Research & Writings



“Tent City, America” Places Journal. December, 2015.

A synoptic overview of mass homeless encampments in the United States and their relationship to urban economy, politics, and policy from the mid 19th century to the present.

“Evicting the Evicted: Five Misleading Rationales of Homeless Camp Evictions.” Progressive Planning. Fall, 2015.

Despite being tolerated long enough by authorities to amass dozens and even hundreds of homeless individuals, most mass homeless encampments in the US are eventually evicted – whereby local police forces along with legions of public work employees forcibly remove those who have already been evicted from the private spaces of the real estate market. Drawing on a comparative analysis of field observations and statements by public officials of evictions in five California cities this brief commentary outlines the five common justifications made by officials for eviction and establishes their fallacy each through the empirical outcomes of “camp clearance.”

“The Roots and Implications of the United States’ Homeless Tent Cities.” with Manuel Lutz. City, 19 (5). 2015.

Since the turn of the 21st century several US cities have witnessed the resurgence of large-scale homeless encampments. This paper explains how and why such encampments emerged during a period of national economic expansion through a comparative study of encampments in Fresno, California and Seattle, Washington. Contrary to the widespread media coverage of tent cities as a consequence of the most recent recession, the paper argues they are instead rooted in penal and welfare urban policies. Precipitating as both protest and containment, durable encampments relieve the fiscal and legitimation crises of criminalization and shelterization for the local state and simultaneously function as preferred safe-grounds to the shelter for homeless people in both cities. Rather than contradicting the existing policies and theories of the ongoing punitive exclusion of marginalized populations, the seclusion of the homeless into large encampments complements its goals of managing marginality across the city.

The New Logics of Homeless Seclusion:Homeless Encampments in America’s West Coast Cities.” City & Community 13 (4): 285-309. 2014.

Since the late 1990s, scores of American cities have witnessed the re-emergence of large-scale homeless encampments for the first time since the Great Depression. Commonly portrayed as rooted in the national economic downturn and functionally undifferentiated, this paper demonstrates that large-scale encampments are rather shaped by urban policies and serve varied and even contradictory roles in different localities. Drawing on interviews and observations in 12 encampments in eight municipalities, this study reveals four distinctive socio-spatial functions of encampments shaped by administrative strategies of city officials and adaptive strategies of campers. I demonstrate how large-scale encampments paradoxically serve as both tools of containing homeless populations for the local state and preferred safe grounds for those experiencing homelessness. The paper concludes with a discussion on the implications of homeless seclusion for social analysis and policy, arguing that exclusion and seclusion are two sides of the same coin of the management of marginality in the American city.

Punishing the Poorest: How the Criminalization of Homelessness Perpetuates Poverty in San Francisco. with Dilara Yarbrough. San Francisco Coalition on Homelessness: 2015.

punishingSince 1981, San Francisco has passed more local measures to criminalize sleeping, sitting, and panhandling in public spaces than any other city in the state of California.  This report documents and analyzes the impacts of the rising tide of anti-homeless laws in an era of mass incarceration on those experiencing homelessness in San Francisco drawing on findings from a citywide survey of 351 homeless individuals and 43 in-depth interviews carried out by volunteers at the Coalition on Homelessness and supervised by researchers at the UC Berkeley Center on Human Rights.  We also analyzes data from public record requests on policy, citations, and arrests received from the San Francisco Police Department, Sheriff ’s Office, Human Services Agency, Probations, and Recreation and Park Department. The report provides an in-depth analysis of each step in the criminalization of homelessness — from interactions with law enforcement, to the issuance and processing of citations, to incarceration and release – and makes evident how criminalization not only fails to reduce homelessness in public space, but also perpetuates homelessness, racial and gender inequality, and poverty.

Covered in the Huffington Post, San Francisco Examiner, SF Weekly, San Francisco Chronicle, San Francisco BayView

Tent Cities in America: A Pacific Coast Report. National Coalition for the Homeless. Washington DC. 2010.

The report profiles 12 large homeless encampments in 8 west coast cities and explains how current tent cities have emerged and operate on a daily basis, how local government authorities have shaped and reacted to encampments, and how community organizing efforts at work within these settlements.

Cited in/on NBC, CBS, Newsweek, The Huffington Post, Atlantic Cities, Daily Telegraph (London), United Nations Newsletter, Education News, Legislative Analysis of California Senate Bill SB608, and dozen of local news reports.

Essays, Reviews, Commentary, Conversations

(Conversation) “Homeless Encampments and the Logics of Containment”Conversation with C.S. Sung on KPFA Radio’s Against the Grain.

(Film Essay) “The Magical Bum.” State of Things Film Journal (2015).

(Essay) “Sheltering those in Need: Architects Confront Homelessness.” Introductory Essay for the 2016 Berkeley Prize Essay Competition. UC Berkeley, College of Environmental Design (2015).

(Articles) Series in San Francisco’s Street Sheet homeless newspaper on the criminalization on Homelessness (2015).

(Commentary) “Four Fallacies of the Jungle Eviction.” BeyondChron. San Francisco. Republished in the Street Spirit, KQED Forum. Cited on Alternet, Truthout, California Planning and Development Report, Planetizen (2014).

(Book Review) California Historical Society Magazine.. Mark Wyman, Hoboes: Bindlestiffs, fruit tramps, and the harvesting of the west. (New York: Hill and Wang, 2010), 336 pp. & Art Hazelwood, Hobos to Street People: Artists Responses to Homelessness from the New Deal to the Present. (San Francisco: Freedom Voices, 2011) (2013).

(Book Chapter) “The Homeless Question of Occupy” with Zoltan Gluck. In Occupy!: Scenes from Occupy America. Co-­New York: Verso Press. January, 2012. Reprinted from The Occupy Gazette. New York: N+1 Publishing. October, 2011.

