, the Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) received a $100K farm to school grant via the HHFKA to pilot “California Thursdays” (CT). CT was developed through a partnership between the Center for Ecoliteracy (CEL) and OUSD to increase students’ access to local, fresh, and healthy school meals procured entirely from California. As of January 2017, through the efforts of and leadership provided by CEL, CT has been implemented across 84 districts in California, which together serve over one-third of the one billion school meals distributed in the state each year. CT is an excellent demonstration of the agency of local level actors to respond with innovative action to implement federal policy. The network of CT schools is using farm to school food programs to address a primary goal of the HHFKA: the amelioration of childhood hunger and obesity. Informed by the theory of policy-implementation as a “co-constructed” process, and drawing on data from both a case study of the implementation of CEL’s Rethinking School Lunch planning framework in OUSD and a three-year (2013-2016) ethnographic study of OUSD’s implementation of the HHFKA, this paper examines the factors and enabling conditions that allowed CT to go to scale across 84 districts in California. CT went to scale for three specific reasons: the use of (1) a scaffolding approach to the CT initiative that was implemented through a “collective impact model,” (2) implementation practices that were scalable across different district contexts (urban, rural, large, small), and (3) CEL’s cultivation of positive discourse around the narrative of school lunch. The creation and scaling of CT reflect the ways that local level actors use their agency to develop innovative solutions for promoting educational equity and social justice across various contexts – despite numerous constraints. While CT cannot address the structural inequities that produce childhood hunger and obesity in the first place, it has reshaped the school food landscape in California.

Cover page of ‘Things are on a new scale, the standard one brings with him will not hold’: Land and Race in Edward Curtis’ Landscape Photography of the Harriman Alaska Expedition of 1899

‘Things are on a new scale, the standard one brings with him will not hold’: Land and Race in Edward Curtis’ Landscape Photography of the Harriman Alaska Expedition of 1899

(2017)

Due to the unique colonial history of Alaska, Alaska Native peoples find themselves operating and engaging in a set of conditions that diverge from many experiences of Native peoples in the contiguous U.S. This paper explores some of those differences by tracking how questions of land and concerns about race were made together in Alaska from 1867-1899. I argue that the discursive formations of land definitions and the racialization of Alaska Native peoples as “of Asian descent” are mutually constitutive in ways that draw from prior configurations of racialization via geography. I do so by looking at racialized federal policy, geographical and geological surveys of land, and photographs of landscape as curated by Edward Curtis on the Harriman Alaska Expedition of 1899. Drawing from these materials, I argue that land and race in Alaska are co-constituted through law, geography, and popular culture and that the accumulation of these colonial impositions continues to inform the current political status of Alaska Native peoples and the ongoing dispossession of land. 

Cover page of Engaging in Security Work: Selective Disclosure in Friendships of Korean and Mexican Undocumented Young Adults

Engaging in Security Work: Selective Disclosure in Friendships of Korean and Mexican Undocumented Young Adults

(2017)

While much of the literature on undocumented immigrants has focused on employment and education outcomes, we know little about the effects of their precarious legal status on interpersonal relationships. Based on interviews with 50 Korean and Mexican undocumented young adults, I find that, regardless of ethnoracial background, undocumented immigrants approach relationships cautiously, engaging in "security work" to protect themselves and their loved ones. Security work is a negotiated process of interpersonal interaction and status disclosure consisting of specific relational conditions to maximize affective and material security. First, shared immigrant background provides a baseline sense of comfort and safety. Respondents find symbolic belonging with those of immigrant descent, while exercising caution around anyone who is white. However, due to the stigma of undocumented status, both structural homophily and experiential homophily operate in determining disclosure patterns. Co-immigrant background is powerful but insufficient for establishing the trust required for disclosure; instead, shared experience is the necessary condition. This study demonstrates that the vulnerable, stigmatized nature of illegality circumscribes the freedom with which young undocumented immigrants navigate the most personal spheres of their social worlds. These findings have important implications for our understanding of the profoundly pervasive effects of immigration status on the everyday lives of undocumented immigrants.

Cover page of Staging the Hackathon: Codeworlds and Code Work in México

Staging the Hackathon: Codeworlds and Code Work in México

(2017)

Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork between 2013 and 2016, this paper investigates emerging forms of hacking and entrepreneurial development in Mexico. I show how research participants attend hackathons and hone their coding skills at co-working spaces in Mexico City and in Xalapa, as they hack away to build solidarity and find the “coding bliss,” the affective dimension one encounters when creating beautiful code. As hacker-entrepreneurs tease out the tensions between self-making and being-made, they fill an overarching neoliberal agenda with substance, meaning, and materiality. For young people in Mexico, “hacking” emerges as a way to make sense of their future livelihoods in a precarious state and economy, as a way to exist in a system where things just don’t seem to work, and as a way to let the “code work” intervene in narratives that have only delivered false hopes. As hackathons continue to proliferate across the globe, I conclude by examining how the underlying logics of software design, such as “loose coupling,” become fundamental for the re-organizing of social relations in Mexico.

Cover page of Unsettling Domesticity: Native Women Challenging U.S. Indian Policy in the San Francisco Bay Area, 1911-1931

Unsettling Domesticity: Native Women Challenging U.S. Indian Policy in the San Francisco Bay Area, 1911-1931

(2017)

This paper examines the ways Native women domestic workers negotiated and challenged – in subtle and overt ways – the Bay Area Outing Program. First, I examine federal Indian policy that paved the way for “outing” and illuminate the connections between outing, Allotment and Indian boarding schools. To this end, I historicize both the national and local forms of outing while revealing the gendered, settler colonial effects of this imposing domestic institution. To provide a point of comparison, I consider other forms of domestic service performed at the time, including those found in Americanization programs of the early twentieth century. Second, I elucidate the contours of the Bay Area Outing Program, describing its official operation and process while highlighting the policing and surveillance of Native women in the program. I then analyze Native women’s resistance in fighting for commensurate wages and fighting Indian child removal. My final section, informed by early 20th- century Bay Area newspapers, examines a series of articles on outing runaways. Here I consider runaways in early iterations of the program, while examining how localized rhetoric sought to justify the control of Native women. I thus examine how local social discourse shapes material conditions for Native women.

Cover page of The Triple Bottom Line and Wastewater Planning in San Francisco: A Tool for Environmental Justice?

The Triple Bottom Line and Wastewater Planning in San Francisco: A Tool for Environmental Justice?

(2017)

Wastewater planning adversely impacts disadvantaged communities in many U.S. cities. Utilities use Triple Bottom Line (TBL) tools to try to achieve sustainability goals, but these plans often fall short in their pursuit of social justice. This paper shows the process, potential, and limitations of a TBL approach for environmental justice using the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission’s wastewater plan as a case study. It finds that ongoing wariness about how planners use the TBL is merited: use of the tool does not necessarily lead to social justice. Yet actors did use the ideal of sustainability as a strategic opportunity to pursue equity goals.