Skip to main content
eScholarship
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 Envisioning “Loving Care” in Impermanent Healing Spaces: Sacred and Political Organizing Towards Decolonial Health/Care in Oakland, California

Envisioning “Loving Care” in Impermanent Healing Spaces: Sacred and Political Organizing Towards Decolonial Health/Care in Oakland, California

(2019)

This paper explores a self-determined space of health and healing centering ancestral, traditional, and Indigenous medicine and spiritual practices. While ancestral, traditional, and Indigenous (ATI) medicine overlaps with what is conventionally recognized as “alternative” medicine, what sets ATI apart in this work is the political orientation of the Oakland-based Healing Clinic Collective (HCC) and its network of ATI practitioners. Their political orientation and motivation for community organizing begins from practicing and promoting ATI healing modalities to address the impact of interrelated generational experiences shaped by institutional legacies of colonization vis a vis racial capitalism, eurocentrism, and white supremacy.  I use a transdisciplinary and decolonial framework to analyze the HCC’s “ceremonial organizing” model and show how the HCC clinic space offers expansive conceptions of what counts as health, healing, and care at the level of community health. I also show how the HCC is situated in a Bay Area radical community organizing continuum for community survival and self-determination.

A transdisciplinary decolonial framework allows me to think alongside two concepts, therapeutic landscapes and third space, to discuss what it means to organize and hold a healing clinic without replicating a “clinical” experience. Based on ethnographic research, this paper is guided by the following questions:   How does the politicized space created by the HCC clinics interrogate and re-define what counts as health, healing, medicine, and health/care knowledge? How does this sacred-political healing landscape shape a different approach to and experience of community organizing and social movement as a practice of community health/care?

Cover page of Beyond the School-to-Prison Pipeline: Social Death and the Relationship Between School and Incarceration

Beyond the School-to-Prison Pipeline: Social Death and the Relationship Between School and Incarceration

(2019)

The school-to-prison pipeline is perhaps the most well-known current framework for understanding the relationships between school and incarceration, but the prolific use of this pipeline metaphor is problematic. It tends to omit or obfuscate more complex understandings of the hows and whys adolescents end up incarcerated. Challenging the school-to-prison pipeline narrative is an important precursor to examining the complex factors that lead to and perpetuate youth incarceration, as well as developing solutions for addressing it. This paper first critiques the school-to-prison pipeline narrative. It then offers a way to reimagine how we can think of adolescent criminalization in terms of another metaphor, that of social death, which refers to the systematic criminalization and dehumanization of entire groups of people. Based on an interview study with twenty-nine adults who were first incarcerated as adolescents, this paper uses case studies of three Black and three Latino male participants to demonstrate how social death manifested in zero tolerance, wrongful accusations, and proactive surveillance in and out of the classroom.

Cover page of “Made for Your Benefit”: Prohibition, Protection, and Refusal on Tohono O’odham, 1912-1933

“Made for Your Benefit”: Prohibition, Protection, and Refusal on Tohono O’odham, 1912-1933

(2019)

In this paper I examine the Bureau of Indian Affairs’ campaign to suppress liquor-use in Tohono O’odham, a federally recognized tribe whose homelands include southern Arizona, in the early 20th century. Finding purchase in scholarship on Indian-citizenship and governmental power, I adumbrate the BIA’s liquor suppression program as it invoked the language of protection while actively seeking to police, punish, and incarcerate Native people. I argue that “protection” and criminalization were not only interrelated and coordinated, but also part and parcel of the BIA’s project to incorporate Native people as would-be citizens and political agents.

 

Based on archival research and organized chronologically, this paper touches upon Arizona state prohibition (1915) and national prohibition (1920). It reveals the racialized and paternalistic logics of the BIA that led to the late creation of the Papago reservation (1916), and it examines the ways that the BIA’s prohibition program clashed with the Tohono O’odham Nawait I’i ceremony. Alcohol was after all not a colonial import for Tohono O’odham people but an indigenous and ceremonial substance.

Cover page of Enclosure-Occupations: Contested Productions of Green Space & the Paradoxes within Oakland, California’s Green City

Enclosure-Occupations: Contested Productions of Green Space & the Paradoxes within Oakland, California’s Green City

(2019)

Burger Boogaloo is an annual rock concert that has taken place in Mosswood Park since 2013. Every year a portion of the park is gated and closed off to the general public. Events like Burger Boogaloo are representative of a growing entertainment industry using public parks to cater to a new influx of wealthy residents in Oakland and beyond. At the same time, Mosswood Park has struggled with homeless encampments which impact park use; it is emblematic of a city and state experiencing an increase in unsheltered (homeless) residents as a result of a housing crisis. Based on observations, interviews, public meetings, and municipal documents, this work examines how residents are negotiating the realities and the pitfalls of Oakland’s transition to becoming a green city and its implementation of an urban environmental/sustainable agenda during an accompanying volatile gentrification process. This study focuses on a small but highly used green space that is crucial to the local community in which tensions between park use, the commodification of park space, and lack of public park funding are made visible on the landscape. This paper looks at two types of enclosure-occupations: one from above, government sanctioned events which allow for the temporary enclosure of park space for private events, and the other from below, informal extralegal encampments of unsheltered residents. While those who participate in these enclosure-occupations have vastly different economic, political, and social power, both enclosure-occupations simultaneously create openings for some while constricting public park access for others.

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.