(Memo) “Parallels and Divergences in Homeless and Poverty Governance: Towards a Relational Approach.” Qualifying Exam Memo. 2014.



NOLA underwater

“Engels in the Crescent City: Revisiting the Housing Question in Post-Katrina New Orleans” with Emily Rosenman. 2016. ACME: An International Journal for Critical Geographies. In special issue Revisiting Engels’ Housing Question, T. Slater, H. Larsen, A. Hansen, and G. Macleod (eds).

Before Hurricane Katrina, renters comprised the majority of New Orleans’ population. The disaster destroyed a disproportionate amount of rental housing, particularly in the affordable sector. Yet the vast majority of reconstruction funding and volunteer labor has gone to homeowners and initiatives to increase homeownership in the city. We explore the legitimation of this bias toward propertied interests through the lens of Engels’ (1872) critical assessment of Proudhonist and bourgeois socialist ‘solutions’ to the housing question of 19th century Britain. We consider three aspects of Engels’ critique that have been crucial to the post-storm policy regime in New Orleans: homeownership framed as a solution to social problems, the shifting of the housing question into legal and moral spheres, and housing ‘solutions’ enacted by the state that ultimately benefit the propertied and moneyed classes. In examining the contemporary housing question of post-Katrina New Orleans, we extend Engels’ evaluation of the legal and moral spheres that come to veil and reproduce urban economic and racial inequalities, while distinguishing the expanded role of the contemporary state in supporting the tenets of an ‘ownership society.’ Our argument explores how neoliberalism disguises state actions that protect and expand property ownership in contemporary capitalism

“The Housing Question of Disaster Reconstruction:  Rebuilding New Orleans on the Tenants of Ownership Society” In E. Murphy and N. Hourani (eds.), The Housing Question: Tensions, Continuities, and Contingencies in the Modern City. Ashgate Press. 2013.


New Orleans’ recovery paradigm has been framed by policy makers and community activists as a bottom-up, citizen-led, and market driven reconstruction. Resonating with this portrayal has been the flurry of criticism by scholars over the neoliberalization of New Orleans (Smith, 2005; Davis, 2006; Peck, 2006; Kelman, 2007) and an impressive output on new theories of disaster capitalism (Klein, 2007; Gunewardena and Schuller, ed. 2008), that have highlighted waves of privatization, tax reductions, welfare cuts, and the withdrawal of the state. However, interrogating the complex, overlapping, and multi-year story of America’s largest post-disaster housing program in its history reveals that New Orleans’ reconstruction is not simply or even primarily a product of new market-based approaches and “roll-back” of the state, but instead being driven by a “roll-out” of state programs privileging the city’s propertied class. Examining post-disaster housing policy at multiple levels of government reveals that the state’s consistent bias towards subsidizing and privileging homeowners has significantly contributed to the uneven geographic development of New Orleans. I argue that this pol icy bias, which conflates victims-rights with property rights, has allowed claims of citizenship to both veil and justify a process to redistribute power from the larger group of renters that faced disproportionate losses to the smaller group of less affected homeowners within the city.

“Toward a Political Ecology of Disaster: The Urbanization of Neoliberalism in New Orleans” (R&R Environment and Planning D: Society and Space).

As we approach the 10 year anniversary of America’s most costly “natural” disaster, it is apparent that the physical reconstruction, social reproduction, and environmental management of New Orleans are both driving and being driven by a tight coalescence of localized neoliberalization processes. While commentators and scholars have framed the flooding as a “social” and “technical” disaster, this paper draws attention to the fragmented state-space that underlies both of these critiques in working towards a multi-scalar critique of disaster. Attempting to overcome the nature/social binaries of thinking through disasters, this paper argues that the social and environmental catastrophe is an extension of a much longer and multifaceted neoliberal policies stemming back to the early 1970s. In combining these approaches, we see that New Orleans’ social and ecological vulnerabilities before and after the
disaster have less to do with the city itself, or any particular agency, political party, or level of government, but rather the inter-urban and inter-governmental restructuring of late capitalism.

Essays, Reviews, Commentary, Conversations

(Memo) “Concentrated Poverty: A Brief History of a Chaotic Concept and State-istical Artifact.” Qualifying Exam Memo. 2014.

(Memo) “The Neglect of the Historical Sociology of the City: or Why Urban Sociology Shouldn’t Start with the Chicago School.” Qualifying Exam Memo. 2014.

(Encyclopedia Article) Concentrated Poverty. Wikipedia Article.

(Discussion Transcripts) International Journal of Urban Regional Research Author Meets Critic Participant. 2011-2012.

(Article) “On the brink of CHAnge: Ghetto Gentrification and Chicago’s Robert Taylor Homes.Bard Journal of Social Research, 1. 2008.

Other Writings

(Article) “Living Theory: Principles and Practices for Teaching Theory Ethnographically.” with Manuel Rosaldo, Josh Seim, and Benjamin Shestakovsky. Teaching Sociology. 2016.

(Editor) “Struggles for the Public University” Co-editor with Manissa McCleave Maharawal. Forum in the Berkeley Journal of Sociology. 2014.

(Film Review) “Documenting the Modus Operandi of Pierre Bourdieu: Pierre Carles’ Sociology is a Martial Art. unpublished. 2012.

(Article) “From Berkeley to New York: Rearticulating the Struggle for Education.” with Zoltan Gluck. The Occupy Gazette. New York: N+1 Publishing. November, 2011.

(Editor) Understanding Occupy: Perspectives from the Social Sciences” Creator and Editor.  Berkeley Journal of Sociology.  A living archive of scholarly interventions by social scientists deciphering, reflecting, and participating in the Occupy movement. Featured on the London School of Economics Impact Blog. 2011.

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